Oregon ‘militia’ should reconsider their means

Courtesy of USA Today

Sean Bassinger, Forum Editor

There’s so much wrong with this whole “Y’all-Qaeda” problem in Eastern Oregon right now.

Naturally we can start with the fact that we have a bunch of over-entitled, angry white men irresponsibly taking over government property. Oh, and the amount of weaponry they have seems ridiculous. Can you believe these people and their outrageous reactions?

Well, OK. People who are fans of what these folks are doing might not like such a statement no more than some liked hearing the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters of yesteryear as “lazy millennial hippy trash,” or something to that extent.

So, for the sake of this column, let’s refer to the situation as “Occupy Burns with implications of violence.” I think that’s fair.

On Jan. 2, just after New Years Day came to an end and we entered the weekend, an estimated 150 “militia men” took over an unoccupied U.S. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife building outside of Burns, Oregon. Some have gone so far as to label them as “domestic terrorists,” which I agree with, but they really haven’t done anything to incite terror. Not yet, anyhow —and I hope they don’t.

The group’s goal was to spread awareness about two recently convicted Oregon ranchers who merely wanted to exercise their own freedom on their property.

In more basic terms, a handful of primarily angry white men—arguably domestic terrorists at large—decided to take over a completely empty building because they’re upset about the fate of two individuals they just happen to care about.

Is it hypocritical what many of them are doing? Sure is, but this doesn’t mean we need to return the favor. Instead, it’s more important to realize why they’re doing all of this in the first place and see if it could help us better understand other situations of concerns aside from the fact that these people are idiots. Issues of racial entitlement and pitfalls in our criminal justice system, for instance.

I personally hope they calm down, drop their weapons and return to where they came from so we can come up with a more idealistic solution for everyone who continues to be affected by a clearly messed up U.S. justice system.

Until then, they’ll continue to be “#VanillaISIS” to the Internet.

So here are the charges that the two Oregon ranchers in question, Dwight and Steven Hammond, face: They damaged a small chunk of federal property in an alleged attempt to cover up illegal hunting activities, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Justice. One witness in the report claims that he “barely escaped” flames that were up to 10 feet high.

Ammon Bundy, son of a Nevada rancher who was at the heart of a similar so-called “protest” turned slightly armed conflict around 2013, stands among others supporting the “Y’all Qaeda.”

So here’s what’s interesting:

The mandatory minimum sentence, according to a Jan. 4 column from German Lopez on Vox, is five years for the Hammonds, regardless of previous judges and courts that felt the sentences were actually too harsh. The author himself argues how it seems a bit extreme, considering how the Hammonds claim they attempted to protect lightning strikes in the area from making the flames grow. Also, nobody was officially killed or injured.

Unfortunately, the law is the law in this case, so their sentences, like similar references brought up in the column (one individual received a sentence for 55 years involving marijuana), until the law changes.

So to recap: Angry white men with guns in Eastern Oregon, mandatory minimum sentences that seem unfair on the surface and a general overreach of government.

Sound familiar? This is basically how the “Occupy” protests started; only, the campers in those protests didn’t imply violence.

This entire situation remains unsettling for a variety of reasons.

First, the race and class arguments we’ve seen come up in all this. Protestors who argued against the mistreatment of blacks during the Ferguson events outside of St. Louis and Occupy Wall Street participants of 2011 were met with more action than these folks. That speaks volumes.

Second, the argument of a for-profit incarceration system we seem to perpetuate now seems more than clear on both sides.

To the folks currently throwing gun-wielding adult tantrums near Burns, this is a serious issue now that some of their own kin are partially involved.

Figures.

Then again, we could consider why they’re now upset and how it affects each of us in terms of what we also seek.

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