Having resisted the temptation to say anything about the latest right wing darling – militia nutcase Cliven Bundy and his Patriot Cattle – but the tie-in to last week's post about George Zimmerman hit me over the weekend. As any sober and literate review of the facts and history of the situation shows, Bundy has absolutely no legal argument whatsoever beyond ultra-right militia/survivalist/Tax Protester nonsense about refusing to recognize the authority of the federal government. The neat thing about the federal government is that it exists whether or not some mouthbreather thinks it does, and it has authority over him regardless of whether he thinks it does. To argue otherwise simply is to claim that each individual can decide which laws he chooses to follow and when, which is to say that there are no laws at all. A law isn't a law if it can't be enforced. A law that can't be enforced is a suggestion.
What reminded me of the Zimmerman post is the people who rushed to Bundy's defense, armed to the teeth with their well-regulated militia arsenal. These people, who are obviously more heavily armed than the average American, are precisely the kind of people who shouldn't have guns. These are people who stopped working (or perhaps they're unemployed welfare queens?) and drove hundreds of miles to "defend" a man who is absolutely, completely, and indisputably wrong – a grifter, in essence, who wants to use public resources without paying for them with his lunatic "patriot" beliefs as justification – because they are so enthusiastic about the chance to point a loaded rifle at an employee of the federal government. That is why they came, and that should be profoundly disturbing. They dropped everything and disrupted their lives for a week to jump on what might be their one big chance to get in a gun battle with the government.
We're supposed to arm ourselves, their logic goes, to resist the tyranny of the government. Unless the definition of tyranny now encompasses enforcing laws passed by elected officials, this does not appear to qualify. This would seem to be an effort to start a fight. These are people who grew up reading about Waco and Ruby Ridge and Timothy McVeigh and simply can't wait to live out their own fantasies – you know, the typical things boys fantasize about doing like killing ATF agents and blowing up courthouses.
There is great danger in indulging these people. There is great danger in acting like this guy has any sort of argument or that we should listen to Both Sides and keep an open mind. I didn't see Patriots rallying to keep borrowers from being railroaded out of their homes by an auto-penned foreclosure notices, not to mention their silence on thousands of other instances of unpopular or unfair laws being enforced. The government has put itself at risk by backing down and setting a precedent – if enough gun-toting lunatics show up, they'll back down. It's terrible. This guy is so, so far away from having any sort of relevant or valid argument to support his position that a zero-tolerance response is the best strategy. When this came up in my class, for the only time I can recall in 10 years of teaching I absolutely shut somebody down for expressing an opinion. "No, actually we don't get to decide which laws we follow or what authority the government has over us" was harsher than things I usually say in front of students, but I feel like people who support this guy need to be told unequivocally how ludicrous this line of logic truly is.
It's a sad day, despite it being obvious why the media would benefit from covering this, when a bunch of assholes spouting "sovereign citizen" gibberish and pointing guns at public officials get treated like a group of people whose ideas deserve to be heard and given due consideration.