The Citizens for Constitutional Freedom
Only white people could come up with a name like The Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.
It sounds official, like it has a bureaucracy and a headquarters with marble pillars. It sounds like it’s been around longer than you have. Still, when you hear it, you have absolutely no idea what it might mean. It has the effect of sounding like something but conveys no meaning.
Their broad-shouldered leader, Ammon Bundy, exuding the calm and steady manner of a high noon cowboy, announced the name on Fox news.
His heavily armed group, who up until that point had been called patriots, terrorists, activists, militia men and Y’all Qaeda, had taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Oregon as a blow against government “tyranny” a few days earlier on January 2nd.
Their storming of the federal building, it should be noted, was clean and lightning-quick; as it being January, the charming, cottage-like structure that gave out free maps during tourist season was entirely abandoned.
Nothing much has happened since their occupation began. Bundy’s men, some of whom who are not camera ready,
have been brandishing copies of the Constitution for the cameras and making YouTube videos from their trucks for their now abandoned families.
All over Oregon, wives must have been rolling their eyes, just as they did when these same husbands took off for their annual paintball weekend. It all looked very much like a Fantasy Camp for revolutionaries, and it was clear nobody was taking them seriously.
If any group other than white men had done such a thing, well, it’s reasonable to expect a different response. Imagine what would have happened if a bunch of heavily armed campus radicals took over the headquarters, or to inch closer to armageddon, black protestors or some frustrated Muslims? What would happen then?
We have a pretty good idea, I think.
No matter, what seems to be happening now is that a long-simmering and predictable feud over grazing rights has morphed into a movie-of-the-week. The white guys want the government to hand over land it owns so that they—The People—may use it as they see fit, using it for grazing, mining, logging or opening up paintball camps. As far as I know, the First Nations of America have yet to be consulted.
The Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are not impoverished. They’re not persecuted, marginalized or threatened in any sort of coherent way. Frustrated by their perception of diminishing entitlements, they want to fight back against the forces that impede their ascent, even if they have no idea who or what those forces might be.
They’re easy enough to make fun, these men. Asunder in a rapidly changing and globalized environment, they try to live as heroes in a mythic past, a place where their big sky ambitions could blossom unfettered by government, minorities or environmental regulations.
It’s sunset in the only America these men have ever wanted to live, and so they tilt toward windmills, deserving of our pity as much as our scorn.