America's Broader "Standoff"
(Commentary on the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge)
January 2016



They were a second wave of new arrivals to America: 18th century Europe’s poor white trash.  Once they stumbled off the boat from the old country they took a look around and found the eastern seaboard already locked down by the silk-stocking planter gentry of Washington and Jefferson’s ilk.  So they grabbed their guns and lit out for the hinterlands, which at that time were the high country frontier of the Appalachians.  There they fought the Indians and staked a claim in the brutal wilderness.  From their hard scrabble experience in the old country their natural inclination was to fight rather than to give in to any power outside their own tribe.

While the nation grew so did the central authority of the national government.  So they kept moving west, populating the harsher and less desirable lands in a vain attempt to avoid “the man”.  Over many generations they spread out across every part of the country and in the wide expanses they filled in much of the national map with what we now identify with the color red.  All the while they kept their creed intact, it was in their DNA.  Whenever they could, they built something for their family that they knew wouldn’t have been available had they never made it to this country.  Today they prefer to be small town Americans living in the places we blow through or fly over muttering to ourselves, “who would want to live there?”  But there they live… simply. 


They love their dogs and trucks and hunting and listen to country western music loud, a constant anthem for their breed.  They work hard, play even harder and try to make it to church on Sunday.  They’re our warrior class: the reason we won the Revolution and why the Civil War went on so long.  And to this day their families offer up most the young who fight our wars for us.


They adhere to a core American belief that it made no sense throwing off the yoke of foreign tyranny only to have it replaced by that of a federal government based far away.  They may not share the zealotry of the Bundy clan from Nevada whose recent standoff in eastern Oregon caught so much attention.  But you can be sure most sympathize at differing levels and to differing degrees with the Bundy world view and overall creed.  If the rest of the country doesn’t try to accept or at least understand what makes these folks tick we’ll be forever shaking our heads over why the “far right” keeps winning elections and why we can’t get even get an assault weapons ban.  Maybe we don’t remember, but even Obama had to pose briefly with a rifle to get elected in this country.

America’s been in a standoff with itself over issues like race, guns and violence.  There’s a bit of the Bundys in every corner of this nation and in greater numbers than we might imagine.  They’re folks hot-wired to fight for their flag, their family and their turf and to generally distrust outsiders and authority.  The way they see it, they bled and died for this country so they aim to stay here for a long time.  Whether the rest of us “get them” or not makes little difference in their eyes.  And the longer we choose to dismiss them as simply misguided the longer Americans will live with the “us vs. them” divide that seems to be getting worse in this country with each passing day.