by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
January 16, 2016
AN ACT OF SEDITION IN OREGON
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's easy to think of the seditionists in Oregon as "Y'All Qaeda," "Vanilla ISIS" or "Yokel Haram" - parodies of very real terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, or Boko Haram.
It's easy to make fun of Ammon Bundy and the rest of the bumbling rednecks and their "YeeHawd" against the federal government.
However, the people who have staged an armed occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge are challenging some fundamental ideas of what our nation is all about.
The federal government owns about 640 million acres of land - or about 28 percent of the 2.27 million acres of land in the United States. Most of this land is in 11 western states, and Alaska.
At the same time, all this land has few people living on it.
Less than 8 percent of the U.S. population lives in a county where the U.S. government owns more than half of the land. By contrast, 67.4 percent of Americans live in counties where federal land ownership is below 5 percent.
To most of America, federal land ownership is either a national park or forest, a national historical site, or a military installation. It is something totally benign and unthreatening.
To some people in the West, however, federal stewardship of public land is an impediment to their ability to make money in forestry, ranching, or mining. They want to see millions of acres of federally-owned lands turned over to local control, to make it easier to plunder the resources that lie on or below them.
The YeeHawdists have support from many Republicans, since the extremists in the GOP are also opposed to the idea of public resources managed for the public good.
The seditionists in Oregon, and the Republicans that support them, fetishize the U.S. Constitution, but they perhaps ought to read it a little more often. According to Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution, "The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State."
In other words, it specifically grants the federal government to not just own and manage public land, but to do so in the public's interest.
And it is the Bundys and their well-armed friends who are against the Constitution and against the idea that our elected government, and not private interests, should manage our public resources.
But there is more than this simple constitutional issue in play. These jamokes* are challenging the whole idea of government itself.
That is why sedition is the best way to describe what's happening in Oregon. How else do you describe a group of men taking up arms against lawful authority? It is an absolutely toxic act against democracy, and it cannot be allowed to stand.
We must commit ourselves as citizens to stay engaged in the great, but occasionally messy, business of self-government, or be prepared for more acts of sedition by white men with guns. And, next time, it might be more than just an empty building at a wildlife refuge in the middle of nowhere that gets taken over.
Urban Dictionary: "Jamoke - A clumsy loser who is incapable of doing normal human tasks"
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.