WASHINGTON, January 20, 2016 – Is the group occupying Oregon land a terrorist group? Freedom fighters? State rights advocates? Criminals? Heroes?
Does the definition depend on the action or on the group carrying out that action?
“We’re planning on staying here for years” stated Ammon Bundy, one of the militia leaders who has taken over Federal Government land in Oregon State. Ammon and his brother Ryan are sons of Cliven Bundy, who gained some traction in 2014 for standing up to federal rangers who came to confiscate 500 of his cattle after he allowed his cattle graze on federal land without permission from the federal government, the current land owner.
Cliven Bundy had become a celebrity cause for some factions in the Republican Party, gaining support from the likes of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Donald Trump. Ted Cruz blamed the problem personally on President Obama, and ideologically on the federal government. He has been quoted as saying “the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government on.”
The statement suggests the government suddenly changed its nature under President Obama. In fact, governments always want more power, regardless of which party runs them. Despite rhetoric, neither party has ever substantially reduced the size of government.
Even Donald Trump, the political outsider, will use the tools of government “to make America great again.”
Yet these advocates for the rights of states have sparked something in America, by at least some groups who think it is time to stand up to the federal government and use force to claim what rightfully should belong to the states.
Cliven Bundy’s sons and their followers have taken over federal land. It does not matter the reason that they took that action. What matters is that federal land has been taken over and battle lines have been drawn. The battle lines were drawn by the Bundy brothers who have implied they are willing to die for their cause.
So far, authorities have made little effort to remove the occupiers. This has raised questions about how the government and authorities view this militia. Imagine if Muslims took over the land. Or Native Americans. Or African Americans. Would the reaction be different? Would America support the act in the name of state’s rights or would it condemn the action as criminal?
Those who admire the Bundy’s and their militia say they have backbone and that they are fighting for state rights. Yet if this was another group, they would be called crazy, or terrorists, or both.
When Black Lives Matter stood up for the rights of African Americans in Baltimore and Ferguson, were they viewed as activists or as criminals?
A group that intentionally breaks the law, even when it is in the best intention, is still breaking the law. Or is it?
The uncomfortable truth may not be so clear. Is a terrorist, or a criminal, defined by what he does or by who he is?