[Marxism] The War for the West Rages On
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jan 30 09:38:59 MST 2016
NY Times Op-Ed, Jan. 30 2016
The War for the West Rages On
By BETSY GAINES QUAMMEN
Bozeman, Mont. — THE armed siege of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon,
which continued Friday even after one of the occupiers was killed in a
confrontation with authorities, is the latest battle in a Nevada
family’s war with the federal government.
It shows little sign of abating.
Anger over the federal government’s control of hundreds of millions of
acres across the West has been smoldering for over a hundred years. The
takeover was part of a campaign that has its roots in the settlement of
the West and the desire to transfer control of these lands — the
national forests, parks, wildlife refuges and rangeland — to the states.
The Oregon confrontation was led by two sons of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada
rancher who led an armed standoff of his own against federal authorities
in 2014 over his illegal grazing on land owned by the Bureau of Land
Oregon Town Torn Apart by Protest at Wildlife RefugeJAN. 29, 2016
The difference between the Bundys and many other ranchers who rage over
federal control of land is that they believe God is on their side.
I visited the Bundy family last year on their remote ranch and melon
farm in southeastern Nevada for research I’m conducting on the history
of Mormon culture and the use of public land. The Bundys are Mormons and
interested me because of their extreme position against the government
and their engagement of militia groups in their cause.
They were welcoming and eager to answer my questions. What emerged in
our three hours of conversation in the living room of their modest ranch
house was a passion and a sense of entitlement that they believe is
anchored in their deep history in the region. They also embrace a
strange amalgamation of Mormonism, libertarianism and a right-wing
reading of the Constitution.
The Bundys trace their roots to some of the first Mormons who settled
along an isolated and rugged stretch of the Virgin River, in a place so
desolate that it seems impossible to make a living there. But they did,
and in doing so, they put their stamp on it, in the Bundys’ view.
From the moment their ancestors’ horses took a sip of water or ate the
grass, “a beneficial use of a renewable resource” was created, Cliven
Bundy told me.
“That’s how our rights are created,” he explained. “So now we have
created them and we use them, make beneficial use of them, and then we
protect them. And that’s sort of a natural law, and that’s what the
rancher has done. That’s how he has his rights. And that’s what the
range war, the Bundy war, is all about right now, it’s really protecting
those three things: our life, liberty and our property.”
In Mormon doctrine, the American Constitution is a divinely inspired
text that must be protected. This view goes back to the days of the
prophet Joseph Smith, who believed the Constitution existed to provide
religious freedom and agency, the right of people to choose how they lived.
In 1840, Smith warned that “this Nation will be on the very verge of
crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground when the Constitution is
upon the brink of ruin; this people will be the Staff upon which the
Nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the
very verge of destruction.”
The Bundy family sees itself as that Staff. Mr. Bundy carries in his
pocket a copy of the Constitution, which he believes draws its
inspiration from the Bible. He told me: “Don’t we believe that Jesus
Christ is basically the author of the Bible? Well, if the Constitution
is inspired, who is the author? Wouldn’t that author be Jesus Christ again?”
Mr. Bundy’s reading of the Constitution has been heavily influenced by
the work of W. Cleon Skousen, a Mormon, fervent anti-Communist and
right-wing political thinker who believed that most federal landholdings
The Los Angeles Times reported that many Bundy followers in Oregon
carried with them a copy of the Constitution annotated by Skousen.
“That’s where I get most of my information from,” Cliven Bundy told the
But while Joseph Smith focused on the First Amendment as a bulwark
against the persecutions of Mormons, the Bundys are focused on the 10th
Amendment, which they believe severely restricts the federal
government’s power to possess land. (Leaders of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints have condemned the Oregon takeover and said
in a statement that they were “deeply troubled by the reports that those
who have seized the facility suggest that they were doing it based on
The Bundy worldview aligns closely with the states’ rights movement and
efforts in the West to transfer federal lands to the states and local
governments. Just last week, eight ranchers in Utah announced that they
would stop paying grazing fees to the federal government and put the
money into escrow until ownership of the federal land they lease is
resolved. “This is as an act of civil disobedience in response to a long
trail of abuses,” a lawyer connected to the effort told The Salt Lake
Now the Bundy sons are in jail, and one of them, Ammon, in a statement
issued by his lawyers, urged his followers to go home and hug their
families. But a subsequent post on the Facebook page of the Bundy Ranch
that has since been deleted issued this call to arms:
“ALERT! From Ammon’s wife, Lisa: Ammon would not have called for the
patriots to leave. We have lost a life but we are not backing down. He
didn’t spill his blood in vain! Hold your ground … Ranchers come and
stand! … Militia come and stand!”
The war with the federal government over the West seems far from finished.
Betsy Gaines Quammen is a doctoral candidate at Montana State University.
More information about the Marxism