give it back, but not too far back


I can appreciate down-home Americana as much as the next person. That’s why I love the story of the nutty folks with guns out in Burns, Oregon. It’s a classic USA tale.

A gang of guys with weapons take over a government building mostly used as a way station for birdwatchers. The birders probably don’t realize the brutal government oppression that this building and the wildlife refuge surrounding it represent. According to the gun-toters, it’s actually ground zero of a citizen insurrection.

They are protesting the fact that two guys who were convicted of setting fire to public land are being given the mandatory minimum jail sentence. It’s hard to say exactly what they want to happen other than to get publicity, but they seem to want government handouts. Federal property like the wildlife refuge they are squatting on should be given to them or to private ranchers or miners,

I picture these people as guys who grew up on crappy action movies, and as adults try to live out adolescent fantasies of being righteous warriors. I visualize insecure men practicing steely-eyed glares and trying to out-macho and out-patriot each other. They drink beer and get misty-eyed about “taking the country back.”

Something tells me they would draw a line before giving the land back to the native Indians, who had the land before white guys appeared. Or giving it back to the plants and animals that were there before the Indians. Oh wait, that’s sort of what the wildlife refuge is trying to do – keep the area available for nature and for people to enjoy. Give it back, but not too far back. Give it back so it happens to go to them.

A classic American story – privileged white boys want to own some kind of fantasy world and wave their guns around.


Below: The tundra swan, one of the inhabitants of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, south of Burns, Oregon. You can also find sandhill cranes, snow goose, quail, pelicans, and more. The refuge was established in 1908.






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