Cliven Bundy – Folk Hero or Scapegoat?
Media Manipulation in the Age of Instant Messaging
Cliven Bundy is a 67-year-old rancher and organic melon farmer, whose family has had ties to southeastern Nevada since the late 19th century.
He’s also become a national celebrity, either famous for standing his ground against an overweening and abusive federal government bureaucracy or infamous as an allegedly racist anti-government wing-nut, depending on one’s ideological perspective, or which news media one frequents.
Unfortunately, however, there seem to be only two camps, each propagating an extremist view of Bundy, with no middle ground, no subtlety, no shades of gray. Dubya Bush famously declared, “You’re either with us or against us”, and both the Left and the Right seem to ascribe to this simplistic, dualistic and antagonistic mindset.
It’s a sad state of affairs when the mainstream media and pundit coverage and discussion of Bundy’s resistance offers so little nuance or philosophical reflection on the real issues involved, but instead seeks only to either lionize or demonize the protagonist.
It’s sadder yet that any commentary on race has become such a “third rail” phenomenon in America, that even Bundy’s staunchest political and media supporters went running for the shadows when he was (I assert, wrongly – see below) portrayed as racist or white supremacist.
Deja Vu All Over Again
Though apparently a good deal more mild-mannered than his infamous predecessor, Cliven Bundy bears some remarkable resemblances to Ike Clanton, born in Missouri in 1847, settled in Tombstone AZ in 1877 (before it was even a town), and known as a fierce proponent of the open range and of a man being a law unto himself.
The Clantons and their ranch hands were known as The Cowboys, with a reputation for banditry and renowned for facing off with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday at the OK Corral, where Ike’s little brother and two other gunmen were killed while Ike, unarmed, removed himself and let others fight his battle.
“I’ve lived my lifetime here. My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley here ever since 1877. All these rights that I claim, have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and the water and the access and range improvements”, Bundy said.
Bundy repeated a similar claim: “My family has preemptive, adjudicated livestock water rights filed with the state of Nevada. They were established in 1877 when the first pioneers entered the valley. Among those first pioneers were my grandparents from my mother’s side. My father either bought or inherited his Nevada state livestock water rights and I, in turn, have done the same.”
The local Paiute Indians were forced into reservations by federal troops in 1875. Two years prior, before any Bundys arrived, the tribe was promised the same land on which Cliven Bundy now grows his melons, and grazes his cattle.
Ironically, Cliven’s son Ammon Bundy was recently at the Clark County Sheriff’s office demanding an investigation into BLM actions. In addition to the Freeman Institute version of the US Constitution in his shirt pocket, he was wearing this button:
Clark County property records show Cliven Bundy’s parents moved from Bundyville, Arizona (just over the border about 50 miles to the southeast) and bought the 160 acre ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada in 1948 from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt. Water rights were transferred too, but only to the ranch, not the federally managed land surrounding it. Court records show Bundy family cattle didn’t start grazing on that land until 1954. County records show the earliest construction on Bundy’s ranch was in 1951. Since 1994 the ranch has been jointly owned by the David A. and Bodel Bundy Trust and the Bundy Revocable Trust.
“My rights are before the BLM even existed, but my rights are created by beneficial use. Beneficial use means we created the forage and the water from the time the very first pioneers come here”, Bundy said.
Federal grazing districts were established with passage by Congress of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. The Las Vegas area grazing district was established Nov. 3, 1936. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was formed in 1946, the year Cliven Bundy was born.
Although no Bundys lived in their present area of Bunkerville, Nevada in 1930 or 1940, according to Census records for those years, Cliven Bundy’s mother Bodel and her parents, John and Christena Jensen, lived in neighboring Mesquite in the early 20th Century. Census records from 1930 indicate that John Jensen was a Mesquite farmer originally from Utah whose parents were from Denmark.
Christena Jensen’s parents were originally from Utah. This is the side of the family where Cliven Bundy claims long-standing livestock water rights in Nevada.
Cliven Bundy’s maternal great-great-grandfather was Myron Abbott, who left Ogden Canyon, Utah to join Edward Bunker, Sr., in forming the United Order or Mormons, serving as the second counselor to Bunker who was made bishop of the community. After the United Order dissolved, Abbott spent his time plowing and tending farmland in addition to transporting salt from St. Thomas to Santa Clara, Utah. His son, William Abbott, married Dudley Leavitt’s daughter Mary Jane Leavitt at the St. George Utah Temple in 1890, and Bundy’s maternal grandmother Abigail Christena Abbott was their child. William Abbott traveled through the United States on Mormon missions, and served as the bishop of the Mesquite Ward from 1901 to 1927
Bundy’s other maternal great-great-grandfather Dudley Leavitt was a Canadian who moved to Utah after joining the LDS Church. After marrying wives in Utah in 1853, 1855, 1859, 1860, and 1872 and selling his Gunlock, Utah property, he moved to Bunkerville, Nevada. The original location he settled was south of Mesquite, 2½ miles northeast of present Bunkerville.
