Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fish in a rifle barrel

This Atlantic article demolishes rancher Cliven Bundy's sovereignty argument by pointing out that the Nevada constitution has a paramount-allegiance clause (specifically noting that the federal government supersedes the states), and that the document was ratified two decades before Bundy's ancestors settled there. The article argues that if Bundy follows all of Nevada's laws as he claims, then by definition he should also abide by the parameters of the federal government.

That's a far more compelling argument than Bundy's, which seems to be, "I should be able to do whatever I want because I really, really want to."

That's the problem with the anti-government, militia movement in general. They view government like Christian Scientists view medicine. On second thought, strike that. I don't know of any Christian Scientists who take sniper posts at pharmacies.

That picture, from the article, is of a militia member from Idaho, pointing a firearm at Americans in another state who are engaged in what amounts to a bureaucratic dispute that's none of this guy's business. Absolutely everything is wrong with this. These people insist they're the guardians of freedom, but they are the exact opposite. All the blather about sovereignty and black helicopters overlooks the fact that government agencies are governed by laws, due process and public accountability (which in part is why they backed off in this instance). These self-appointed militia men, on the other hand, are governed only by their personal temperaments — temperaments that tell them it's OK to lie on a highway bridge and potentially murder fellow citizens over political disputes. Given that, I understand completely why the government prepares for the worst. It's not tyranny; it's preparing to deal with sociopaths.

If anything, the militia types are among the lesser-persecuted groups in America. There's a bizarre sympathy for these guys that allows them to get away with actions that we throw other people in prison for even planning. It might be a case of us not feeling like the target, so it's OK. Whereas terrorists threaten violence to disrupt America, militias threaten violence to "protect" America. In a land supposedly governed by laws and not bullets, it's amazing we draw a line there.

That bridge looks like any of dozens I cross on a regular basis in Nevada. If I saw a volunteer gunman peering through one, I'd feel a wave of emotions. Safety and pride would not be among them.

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