Being a proud progressive, I'm committed to rationality, fairness, sound arguments, and fealty to facts. (Which makes me much different from most right-wing conservatives these days.)
So I've been pondering whether I'm justified in being outraged at what the militants who have taken over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge here in Oregon are doing, given that I was supportive of the Occupy Movement.
After all, both groups took over public property in an attempt to bring attention to their causes.
Which basically are transferring federal land to private ownership in the case of the militants, and reducing social/economic inequality in the case of the Occupy protesters.
But after giving this quite a bit of thought, I've concluded that I'm justified in feeling angry at the militants while mostly admiring the Occupy Movement. Here's why.
(1) Guns versus being unarmed. Ammon Bundy and his band of anti-government militants brought a bunch of guns with them to the wildlife refuge. They're armed and dangerous, given the history of a previous protest involving Bundy and his father where federal agents had guns pointed at them in a threatening manner (they should have been charged with a crime, but haven't been so far).
By contrast, the Occupy folks were unarmed.
There's no mention of "gun" in the Wikipedia article about the Occupy Movement. So the moral high ground goes to them. Armed protesters are sending the message, "Don't mess with us, or we'll shoot." To my mind, whatever justification they might have for protesting an injustice gets obliterated once firearms are brought into the picture.
This relates to...
(2) Patriotism versus insurrection. Since my college days, I've done a lot of protesting during the past fifty years. None of the groups I was involved with advocated going against the Constitution of the United States, or overthrowing the federal government in any way.
We understood that if we broke the law, there would be consequences, even though the law might appear to be unfair.
However, the Malheur militants consider themselves to be above the law, above the Constitution, above the Supreme Court rulings that confirm the legality of the federal government's ownership and management of public lands.
This makes the actions of Bundy and Co. much more akin to insurrection, than patriotism. They don't want to work within the Constitution; they have weird ideas about setting up an extra-legal court system that goes against the principles on which this nation was founded.
The Occupy Movement never advocated overthrowing constitutional law or the authority of the federal government. So here also, the militants are morally inferior.
(3) Reasonable versus unreasonable demands. A legitimate protest movement either makes reasonable demands, or recognizes the pie-in-the-sky nature of what is being asked for. In other words, the protesters either call for changes that are possible, or understand the impossibility of this happening.
The Occupy Movement didn't say, "Until tax rates on the wealthiest 1% are raised substantially, we won't leave the public spaces we're occupying." But the Malheur militants have strongly implied that they won't leave the refuge until a process for returning federal land to private ownership is instituted.
This won't happen.
It can't happen without an act of Congress and approval by the president. Even Greg Walden, the Republican congressman who represents eastern Oregon, says this won't happen -- even if the GOP captures the White House this year.
Overall, then, it's one thing to stage a peaceful unarmed protest to draw attention to your cause, knowing that you'll have to face legal consequences if you break the law, while making reasonable demands that either are possible to fulfill or accepting that the requested changes can't happen now, if ever.
This is what the Occupy Movement did. Kudos to them for doing it.
But it's a whole other thing for gun-wielding militants to take over public property, vowing to remain there until their extremely unreasonable demands are met, including returning federal lands to private ownership in a completely unconstitutional manner.
So get out of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Ammon Bundy and your fellow unpatriotic troublemakers.
Accept whatever charges law enforcement throw at you for your illegal acts. Be happy that your crazy ideas have been publicized way beyond what they deserve. Go home and try to change this country for the better through the rule of law and political action, not via unreasonable armed threats.
I was pleased to learn about the #GOHOMEMALHEUR movement.
They're requesting daily donations for three organizations opposed to the militants' goals that will be made until the illegal occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge ends. I like this effort, but preferred the option of making a one-time donation to the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.