OPINION – The banishers of symbols have been awfully busy lately getting rid of flags, statues of generals, and names on roads or buildings. They’re eradicating anything that could remind us of historical defiance to oppressive, centralized federal power.
We can only wonder when they’ll get around to burning the textbooks that still speak of such things. While they’re busy abusing history to further their own agendas, new symbols are replacing the now-forbidden old ones.
A growing symbol of defiance today is the cowboy.
Here in the American West, he represents freedom-loving Americans who are willing to stand firm for their natural rights in the face of an unreasoning, heavy-handed federal government.
The symbol banishers will find that demonizing the image of the American cowboy is going to be a lot more difficult than stirring up resentment against the losing side in a war from 150 years ago.
This past week, I had the honor of interviewing LaVoy Finicum on my radio program. He and his family have been ranching on the Arizona Strip for generations. He is, without a doubt, one of the most sincere and authentic individuals I’ve ever met.
Finicum is also a principled man who understands that there are moments in each of our lives when we are called upon to stand for what we believe. That so few Americans still have the courage to do so does not mean that making a stand is radical or wrong.
During our interview, Finicum explained how a rancher’s grazing rights are established through being claimed and recorded at the county level. He described how they become personal property rights through being used continuously and defended as necessary.
This type of beneficial use falls under natural law meaning that these rights do not exist because of a written law or even the Constitution. Written laws are supposed to help protect us in the exercise of our natural rights.
In the case of the lands being used by cattle ranchers and others, there are multiple rights that exist on the same lands. These include mineral rights, hunting rights, rights of access and rights of recreation.
Considering that the land where Finicum’s family ranches is far off the beaten path and a fairly harsh desert environment, there is seldom any conflict in the exercise of these rights.
Finicum has a good working relationship with many of the BLM personnel assigned to manage the area where he ranches. He considers them friends and has remained current on all of his fees and in compliance with his terms and conditions.
However, Finicum, like other ranchers, has seen the federal government overstep its proper limits time and again to the point where unelected bureaucrats are creating and enforcing laws that harm ranchers and other land users. These bureaucratic actions are often cloaked in the cloying sophistry that currently represents American jurisprudence but it doesn’t change the fact that ranchers are being ruled without representation.
Finicum points out that this is a violation of the letter and intent of the Constitution which was written to limit federal power to the task of upholding our natural rights.
For this reason, he is severing his association with the BLM and will instead pay a 2.5% yearly production tax on the gross sales of all livestock to Mohave County’s supervisor. He has called upon his county and state officials to find a way to legislatively create a way to pay his taxes to them.
Finicum has threatened no one nor has he called for others to take up arms in his defense. He simply recognizes that our federal government has become a prime source of lawlessness in that it will not abide by the supreme law of the land.
Legislative or judicial remedies are no longer an option since the issue will ultimately end up in the courts of the federal government that is creating the problems. This is why Finicum is standing up as an individual American citizen peacefully asserting his rights.
He understands fully the consequences that may befall him, yet he is willing to make his defensive stand as an example to others that they might find courage too.
Unlike his ranching neighbor Cliven Bundy, whose mere name sends detractors into prolonged fits of rhetorical incontinence, Finicum has not yet been the target of a concentrated media smear and disinformation campaign.
Few symbols remain as beloved and respected as the American cowboy. The banishers have their work cut out for them.
Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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