American Insurgents

American Insurgents

There is a disturbing movement going on in the United States today. Its protagonists and promoters use words like “freedom,” “rights,” and the “Constitution” to give their cause a righteous tone, but all of that talk is little more than ignorance at the least and deception at the worst.

In the 1970s and 80s there was a movement called the Sagebrush Rebellion that sought major changes to federal land control, use and disposal policy in the American West.  In 13 western states, federal land holdings include between 20% and 85% of a state’s area. Supporters wanted more state and local control over these lands, if not outright transfer of them to state and local authorities and/or privatization. The sentiment survives today, driven by individual citizens, politicians, and organized groups especially with respect to livestock grazing, mineral extraction, and other economic development policy for these lands. The most recent case was the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon by anti-government activists.

The State Department defines insurgency as “the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region.” Brian Calvert, managing editor of The High Country News accurately describes such people as  ”malcontents bent on delegitimizing the federal government, (who are) not interested in the rule of law, nor the principles of democracy. They are zealots, blind to all but their version of the truth, stumbling toward some unseen flashpoint.”  I could not have said it any better.

Such insurgencies often happen in areas experiencing an economic downturn. As technology changes and environmentally damaging extractive industries have dwindled thanks to the growing consciousness of environmental stewardship, some stubborn folks out west, with a death grip on the past have confused economic prosperity with old practices already proven to be ones of diminishing returns and increased suffering. In reality, as more people’s minds open up for change, the possibilities for health and happiness from different economic paths are everywhere.

Citizens need to realize that states are not independent countries, and that it requires a collective representation of the entire country (the federal government) to keep regional ignorance and biases in check from turning into destructive practices that have the potential of ruining a state’s health and beauty or even spilling over its borders. While these insurgents do their children a disservice by passing on their twisted view of reality, it is those same children who will bear the brunt of the suffering if such political heathens continue to grow and spread their narrow-minded, self-serving interests at the expense of the public.

What is really happening here is a small group of misguided people, inaccurately calling themselves patriots, ignoring the fact that large sections of the country belong to the entire populace, and not individual self-interests. These insurgents literally want to take this land from the citizens so they can use it for their own financial gains or for recreation that exceeds the health of its ecology and beauty of the landscape. This is most often in the form of unlimited livestock grazing and motorized vehicle access, and removing mining regulations and hunting restrictions. Not only do they ignore the proven science behind responsible stewardship of the planet, they believe that entire communities or even states feel the same way they do. This, of course, is just arrogance and a lack of worldly experience beyond their own insulated lives. It also is an effort to oppress a system of government that is trying to balance the health and happiness of all, backed by science to ensure our collective legacy is not decided by the selfish recklessness of a few lowest common denominators. In their desperation to hold onto the archaic views of their dying culture they are convinced that through threat of force, their financial and family-born privilege should dictate how our remaining natural areas are treated. Without keeping such people in check, our once pristine lands would be a scarred wasteland of roads, devastation, development, and garbage; our air and water quality would suffer; many species of animals would become extinct and most of our forests would be cut down, thereby disrupting whole ecosystems and the health they create for ALL lifeforms.

But the problem is not limited to regular citizens. Some people in elected positions of power are also showing their disturbing perspective of ignorance and/or complete lack of compassion. This is found at the highest levels of government by short-sighted politicians willing to mortgage the entire country’s future for the temporary financial gain of a few, and at the local level by some biased halfwits, often idolized by its educationally-challenged regional constituents.  Siskiyou County California Sheriff Jon Lopey perfectly summarizes this type of ignorance with brain-dead utterances like this:

“Some of your federal and state agencies care more about fish, frogs, and trees and birds than (they) do about the human race.”

This kind of anthropocentric view of the world that separates humans from nature is just further proof that too many of our fellow citizens are not being taught our natural history and the science behind our actions and their consequences.

Another embarrassing public figure is Utah Republican Representative Bob Bishop using his position as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee to wage war on this nation’s enlightened legacy of protecting its natural areas -an achievement many other countries on this planet are no longer capable of thanks to past generations’ destructive ways.

Among other anti-environmental moves, Bishop has targeted Theodore Roosevelt’s Antiquity Act of 1906. This act, which was originally a Republican idea that gives the president and Congress authority to protect publicly owned historic or natural areas as national monuments, has been attacked by politicians like Bishop who are trying to achieve the opposite by allowing individuals and special interests to use such lands as they please.  President Obama has used the Antiquity Act many times during his terms to preserve important and special sites for the benefit of future generations. Three recent designations infuriated Representative Bishop, saying it

“makes states and citizens fearful that the federal government can invade at any time to seize more lands like bandits in the night.”  Considering that these lands in question were already publicly owned, it was an asinine thing to say. He continued to say that none of the new monuments have “anything to do with antiquity.”

Basin and Range National Monument contain 2,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees and Native American rock art dating back 4,000 years. Bishop’s response?

“Ah, bullcrap. That’s not an antiquity.”

Another is Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas, which protects the fossilized remains of 24 Columbian Mammoths. Why anyone thinks that congressmen like Bishop have the intelligence, interest, or compassion to responsibly act on behalf of the best interests of the citizens is beyond me.

Environmental consciousness and consideration for all is not a special interest, nor is it based on scientific “theories.” The facts are everywhere and certainly at your disposal. Your best defense against those who aim to abuse and destroy what is collectively yours is education. Don’t limit your perception to where you were raised and those people in that tiny social bubble that influenced you.

(Special thanks to High Country News for inspiration)