Questioning My Western Heritage


Save for a 4-year enlistment in the Marine Corps I have lived in the western U.S. my entire life. I spent most of my youth growing up in relatively small communities. For the last 14 years I have made my home in rural areas, and would never again consider moving back to a city. Though I am white, I have to ask myself what is the disconnect with many rural, white Americans to science and social enlightenment? What are knowledgeable, average people like myself supposed to think about people like the Bundy family and their supporters who in recent years have had cases against them dismissed or found not guilty, despite clear proof that they broke laws (Malheur Wildlife Refuge Takeover in 2015, and the Bundy Cattle Standoff in 2014)? Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy’s cattle are still illegally grazing on public land, and have been doing so for over 25 years. Unfortunately, despite the facts being clear, they have been swept aside in the face of prosecutor negligence and incompetence, and bolstered by sympathizers to a cause that should still not be above the law, despite their misinterpretation of the Constitution, twisted to placate their own interests.

Why is it when you get a group of white people together in a rural area for generations many become ignorant and insensitive towards environmental science and social justice, having a general lack of compassion for anything beyond their own social circles? They protest their lack of freedoms, yet only support those freedoms that align with their philosophies. The truth hurts, and change is part of life. You can no longer live in this world and do what you want all the time. Those days are long gone thanks to population growth and our better understanding of ecological reality. We cannot extract and consume our way out of our problems and into prosperity. Environmental regulations and laws are in place to protect what remains of what we have and enjoy to ensure that the environment we live in stays healthy and is there for future generations. Some people think we can bypass regulations and laws to achieve this illusion of freedom we once had in a distant past when the environment wasn’t so compromised and our population was a fraction of what it is today. Of course we were more naive back then of the consequences of our actions.

As United States citizens we collectively own our public lands, not the government. The government is merely put in place by the citizens to manage those lands. Because we collectively own it there are sound reasons to put laws and regulations in place so that no one citizen damages any of that land. It’s a simple concept that the greed of a few just cannot seem to understand or tolerate. All you need to do is brush up on our own natural history and it becomes clear why we need strict environmental laws and regulations. What has been displaced or destroyed in the name of our cultural expansion is enough to turn your stomach. We live on a finite planet, and without proper management, these wonderful resources we enjoy will not last.

Many dying industries and old lifestyles are being replaced by newer, more sustainable technologies and a more modern, conscious approach reflecting our changing reality, and the need to reduce our impact on the environment. Population areas that were once built around these archaic industries have not been willing to change with the times. These supporting communities need to shrink and residents move to where more opportunities exist, rather than trying to bring back a past that is no longer appropriate for the circumstances. I believe government should step in when society doesn’t step up. That’s not a power-hungry oppression, that’s leadership. Humanity has yet to prove as a collective that they can operate without leadership and with unrestricted freedoms and not shoot themselves in the foot. Again, look at a good sampling of history (modern or ancient) for proof. The only people who are still in denial of that are just stubbornly wallowing in a murky pool of their own fear and ignorance. It’s the same kind of mentality that led to thousands of Native Americans murdered and displaced, and millions of bison, grizzly bears, and wolves slaughtered indiscriminately and drove to near extinction. If the American way is supposed to mean freedom without consequences and an intolerant, total disregard for everything that is not in line with your own, self-centered desires, then I want no part of it.