Not Entirely How the West was Won

Ammon Bundy Oregon Standoff

This scene was riveting for a writer interested in culture, conservation, and western states. It effed all productivity. I’m staring at an audio stream on my laptop and binging on potato chips. My wife asleep beside me, I’m like Chandler on that one where he ignores Monica for a high-speed car chase on TV. I wasn’t alone! About 70,000 other people listened late into Wednesday night. This prompted OregonLive to call it “America’s first social media occupation” (here).

It was fascinating and frightening. The #OregonStandOff occupiers could not hear the voices outside their own heads. While most tweets scoffed, Sean Anderson and Gavin Seim scolded Americans for not showing up. They saw the showdown as our opportunity. Apparently, so did Michelle Fiore and Krisanne Hall.

But it begs the question. If you’re suddenly out there alone, is it because the rest of us are “asleep” or “brainwashed”? Or is it that you’re so fringe and dissociative you no longer resonate with the rest of us?

But still, there’s something there. Radicals do not get traction where there’s no cause. The truth is, unbridled extraction and the environmental response has put ordinary folks between a rock and hard place. Check Jon Talton’s column here about how this incident is indicative of difficult economics.

The Bundys and their ilk do make it too damned easy for everyone else to stereotype 2A and ranch life. In much the same way these radicals characterize environmentalists and liberals with broad sweeping generalizations.

And that’s unfortunate.

You have to research beyond the headlines and news ticker to find the true mettle of the modern cowboy. In my experience, as Chris Clarke shared in depth for KCET here, most locals looked on the affair with “something like derision”.

I currently live in NY. This episode compelled me to assure people that Western Americans are not generally “yeehawdists.” Quite the contrary. Yes, cowboys, ranchers, loggers, farmers I know do have different perspectives on land management. And they are law abiding, respectful, and cooperative with land managers and law enforcement. The Bundys and their brand are the exception.

The truth is stranger than fiction, and it’s the foundation of better stories. Namely, the story of what it means to be an American.

Write accordingly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *