By Bryan Hyde
I’ve been a longtime friend of Cliven Bundy’s son Ryan and I took the opportunity to visit him yesterday. I’ll admit that my heart rate picked up as I was headed toward the Bundy Ranch yesterday afternoon. I had seen the photos of the federal sharpshooters and Bureau of Land Management agents as they threatened and intimidated unarmed members of the Bundy family earlier this week . . .
I watched the video of David Bundy following his release from custody after being arrested for taking video outside of a ‘First Amendment Zone’ set up by the BLM. The Tuesday clash between rowdy protestors and other BLM rangers was still fresh in my mind as we crossed the Nevada state line.
Driving South towards Bunkerville, it was impossible to miss the BLM’s large temporary operations compound set up just off I-15. Dozens of federal law enforcement vehicles were sitting in and around the compound and observers were parked atop nearby mesas.
The BLM operation to impound and sell Bundy’s cattle has had a distinct military feel to it. The contracted cowboys tasked with gathering the cows travel in convoys protected by at least 20 escort vehicles providing armed security. It looks mighty official and is intended to be intimidating.
As we neared the Bundy ranch, we began to see official road closure signs posted at every dirt road or trail along the state highway.
There was no visible BLM presence near the massive twin flagpoles beneath which Bundy family supporters and media were gathered. Roughly 200 people were on hand when we arrived. We were told that the numbers had dropped considerably from earlier this week but that supporters were en route from across the country.
Brightly colored hand-lettered signs covered the nearby fence and some supporters held signs urging passing vehicles to honk to show their support. The mix of protestors ran the gamut from the elderly to babes in arms. Besides every able-bodied male in attendance, there were no obvious militia members in camouflage standing around.
The mood was one of determination more so than anger.
Ryan Bundy informed us that earlier that day, he and group of supporters had ventured up into one of the closed areas and retrieved roughly 20 head of cattle which they brought back to their 160 acre property for safekeeping. The BLM made no attempt to stop them.
There were plans to go back that evening and retrieve another 15 head that had been left in a corral in the foothills. That retrieval did not take place due to another more pressing matter.
During our visit, a number of local and state political candidates stepped forward and introduced themselves to the Bundys. In rural areas, support for the Bundy family is very high—in the urban centers not so much.
Two state legislators were also in attendance including Representative Crescent Hardy and Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore. This situation has caught the attention of leaders in several western states where federal authority over public lands has been problematic at best.
Both elected officials reminded the crowd that peaceful assembly would sway the court of public opinion more than rowdy or antagonistic behavior. This came on the heels of a highly publicized tussle that saw several individuals roughed up or tazed after confronting and shoving BLM personnel.
As the lawmakers were finishing their remarks, word came that three more Bundy family members had just been arrested 40 miles away at Moapa Beach. With that news, the majority of the crowd jumped into their vehicles and headed out.
It may not be an actual standoff yet, but the tensions between embattled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal Bureau of Land Management are making waves well beyond Clark County. This is much more than a pissing contest between a dissident rancher and a dogmatic federal bureaucracy. It has far-reaching implications for every one of us regarding whether government is our servant or our master. If it goes sideways, it’s likely that all of us will pay a significant price in terms of our personal freedoms.
The frustration of the Bundy family is beginning to show. After decades of being relentlessly hounded by a bureaucracy that has sought to regulate away their livelihood, the urge to push back is building. They are confronting a hyper-aggressive government that has no compunction about using overwhelming force to impose its will. It’s a battle that the Bundys cannot win physically in a head-on confrontation.
The feds are better armed, better trained, and far better organized in every way. They’re also operating under the color of law, which lends legitimacy to injustice, particularly when it’s done on a large scale. This means the Bundys must consider approaching this conflict from the viewpoint of fourth generation warfare. 4GW is won at the moral level, not by physically annihilating ones enemy. But to do this requires the courage to allow your enemy to reveal his true character without responding in kind.
This is what happened with the sharpshooters incident earlier this week. But the sympathy and support generated by that event quickly dissipates when protestors become antagonistic.
The Bundys need to have a clear message that spells out their stance from a moral, rather than a legalistic, standpoint. They need to stay on that message and do whatever it takes to preserve the essential mantle of innocence by not becoming the aggressors. Resorting to force too soon will bring repercussions for more than just the Bundys.
Those who would support them should also follow this advice. The mask slipped earlier this week and many of us got a peek at the naked aggression that hides behind our benevolent bureaucracies. Our challenge is to make sure others can see what’s behind that mask. That won’t happen if we are the initiators of violence.