I have laughed along with my liberal folk about the ill-conceived occupation of the federal lands by the “militia” (who apparently forgot to pack snacks) in Oregon in protest for the conviction and “re-jailing” of the father/son ranchers, the Hammonds.
But something about it bothered me. What was the connection between this park, 30 miles away from the ranch, and this family? I know it’s easy to paint people as yahoos, but there had to be some connection, no matter how misguided, in their minds.
So I looked. The history of the issue is more complicated than we understand, especially those of us far away from the concerns and cares of ranching families, who have a lifestyle so different from our own. Theirs is a world is water rights and grazing rights, of “prescribed backfires” and a long history of government purchase of previously privately held lands. I can’t begin to suggest I understand any of it, or that I know who is an honest reporter and who is skewing information for their own benefit. All I’m saying is that I have questions.
Here’s the thing that occurred to me: if I am concerned about government overreach in monitoring our communications and other areas, why should I at least not consider there might be government overreach in obtaining land? (I was shocked to learn, for example, that 53% of Oregon is owned by the Federal government. A whopping 84% of Nevada is government-owned). This is not sourced from some right-wing militia nut-site. This is reported by the New York Times. (click here). Seems like a lot, no?
It’s important to separate the plight of the Hammond family and the subsequent armed occupation of the Oregon federal land (which the Hammonds didn’t ask for and which they don’t back). The protest may have some legitimate points, but they lost any moral high ground by making it an armed standoff. So, yes, they messed up by bringing the threat of violence into it. But why is a sit-in for civil rights good but a protest of the erosion of property rights bad? Again, I am legitimately asking. I don’t know the answer. The protestors are not helping themselves with people like me by their bluster and their, “Overthrow the Federal government” crap and their armed occupation of a bird sanctuary complete with gift shop, but I wonder if beneath all that there’s something to this issue the rest of us don’t know. I think the issue to investigate is what happened to the Hammonds, not how the right-wing militias are responding to it.
I found a timeline of what has led the Hammonds and the government to this spot (link below). I suggest you take it with a grain of salt because it’s on a website called “The Conservative Treehouse.” (Of all ridiculous names for a website). I don’t know how much of this is independently verifiable, although I intend to do some digging.
As someone who prides herself on being an independent thinker, I feel like I owe it to myself to approach this and every issue with an open mind. I know it’s not cool in my circles to think of these guys as anything but nutcases, but I wanted to scratch beneath the surface and see if we didn’t have some common humanity between us. The protestors are acting outside the scope of the law and they will probably (rightly) go to jail for it. But is there some justice that’s not being served out there?
Just a question.
Click here to read the timeline.