The situation at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, now the seat of the Bundy “militia” rebellion, is rapidly deteriorating. Morale plummeted as the group of gun-wielding paranoiacs discovered one of their members had drunk away their donation money at a local bar, prompting a brawl to break out among the militants. The discovery of false rebels in their mist – Brian “Booda” Cavalier apparently lied about his military service and was promptly exiled – did not do much to improve their spirits.
Arguments over the wisdom of bringing their wives and children to the site also sowed discord among the group, which got so heated that prominent militant Blaine Cooper sent one of his buddies to the hospital with a concussion after punching him.They accused each other of being informants and trashed each other for their criminal histories, adding to the feeling that this is all nothing but a carnival of incompetence.
Despite all this, they still refused an offer of safe passage out of the refuge and the olive branch extended by Sheriff Dave Ward, who greeted Bundy with a handshake. Bundy and his cronies have invaded a federal building, threatened to kill federal agents, shut down a school district, and then rejected a peace offer which included a police escort out of the state and a promise that no charges would be filed. Bundy told the media that “until we can see that there is a great momentum and the people can get doing that themselves, then we will remain.”
While the Sheriff’s actions are clearly aimed at preventing bloodshed and resolving this absurd situation, it is astonishing to see the leniency with which these anti-government extremists are being treated. As ThinkProgress noted, the peaceful protesters in Ferguson airing legitimate grievances over the police killing of Michael Brown were met with heavily armed riot police, tear gas, and mass arrests. The armed standoff by the MOVE protesters in 1985 were dealt with by literally bombing a city block, killing several children. The hypocrisy is incredible, and reveals a deep racial disconnect with how public disobedience is dealt with in our nation.
While obviously nobody wants to see anybody get hurt, it is far past time we began dealing with white anti-government extremists with the seriousness that their insurgency represents, lest we encourage similar standoffs by some of the other 287 militia groups that are operating around the country.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.