Recently, I’ve seen a lot of buzz about a cattle farmer out west and government bullying. It doesn’t sound particularly interesting to this northerner, but the legal and historical stuff is, being the geek that I am.
This is actually one of the cases that would be fantastic for SCOTUS to take a look at (I’m all for a little legal chaos); the problem is cases like this never seem to get there. And that’s the problem really. If our congress people actually stopped yammering about stupid things — they’d have time to yammer about much more important things on a local level. Everyone always points to the big issues as evidence of stolen rights and government overreach, but it’s a smokescreen for the tiny grasps behind the scenes.
Why am I a little bit interested in historical property rights vs the federal ability to do what they see fit with land? Well, consider the historical case, rooted within my genealogy.
My paternal ancestors were Irish slaves, forced to the new world before the Revolutionary War. Now, they had to work to pay off the debt of their slavery, and by the time the Revolutionary War began, they thought it was actually a better idea to join in with that — either on their own, or most likely forced.
Nevertheless, the Irish men who fought during the Revolution were highly coveted as rather impressive fighters — because there’s no one an Irishman hates more than the British, and their compadres — the Hessians. Now, as part of a pension after the war, many were given a lifetime stipend. Still others were given a type of deed or lease to use land. In a way such promises were good at coaxing men to enlist in the fight. It became almost a little too good — and the government wasn’t quite sure if they could legally honour all those deed promises. Some of those men had to fight to be given what they were owed — such is the case as my ancestors who had to fight for years to be given what they were legally owed. In cases like this though, these men were clearly given a deed to a property that was their’s to keep — and as such many of these men founded numerous townships in Pennsylvania. Marriage and property rights were important — and a way of expanding property, until in some cases, it was large enough to found entire townships.
During the western expansion in the ‘wild west’ and ‘prairie’ days, families would be coaxed through lucrative promises and interesting deeds to settle in certain areas.
Mr Bundy claims his family has owned the property since the 1870s. What is not exactly clear is if he is referring to just the exact allotment of his private property, or the surrounding federal land. He uses it as a smokescreen to avoid the question — because neither is the case. Nevertheless — his argument is a moot point. He has never provided evidence of his claims. He is Mormon, and back when numerous Mormons settled in the west, many typically did not take the land they ‘obtained’ legally or peacefully for that matter. That being said; it is remarkably easy to see that Mr. Bundy isn’t telling the truth about his family origins.
But seditionists, racists, and the foulest individuals of humanity rarely ever do.
In a world where militia men claim they will fight to protect rights through the barrel of a gun, and by chucking women and children into the fray (because all cowards use human shields right?), they should be smart enough to recognize when their cause is bogus. And if they cannot, they should perhaps take a long hard look at what type of man they are to begin with. Hatfield and McCoy started over a pig. This is over some cows forged in the holy flames of liberty apparently. I’m not mincing words here.
From a genealogical standpoint on down to property rights through ownership or deed — there is no evidence to be found that his family ever owned this vast stretch of land (beyond the confines of his farm), or had any cattle grazing rights upon it (until the 1950s) — let alone in 1870. No indeed, his family only has recent history — namely 1948. Further records show unequivocally that Mr Bundy lives in a fantasy world. A world that he could have correctly explored using the LDS’s own meticulous database for genealogic detail. Unless of course he’s referring to his ancestors in the broad ‘collective’ family of Mormondom — another claim that would not stand in court.
Even when some detractors attempt to show distant ancestral linkages between the ORIGINAL owners of the property, the Leavitts, who sold the confines of the ranch to the Bundy’s — they still cannot prove any ownership outside that ranch legally — the Leavitts themselves who were descended from individuals who participated in the brutal extermination of hundreds (in just that area alone!). The only persons who should ever be able to lay a claim to the whole of the land on ancestry basis – is the Native Americans, who just about got the shaft from every entity they ever came into contact with.
Aside from all the genealogical evidence which should have given everyone in the media a cluephone years ago that Mr Bundy has been stealing from the whole of the people all the while living off government farm subsidies — I really do ponder why now, in 2014 did all of this come to light? And why instead of demanding that their government (state and federal) follow the law, arrest the breaker-of-the-law, and flood the market with some extra steak, did we somehow think being a squatter is a cool Constitutionally protected thing?
Maybe it’s because in rough economic times some tiny part of us wishes we too could be squatters and damn proud of it, with our own little armies to back us up. We’re so angry and cynical at our governments that, we no longer care the nefarious motivations of the action, so long as it appears to be one individual standing up to ”the man” with an outstretched middle finger. This is, after all the me, me, me, entitled generation, no matter what side of the aisle you stand on.
It is a considerable pity that the government didn’t nip this in the bud back in 90s — because if you give a squatter an inch, they will take a mile. That is precisely what has happened here. Things are so messy now, and both parties involved know it. Mr Bundy counts on it, because he has nothing legally to count on.
When the courts originally ruled in the government’s favour all those years ago; they noted that the government had shown Bundy considerable restraint in handling the matter — after all he was indeed trespassing and violating tax and property law knowing he was doing so. And when Bundy isn’t trying to skirt the issue of ownership with false flags of family bloodlines, he then refuses to acknowledge the federal government existing, and the law. There is a reason no lawyer wanted to take his wholly unwinnable case.
This original ruling and court order was ignored by Bundy, and ignored by the government for 15 years. The question is why? It was within legal right of the government to act of course. I suspect that there was a lot on the administration’s plate during this period of time — Waco, the Oklahoma bombings (perpetuated by individuals who were in fact connected to some of those same militias hanging around Bundy today AND EVEN WORSE connected to the crazed Nazi that went around just last month and shot to death three individuals at a Jewish center… because..like Hitler ya’ll..), ect. These events made everyone question just how far the government was willing to go to enforce the law, when things got complicated.
The subsequent and eventual second court order, when it finally came — found that Bundy had not only continued his behaviour, but had expanded well beyond even his own original definition of his ‘boundaries’. Many other ranchers of course, not limited to this area have been practicing this behaviour for years — unfortunately unchecked. Poaching animals, the illegal removal of timber, and illegal burning leading to loss of millions of acreage is to name a few examples.
I won’t go into the complex legal historical context — but Nevada is one of those interesting states, somewhat critical during the Civil War era, in which the federal government owns 84% of the land vs state ownership. This was agreed upon during the foundation as a state. Owning land just wasn’t important to Nevada back then, and neither does it seem to be now — with most ranchers handling the matter respectfully paying their grazing fees and being subsidized. There are of course a growing number of ranchers, no longer able to keep up with their livelihood in this economy, changing climate, and on occasion pressure to be bought out by companies in bed with the federal authorities to use the land for other things. And irregardless of how morally gray that may seem, the government has that authority. Many ranchers and neighbours of Bundy would like crazy people with guns to leave their town in peace again.
Where does Bundy’s ideology that was largely ignored by the media, congresspeople, and pundits — until he uttered the N word, making himself so toxic only the fringiest of fringe dare speak about him anymore, come from?
Rachel Maddow actually had a really decent 21 minute expose on the heart of the matter. I’d encourage watching it if you can, even if the majority of the time you may disagree with her on other subjects.
Maddow’s heart is in the right place on this subject, her direction is sound, and it should give everyone a warning.
Even if you believe in some militias, even if you believe you’re being taxed too much and that there are too many restrictions on freedoms, even if you believe strongly in the right to bear arms, even if you believe the government blatantly covers up on a regular basis… there are certain individuals and ideologies that you must be cautious of and condemn. Stay far away when they arise, because they will do nothing but discredit your causes, poison your judgments, and destroy liberty for all men. They seek to be kings of the world, and ruler over everyone different from themselves while holding up a banner of liberty. They try hard to ride wandering movements, and desperately claw their way to supplant themselves into politics and religious causes. Freedom of speech allows them do so, until someone gets hurt.
To whom does this land truly belong to? Well you, and me.. all of us. The exception here is that we give the government the authority to manage it as they see fit until further notice — from a constitutional standpoint. That’s just the simple answer. The truth is, the land actually belongs to the Shoshone Nation.
What we should be doing is understanding the difference when the federal government has overstepped their bounds and when they are well within their rights to act. Their failure to act is what has made this situation worse and clouded the judgement of those who should know better for political gain.