Bundy’s maternal great-grandmother was Mary Jane Leavitt. After the United Order communal property was divided up, Dudley Leavitt moved across the river to Mesquite by 1881. When the Virgin River flooded, he moved again and was contracted to carry mail across a 180 miles round trip distance from St. George, Utah to St. Thomas, Nevada. He placed his five families in various locations along his route, and Mary Jane’s family was kept at Leavittville, Arizona.
Abigail Christena Abbott married John Jenson, who was born in Utah, and their child was Bundy’s mother, Bodel Jenson, who married David A. Bundy from Arizona and lived in Mt. Trumbull (Bundyville), Arizona until at least 1940. Their son, Cliven Bundy, was born in Bundyville, Arizona in 1946. They all moved to their present location in Bunkerville, Nevada after they bought the 160 acres in 1948 and built the ranch in 1951.
It is the typically complex genealogy of western settlers, but it demonstrates that there was no continuous line of family births and habitation in Bunkerville/Mesquite from Cliven Bundy to the few ancestors who settled the area.
Cliven Bundy’s family has been grazing cattle on public land since 1954, but it was only after 1993 that Bundy stopped paying the token grazing fees and the BLM revoked his permit. Since that time, Cliven Bundy has been a scofflaw, using public resources without either permission or payment. He considers himself civilly disobedient.
Grazing fees are assessed per “animal unit month” or AUM, based on the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. The grazing fee for 2014, based on market conditions, is $1.35 per AUM – the lowest it can be set under federal law.
For most of the past three decades, BLM has charged $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM). That covers only a fraction of BLM’s costs in managing the program. In 2009, for instance, it covered less than one-quarter. The BLM fee is also well below the grazing fees charged by the private sector. As of 2004 (the last time the Government Accountability Office looked into this), private businesses charged in the range of $8 to $23 AUM – the equivalent, after inflation, of $10 to $29 today. State governments charge more, too: In 2004, state grazing fees ranged from $1.35 to $80 AUM, or the equivalent of $1.69 to $100 today.
The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, like Bundy, complains about “federal regulations [that] have infringed on … public land grazing rights and the multiple use management principle”. But, unlike Bundy, the Association says “However, in accordance with the rule of law, we must use the system set forth in our Constitution to change those laws and regulations… Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not condone actions that are outside the law in which citizens take the law into their own hands… Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not feel it is our place to interfere in the process of adjudication in this matter. Additionally, NCA believes the matter is between Mr. Bundy and the Federal Courts.”
Bundy says he recognizes only state and county authority, not Washington’s. But the Nevada State Constitution acknowledges the authority of the federal government, stating that “the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States…”
Regarding the 85% of Nevada that is federal land, the state constitution says: “The people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.”
This makes it obvious that one can’t accept the Nevada Constitution without at the same time accepting Federal ownership and control of the unincorporated lands, as the latter is based on the former – Nevada statehood was based on the relinquishment to the federal government of all wildlands.
1989: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the desert tortoise as an endangered species. A year later, its designation was changed to “threatened”.
1993: Bundy stopped paying grazing fees, and The BLM, which oversees about 800 grazing areas in Nevada, responded by revoking his permit. Bundy has not applied for a new one.
1998: Nearly 200,000 acres of the Gold Butte, the area the Bundys graze their cattle, were designated off-limits for the “critical desert tortoise” population.
1998: A federal court issued an order permanently enjoining Bundy from grazing his livestock on the former Bunkerville Allotment, ordering him to remove his livestock no later than November 30, 1998, and pay damages to the United States in the amount of $200 per day per head for any remaining livestock on the allotment after November 30, 1998.
September 17, 1999: After Bundy failed to comply with the court’s earlier order, the court issued another order directing Bundy to comply with the 1998 permanent injunction.
May 2012: BLM filed a complaint in a federal court in Las Vegas seeking another injunction against Bundy, and relief for Bundy’s trespassing on a new set of additional lands not covered by the original 1998 ruling.
December 21, 2012: As the case dragged on, the BLM moved for summary judgement.
July 9, 2013: An order signed by Judge Lloyd D. George (nominated by President Ronald Reagan on April 18, 1984), permanently enjoined Bundy and his cattle from trespassing on the Bunkerville Allotment, the Gold Butte area, and parts of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and authorized the United States Department of Interior to seize and impound any trespass cattle after 45 days.
