Sanford "Sandy" Wilbur
11 February 2016
I lived through the "Sagebrush Rebellion" years, and a parade of other "get rid of the Federal lands" variations in the years before and since. It's no understatement to say that I'm getting pretty tired of guys in camouflage (or cowboy hats) waving copies of the Constitution (and assault rifles), and telling me and everybody else that we've been doing it all wrong for almost 300 years. The armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the winter of 2016 is just the latest episode. It stands out from most of the rest because of the escalation of terrorist tactics used by the "occupiers." Throughout most of United States history, these fringe groups have been a nuisance; however, their dreams of reestablishing that magical world (which never existed) of no Federal Government are now supported by an array of military-style weapons - and the mentality (or lack thereof) and willingness to use them.
In the case of the Malheur "occupation" - well into its second month when it officially ended this morning - Burns, Oregon, has been as much hostage to the criminal takeover as has the refuge. I wonder if maybe the people of Harney County are beginning to see that outsiders who claim to share some of your same philosophies can sometimes be anything but your FRIENDS.
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It amuses me (but not in a funny way) that most of the people demanding that the Federal lands be turned back over to The People have a pretty limited concept of just who The People are. All they seem to want to talk about is the free use of the land by grazers, loggers, miners, and such. Apparently, they haven't seen the commercial that was running on TV during the holidays just past. In it, a man is thanking a salesperson for giving him such a good deal. "Oh," she replies, "we give the same deal to everybody." "Everybody?" he asks. He points to another man in the store. "How about him?" "Yes." He points another direction. "How about him?" "Yes, him, too." "You didn't even look," he notices. "He's part of 'Everybody,'" she replies.
I don't graze livestock. I don't log. I don't mine. I don't even hunt, fish, or race off-road vehicles across the desert. But I hike, camp, watch birds, take photographs, like historical places, enjoy spectacular scenery, and treasure solitude. I don't have as long a historical claim to the land as do Native Americans, but I can trace my direct ancestry back to the Mayflower. My forefathers, fore-mothers, fore-uncles, and fore-cousins lived in Massachusetts when the Constitution was drafted and ratified, and some had an active part in this nation becoming a nation. If this isn't MY LAND, then it sure as hell isn't anybody else's. And if it's My Land, and If I'm part of Everybody, don't I have just as much right as anybody else to say how I want MY LAND used? Well, I want some of MY LAND preserved and managed by the Federal Government as National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and other National entities.
The first two lines of the well-known Woody Guthrie song are: "This land is YOUR land, this land is MY land" (emphasis added). Hey, that sounds something like EVERYBODY. What right do these armed self-serving militants have to try and change the lyrics?
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