The occupation started over the Hammonds. You remember the Hammonds, don't you? Dwight Hammond, Jr., and Steve Hammond are two ranchers from Oregon who, in 2006, were charged under the 1996 Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act (!) for accidentally burning 140 acres of BLM land adjacent to their own. They served a year in prison and paid $400,000 in fines. The federal government thought that this wasn’t sufficient, so in October 2015 the Hammonds were re-arrested and resentenced to the full 5-year prison terms.
Can you say “double jeopardy”?
The resentencing of the Hammonds was the primary reason for Ammon Bundy and others to occupy a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Ammon Bundy was under the influence of some thugs, or agent provocateurs, when he decided to be a part of this. They did this with no predefined means of communication with the outside world, no clearly defined goals, no exit strategy. It might has well have been done on a whim, as though it were a sit-in by narcissistic 60s-era campus radicals.
Notice that Bundy and the agent provocateurs became the focus of attention, by both mainstream and alternative medias. The Hammonds' plight was forgotten in all this, as were the concerns of other ranchers, as was the fact that the federal government owns most of the land in the western US.
What's the connection between the occupation of the wildlife refuge and the Hammonds, or the occupation and other ranchers, or the occupation and the BLM? There is none, and that's the problem. The occupation was all about grandstanding, and nothing about getting results.
If they had attempted to free the Hammonds, or gone after the judge or prosecutors who resentenced the Hammonds, or took substantive action directly against the BLM, that would have been different. Instead, Ammon Bundy is in custody, one of the agent provocateurs is dead, and an opportunity has been lost.
There are three lessons to be learned here:
1. Never, ever, trust a man who is willing to die in glory but is unable to live with pride. Ammon Bundy's first mistake was trusting in such men.
2. We must remember our place: we are the flea, and we had better start using that to our advantage. Forget about strut and swagger, this is about taking effective action to regain our rights. Forget any visions of a surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri, it isn't that kind of war. We are surrounded on all sides, politically, economically, and culturally. The situation is dire, and we must give no quarter and take no captives. This doesn't mean that our situation is hopeless: do not forget what Chesty Puller said about similar circumstances.
3. No revolution, no political change, is ever born from immaculate conception. We idolize the Founding Fathers as much as the Left idolizes Che Guevara and Chairman Mao, but those idolizations are possible only because they are historical figures. The events in Oregon are here in the present, and we must act in the present, and we don't have the comfort of hindsight.
We still have time to make a difference, but not much time. We must act with resolution, not react in haste. We can make a difference, individual actions still matter in this time before the storm, but know this: once the thunderstorm starts, raindrops can no longer vote.