August 2013: A court order gave Bundy 45 days to remove his cattle from federal land.
October 8, 2013: Another order was issued which allowed the United States to protect the land from Bundy and to seize any of his cattle that remain in those areas. The federal district court ordered Bundy not to “physically interfere with any seizure or impoundment operation”.
March 15, 2014: After nearly 20 years, the Bureau of Land Management sent Bundy a letter informing him that they plan to impound his “trespass cattle”, which have been roaming on 90 square miles of federal land.
April 5, 2014: After decades of trepidation, federal officials and contract cowboys start rounding up what they think are Cliven Bundy’s hundreds of cows (some branded, some not). The operation was going to cost $1 million, and last until May. The BLM contends that Bundy owes $1 million in fees, and will also have to pay the round-up expenses.
April 12, 2014: BLM decides not to enforce their court order: “Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”
April 14, 2014: BLM also pledges that this isn’t done. A spokesperson for the bureau said, “The door isn’t closed. We’ll figure out how to move forward with this.”
Whether invited by Bundy or on their own, supporters and defenders of individual and states’ rights gathered at the cattle impoundment area to confront the federal officials, many of them arriving armed and prepared for a confrontation.
One militant Bundy supporter, former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, declared: “We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.” For some, a bloody confrontation like Waco or Ruby Ridge seemed to be the goal.
Bundy, himself, was nearly as militant, insisting “We’re not ready to negotiate …We’re going to stand and be ready to fight.” One of his sons, Ammon Bundy, said “You know, this battle’s been going on my whole life, almost. And if death were our main fear, we wouldn’t be here today. Freedom is much greater than death. People have to understand that.”
In an interview with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, Bundy explained:
“Well, you know, my cattle is only one issue – that the United States courts has ordered that the government can seize my cattle. But what they have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, access to the land, and have seized access to all of the other rights of Clark County people that like to go hunting and fishing. They’ve closed all those things down, and we’re here to protest that action. And we are after freedom. We’re after liberty. That’s what we want.”
For the Bundy family and their rag-tag supporters, the battle was ultimately a defense of personal liberty and the sovereignty of the states against the excesses and infringements of the federal government.
Because of this classic individual vs. Big Government contest, Republican and conservative pundits and politicians voiced support for Bundy’s battle, including Kentucky Senator and likely presidential candidate Rand Paul, and Dean Heller, the junior Senator from Nevada. Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the senior senator from Nevada, called Bundy’s supporters “domestic terrorists”.
The standoff in the desert ended, at least for now, on April 12, when the BLM stopped the cattle gather, but the complexion of the confrontation changed abruptly on April 23, like a cowboy too long in the desert sun, when the New York Times published a selectively-edited version of an address that Bundy gave to his supporters the previous Saturday.
Charges of Racism Stick like Hot Cooked Oatmeal
According to the Times article by Adam Nagourney, the Saturday news conference “drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.”
While noting that “for 55 minutes, Mr. Bundy held forth to a clutch of supporters about his views on the troubled state of America – the overreaching federal government, the harassment of Western ranchers…”, the article quoted only two paragraphs of the address.
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids – and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch – they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.”
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Almost immediately, all of Bundy’s mainstream supporters ran for the desert hills.
Fox News host Sean Hannity ripped what he called the “ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments”.
Sen. Rand Paul, who originally supported Bundy’s case, issued a statement that: “His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”
GOP Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada earlier called Bundy’s supporters “patriots”, but later the senator’s office said he “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements”.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who had not weighed in on the land dispute, said Bundy’s words were “beyond the pale”.
The left-leaning media and blogosphere, needless to say, went viral with “BUNDY IS A RACIST” headlines and commentary, thereby “proving” that these range war protesters were the epitome of the right-wing, white supremacist extremists that liberals and “progressives” love to hate.
What the NY Times, Media Matter and other left-leaning outlets did to Bundy was reminiscent of what the mainstream media did to George Zimmerman through even more pernicious selective editing of his phone conversation with the police dispatcher, making it appear that Zimmerman volunteered Trayvon Martin’s race, rather than simply responding to the question, “Is he white, black or Hispanic?”. The difference here is that, while some prominent right-leaning outlets tried to correct the record with MSNBC’s libel against Zimmerman, even the right-wing media, such as Fox News, is complicit in maintaining the misdirection in regard to Bundy.
