So...I've been thinking about that freeloading rancher in Nevada who has inspired various gun nuts to show up and instigate a standoff with federal authorities. The deal is that the man had been grazing his cattle on federal lands - i.e., lands that belong to all of us - for about a quarter of a century and never paying any of the required, relatively minimal, fees. The Bureau of Land Management had finally decided to try to collect and confiscated his cattle on the lands. And that's when the rancher and his supporters decided to bring on the guns. (And why is it that the first impulse of people like him is always to wave their guns around?) The federal authorities, not wishing to start a bloodbath, stood down and will pursue remedies by other means.
And now this old white guy with his cowboy hat and his gun is the newest hero of the right-wingnut faction of American politics and their hysterical media outlet, Fox News, which has been giving the incident the 24-hour "news" coverage and doing its best to whip up the flames of insurrection.
Now, here's the part I don't understand. This man is a thief. He has been stealing from all of us for years. Overall, it amounts to thousands of dollars. And yet he is a hero to the right who believe that he should not be punished for his breach of the law and he should not even be made to pay his fees. (And, incidentally, I wonder how that makes all the thousands of law-abiding, patriotic ranchers in the West who regularly pay their legally-required fees feel?)
Let's consider a slightly different scenario.
An impoverished black family, say a mother and two children, receive food stamps. Through some sort of error or bureaucratic glitch or even because the mother had misstated her income, the family receives $10 more in food stamps than they were legally entitled to. What would be the right-wingnuts' response to that? Would they show up en masse to protect this family from the collectors?
The rancher says that the reason he doesn't have to pay the grazing fees is that he doesn't recognize the United States government, just as certain corporations say they don't have to comply with some laws because they don't agree with them. And the right-wingers just love that! But what if a left-wing commune somewhere in the heartland of America decided on its own that the federal government is not legitimate and they are not bound by any of its laws. Would Fox News trumpet their resistance and rally people to support them?
The response of Fox News and those who live and breathe by every word emanating from that network is very much predicated on the political philosophy of the person involved in the story. Conservative, good. Liberal or progressive, bad. Salon.com calls it the Clive Bundy Syndrome or why Christian Conservatives think they are above the law.
It's an interesting philosophy for a group of people who say that they follow the teachings of a man who said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." Just a thought for Good Friday.