Just last night the Oregon Militia’s occupation movement came to a head in a confrontation with federal law enforcement agents, resulting in the death of their spokesman, LaVoy Finicum, and the injury of militia leader Ryan Bundy. Charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, the Bundy brothers were arrested with a handful of other militia members, signifying the imminent conclusion to a seemly unreasonable and drawn-out protest. The news broke just as republican front-runner Donald Trump confirmed he would be a ‘no-show’ for the upcoming GOP Presidential Debate on Fox News, a shameless publicity stunt which continues to force the Bundy Protest into the margins, barely a matter of national concern.
This is not what the Bundy Clan had envisioned. Their intention was to create a scene on a national level—one that would invoke passion and outrage in the hearts of America’s hardcore patriots. The Bundy’s believe they have been slighted by the federal government, restricted in their use of public lands more than ever before. For the Bundy’s and ranchers across the nation this may very well be a large problem which could ultimately put them out of business. The militia group thought America would recognize the ranchers’ disenfranchisement and rally behind their protest. Instead, the eyes of America’s most conservative and fundamentalistic population have turned to the exploits of billionaire Donald Trump, presidential candidate extraordinaire.
So what went wrong with the Bundy Protest? Having achieved no perceivable results, it seems a life has been lost in vain, not to mention weeks wasted by dozens of militia ‘compatriots’. Couldn’t there have been another way?
The foundational complaint felt by the Bundy’s was the inability of the democratic system to adequately fix ranchers’ greatest problems. As more and more citizens move from rural areas to urban areas, voters become unfamiliar with the issues concerning farmers and ranchers. Increased federal regulation in rural areas places extra pressure on farmers and ranchers, who are mostly left to deal with the stressors by themselves. For the Bundy’s to rely on the democratic process would have involved years of ‘rancher awareness campaigns’ in urban areas, educating the nations beef-eaters, the majority of which live in large cities (this highlights the growing problem with an increasingly urban voter-base.) Millions of dollars would need to be spent over several years for a process in which the outcome is far from certain.
So the Bundy’s went another route. The Bundy’s decided to defy the federal government of the United States. Now, whatever you think about the ranchers’ rights or the government’s abuses, perhaps you will agree that blatantly defying the federal government is usually a bad idea, especially when you have but a few dozen constituents. You may try, of course; but the vast majority of successful citizen initiatives are usually won through democratic processes (i.e. MLK, Women’s sufferage.) The Bundy’s, seemingly unaware of the vast amount of weapons and resources the government has at its disposal, resolved to invade a federal building with a handful of firearms while muttering the likes of, “I’m willing to die for this cause.” This was at least an act of poor practical considerations and at most a great act of foolishness.
Consider the story of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (spoiler alert!!) In a dystopian future, the federal government has regulated and legislated the free market into oblivion. The once-successful businessmen of America—leaders and masterminds of technological growth and success—are increasingly forced out of business, unable to make a profit due to outrageous taxes and regulations. One-by-one the Steve Jobs’ and Elon Musk’s of Rand’s world disappear into the unknown, leaving the public without inventors, leaders, or thinkers. Society crumbles, of course, and the people mourn for better days when the government was not so oppressive, and great men were empowered to invent great things. (Again, MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!) As it turns out the whole thing was a boycott—led by the iconic John Galt, the great men of America move to the mountains of Colorado, prepared to swoop back into the world when the time is right.
The story of John Galt, fiction though it may be, suggests finding much deeper and more thought-out solutions to major problems. When dealing with ‘bigger-than-life’ powers like the federal government, primitive solutions like an ‘armed occupation’ are naïve and short-sighted. If a democratic solution is not producing results more creative means must be considered. Ammon Bundy’s solution just wasn’t creative enough.