I’m not sure of the whole story behind all the different versions of what has been reported concerning Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose cattle were seized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a million dollars in unpaid grazing fees. Bundy admits that he owes $300,000, but disputes the remainder. Who knows what the truth is since this case had been demagogued by everyone with their own agenda.
Some have argued that the Obama administration, the most evil presidency, or tyranny if you prefer, since Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, et al, has victimized an innocent cattle farmer just trying to live the American dream and way of life that he and his family have enjoyed for over a hundred years. Somewhere along the way, though, the federal government decided to charge a grazing fee on government land, land that belongs to all the people of the United States. One unverified account I read says that it was Ronald Reagan who issued an executive order imposing the fee. Either way, it is still the law.
I don’t like the heavy hand of the government any more than those who advocate for less government, fewer laws, and fewer regulations. Having been subject to the abusive power of the IRS, I know what it’s like to have your back against the wall. (I ultimately prevailed.) I also believe that the Constitution is a worthless piece of paper with no meaning if everyone can decide for themselves that they are a “Constitutionalist”, that he’s right, you’re wrong, that he knows what the Founding Fathers intended, you don’t. Amazing how so many who subscribe to this belief don’t know just how divisive the constitutional convention was, and just how close it came to not being ratified. There was no unanimity when the delegates left Philadelphia more than 200 years ago.
We as a nation either accept the rule of law or we end up like other countries with dictatorship, or corruption so endemic that you might as well not have a government and instead rely on neighborhood vigilante groups to decide disputes and mete out “justice.” Our current system is anything but perfect, but however imperfectly, it works pretty well. That includes accepting the dictates of the Supreme Court, many of which I think are wrong for a lot of reasons. If the Constitution was so simple and so clear, we would only need one justice on the court, not nine. If we don’t like the laws our representatives make, then we can change horses and elect those who better reflect what we want for ourselves, our regions, our states and our country. Until then, if we are to remain a peaceful nation that lives under the law, we have to accept the laws that are handed down.
Whatever Cliven Bundy’s differences are with the U.S. government, as an American he owes an allegiance to the Constitution to play by the same rules that we all tacitly agree to as part of our social contract that gives the Constitution any meaning. There are courts available to him. Since he has a lot of supporters, I’m sure some are wealthy benefactors that have access to legislators and other powerful people in Washington to try and work through this problem or help with his legal fees. Fomenting potential violence by supporting militia groups armed to the teeth is, in my opinion, about as un-American as it gets. Again, I don’t know all the facts in this case, and neither do most people who have opinions about it, so I don’t know why the BLM chose to seize Bundy’s cattle instead of pursuing other options to collect their money. But to all the critics who attack Obama for not enforcing all the laws equally, I would ask what makes Bundy’s case any different? Perhaps it illustrates that in fact the government does selectively prosecute cases, some like this one because of the deterrence impact it will have on other ranchers who might look to skirt paying fees.
This is not an easy case for sure, and I don’t know who is on the right side of the underlying issues. But I do think that if we don’t all agree to abide by the social contract of obeying laws, like them or not, we are headed for a lot more trouble. And any politician that supports armed confrontation against the government isn’t worthy of holding any public office.