OPINION – You cannot grow a lotus in the desert.
In Buddhist culture, the lotus is a symbol of enlightenment, rising and blooming above the muddy waters from which the delicate flower emerges.
There was little enlightenment in the desert southwest of us over the weekend as the so-called range war between rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management played out.
The 20-year-old beef between the rancher and BLM boiled over when Bundy became the poster boy for just about every anti-federal group in the western United States after the BLM came in, seized his cattle and threatened to ship them to market for illegally trespassing on federal grazing land. There was a contract between Bundy and the BLM at one time, but about 20 years ago, dissatisfied with the agency, the rancher “fired” it because he didn’t approve of how his fees were being used, he said.
Of course, none of us can “fire” a government agency we do not agree with, but for 20 years, they went back and forth until recently the BLM gave him 45 days to pay up or remove his cattle from the land.
It all quickly went south as camouflaged militia members and even a couple of vote-seeking politicians rushed to the little stretch of desert to show their contempt for the rule of law and BLM. Violence and bloodshed were in the air and the BLM, deciding on the side of humanity rather than gunplay, removed its agents from harm’s way.
Surrounding it all was a flurry of information and a storm of misinformation flooding the legitimate media, social media, and niche webzines that cater to the varying political factions. Most of it, of course, began with odes to “The Spirit of The West” and, of course, “We The People,” which have been corralled and held hostage by this group.
Just when it appeared as if the dispute was about to settle down, Bundy came forward with a victory speech, although he, in actuality, won nothing and, in fact, will wind up losing all in his battle with the feds.
“This is what we the people are going to demand this (Saturday) morning,” Bundy said, addressing the crowd from a podium set up on the fringes of the standoff. “You disarm those park service people. And take a pick-up and I want those arms. We want those arms hauled to Virgin Valley disposal. We want those arms delivered right here under these flags in one hour.”
Of course, the BLM declined.
It was, in the finality of the moment, an indication that, of course, this was never about the BLM, it was never about cattle grazing, it was never about land rights. It was simply the flashpoint for a group of people who are angry at the federal government for reasons they don’t fully understand or have fabricated, wrapped themselves in the Constitution, which they claim was trampled, and rallied behind what will eventually be a losing cause.
The seeds of the BLM date back to the Land Ordinance of 1785 and Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which outlined the responsibility of the government to survey and settle the lands that were ceded to the federal government at the conclusion of the American Revolution. As more land was purchased or acquired, if you will, Congress ordered their exploration, that they become surveyed and settled. The Department of Treasury established the General Land Office in 1812 to manage these lands. There were a number of Constitutionally approved Congressional Acts that followed and a number of court cases over the years – including a decision by the 9th Circuit Court, that further affirmed that the United States government “owns and has broad authority to regulate federal lands in Nevada,” a fact lost on Bundy and his supporters who insist that particular stretch is owned by the State of Nevada.
Still what happened in that desert Saturday is viewed by many as a victory over the feds, even though the BLM left a calling card for Bundy, explaining that, well, the agency will see him in court.
It will cost Bundy a lot of money as he wades through the judicial system and tries to convince the court that his Constitutional rights have been violated, that he fired the BLM, that it had no authority over the land, that as public lands they belong to the people, and that he – and the rest of us, by extension – can darned sure do whatever we want on them.
And, he will lose.
These federal agencies, from the BLM to the IRS to the FDA, DEA, and all of the others, are well grounded in Constitutional law and there are no loopholes that will extricate Bundy from the hole he has just dug for himself.
But, even today, there are those proclaiming a victory over the feds. There is, as a matter of fact, a similar situation in Texas where the government is having a tussle with a local who is making similar claims.
No matter how many camouflaged militiamen show up, no matter how many claims of constitutional violations are leveled, no matter how many vote-hungry politicians he attracts, he will lose, just like Bundy will lose.
It is easy these days to be angry with the federal government. It is easy to point fingers at our elected officials for their lack of statesmanship, integrity, and capitulation to special interests, and, it cuts across all party lines – the Democrats are not innocent, the Republicans are not innocent, the Libertarians are not innocent, the Tea Party folks are not innocent. But this is not the stuff of revolution and violence. In fact, what we really have going on in Washington, D.C., our state capitols, and local governments is a fairly accurate reflection of what we have become ourselves – self-serving, greedy, individuals who have lost our sense of nation and community. We are an angry nation, looking for any excuse, however feeble or treasonous, to draw down on the federal government instead of participating in incidents of peaceful civil disobedience to make their political point; and make no mistake, this is all political, and has little to do with rights.
The confrontation in the desert is more symbolic of the de-evolution of this nation as it journeys backwards to means and methods of heavy-handed thugs who lived by the gun rather than common sense and peaceful resolution and rising above the mud and murk to achieve enlightenment, which is why you cannot grow a lotus in the desert.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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