What Bundy Really Said
The Times, the “newspaper of record”, however, failed to bookend those comments with the context which would paint them in a very different, and almost opposite, light:
“… and so what I’ve testified to you – I was in the Watts riot, I seen the beginning fire and I seen that last fire. What I seen is civil disturbance. People are not happy, people are thinking they don’t have their freedoms, they didn’t have these things, and they didn’t have them.
We’ve progressed quite a bit from that day until now, and we sure don’t want to go back. We sure don’t want the colored people to go back to that point. We sure don’t want these Mexican people to go back to that point. And we can make a difference right now by taking care of some of these bureaucracies, and do it in a peaceful way.”
“Now, let me talk about the Spanish people. You know, I understand that they come over here against our Constitution and cross our borders. But they’re here and they’re people – and I’ve worked side by side a lot of them.
Don’t tell me they don’t work, and don’t tell me they don’t pay taxes. And don’t tell me they don’t have better family structures than most of us white people. When you see those Mexican families, they’re together, they picnic together, they’re spending their time together, and I’ll tell you in my way of thinking they’re awful nice people. And we need to have those people join with us and be with us, not, not come to a party.”
In context, Bundy’s comments, while clumsy and perhaps historically ignorant, seem to reflect support for the desire of blacks for freedom, acknowledge racial and social progress, and make clear that “we sure don’t want to go back”. Bundy was downright admiring of Hispanic family cohesiveness, even stating that they have stronger family values than white folks, and inviting both minority groups to join in his struggle for freedom and rights.
One of Bundy’s “bodyguards”, black US Army veteran Jason Bullock, said “I would take a bullet for that man if need be”. Bullock further said, “I look up to him just like I do my own grandfather… Mr. Bundy is not a racist. Ever since I’ve been here, he’s treated me with nothing but hospitality. He’s pretty much treating me just like his own family.”
Another black soldier, a U.S. Marine calling himself Charlie Delta, penned an open letter in defense of Bundy:
“One thing he definitely isn’t – a racist. I found his comments to not only be NOT racist, but his own view of his experiences. He posed a hypothetical question. He said, ‘I wonder IF’ … Hell, I’m black and I often wonder about the same about the decline of the black family. Bottom line is that we are all slaves in this waning republic, no matter our skin color. Mr. Bundy could have used any racial demographic as an example: Native Americans on reservations, whites in trailer parks, etc. He noticed the crippling effects of receiving government “assistance” and the long term result of accepting handouts. It’s not progress at all.”
In an exclusive April 24 interview with CNN’s Bill Weir, Bundy was asked to elaborate on his remarks. He explained he’d been simply “wondering whether (blacks) are that much better off in the situation we’re in now.”
In an April 25 interview on CNN’s “New Day”, Bundy stood by his remarks, saying he’s not a racist but only somebody who speaks his mind, perhaps using politically incorrect language.
“Maybe I sinned, and maybe I need to ask forgiveness, and maybe I don’t know what I actually said, but when you talk about prejudice, we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think. … If I say Negro or black boy or slave, if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be (offended), then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet,” he told anchor Chris Cuomo, adding, “We need to get over this prejudice stuff.”
On April 25, the Bundy Ranch Facebook page elaborated on the rancher’s “New Day” comments, and concluded with these sentences:
“I am doing the same thing Rosa Parks did – I am standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom. Just like the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord, we are saying no to an oppressive government which considers us to be slaves rather than free men.
“I invite all people in America to join in our peaceful revolution to regain our freedom. That is how America was started, and we need to keep that tradition alive.”
While some might take issue with Bundy’s comparison with Rosa Parks, his ideology of the tyranny of centralized government is nearly identical to that of the American revolutionaries and Founding Fathers. Unlike them, however, Bundy asks for a “peaceful revolution”.
When Blacks Say it, It’s OK
Ironically, the first person to state, on New Year’s Day 1871, that it did not serve the interests of free black people to be on welfare, was that most famous of abolitionists, former slave woman Sojourner Truth.
“The welfare state has done to Blacks what slavery couldn’t do, and that is to destroy the Black family.” – Walter E. Williams, American economist, commentator, and academic, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist and author
“The Black family, which had survived centuries of slavery, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state” – Thomas Sowell, American economist, social theorist, political philosopher and author, currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, born in North Carolina, grew up in Harlem, served in the US Marine Corps during the Korean War, bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1958, master’s degree from Columbia University in 1959, Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1968, has served on the faculties of Cornell and UCLA, and has worked at the Urban Institute
Derrick Grayson, the only black candidate in the Republican primary for the open Georgia Senate seat, said that he had been making a similar argument to Bundy’s for a while:
“When he talked about black people being enslaved, I have been saying this for the last eight years – by liberal Democrat policies. I don’t understand what the problem is. Oh, I get it. I can say it, but a white person can’t. A white person say it, the press is going to use it. Especially when that white person is engaged in something or involved in something that demonstrates how the government has overstepped its bounds. …”
“Under slavery, families were ripped apart, and it was a desire of black men and black women to be together with their loved ones. Family meant something. Spouses meant something. Well, what did government policies do? It broke up the black family, told the black family: ‘Hey, if you want to receive this welfare check, the man can’t be in the household.’ Huh?”
“Talk about government policies. In 1965, prior to that, illegitimacy in the black community was less than 13%. Today it’s over 70%. Government liberal Democrat policies. The man was just simply telling you the truth. Jesus.”
Even during slavery, where marriage was forbidden, most black children lived in biological two-parent families. One study of nineteenth-century slave families (The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925, by Herbert Gutman) found that in as many as three-fourths of them, all the children had the same mother and father. In New York City in 1925, 85% of kin-related black households were two-parent households.
A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia showed that 75.2% of all black families were nuclear (composed of two parents and children), compared with 73.1% for native white Americans.
In 1847, just one of ten Philadelphia blacks had been born in slavery. However, Theodore Hershberg found that those ex-slave families (80%) were more likely than freeborn blacks (77%) to be two-parent families.
Thomas Sowell has reported that “going back a hundred years, when blacks were just one generation out of slavery, we find that census data of that era showed that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. This fact remained true in every census from 1890 to 1940.”
The black rate of illegitimate births was only 19% in 1940 but skyrocketed in the late 1960s, reaching 49% in 1975. As of 2000, black illegitimacy stood at 68% and in some cities over 80%.
Shirley Sherrod, Obama’s Agriculture Department’s director of rural development in Georgia, was forced from her job when a conservative website – Andrew Breitbart’s biggovernment (dot) com – selectively quoted her statement about not serving a white farm family (“didn’t give him the full force of what I could do”), which was then picked up by Fox News.
Sherrod said her remarks to a local NAACP banquet were part of a story about racial reconciliation, not racism. But the NAACP and the Obama administration jumped all over her, and then apologized and asked her to reconsider her resignation. The NAACP said it and millions of others were duped by the conservative website that posted partial video of her speech.
In the case of that liberal black woman, the mainstream, the left and the Obama administration tripped all over themselves trying to backtrack and correct the record and their own mistake. This time, because the victim was a conservative white male who has been pegged as racist, no one seems to want to correct the record, let alone apologize.
What Happened to Honest and Fair Commentary?
One can legitimately disagree with, or even condemn, this conservative assault on “big government” and public welfare programs, but it should at least be done uniformly, rationally and fairly – not ascribing malicious meanings to such beliefs simply because they are articulated by a white man who fits the progressive’s description of a wing-nut.
One of the most radical thought leaders of the Civil War period, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune (the most influential U.S. newspaper from the 1840s to the 1870s), employer of Karl Marx as a newspaper correspondent, founder of the Liberal Republican Party, an outspoken opponent of slavery, and an advocate for a host of reforms ranging from vegetarianism to socialism, wrote following the Emancipation Proclamation:
“We have stricken the shackles from 4,000,000 human beings and brought all labourers to a common level, but not so much by the elevation of former slaves as by reducing the whole working population, white and black, to a condition of serfdom. While boasting of our noble deeds, we are careful to conceal the ugly fact that by our iniquitous money system we have manipulated a system of oppression which, though more refined, is no less cruel than the old system of chattel slavery.”
Such distinguished thinkers and activists as Leo Tolstoy, Friedrich Engels and Emma Goldman shared similar perspectives.
French journalist and lawyer, Simon Linguet, wrote in 1763: “The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him… They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market… It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live… It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him… what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him ?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune… These men… [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need. … They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?”
“The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.” – Friedrich Engels
“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal – that there is no human relation between master and slave.” – Leo Tolstoy
The idea that to beg for either work or a handout is more degrading than slavery has a long and noble lineage, and can’t be so easily dismissed just because it is expressed in the politically incorrect language of an elderly white Nevada rancher.
And yet, the entire mainstream – left, right and center – immediately and reflexively wrote Bundy off as a crackpot racist, as if it couldn’t otherwise effectively counteract his anti-tyranny stance which has been so central to the American tradition since the 1773 shadowy and conspiratorial Committees of Correspondence.
“The question you propose, whether circumstances do not sometimes occur, which make it a duty in officers of high trust, to assume authorities beyond the law, is easy of solution in principle, but sometimes embarrassing in practice. A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to John B. Colvin, September 20, 1810
For the sequel to this story, see Range War Redux – Bundy Boys In Oregon