by Guy Walker
Everyone knows the story by now. A bunch of aspiring cowboys with carefully groomed beards shuffling around a bird sanctuary, protesting the prison sentences of some arsonists. The men make various flaccid declarations of purpose. Freedom. Guns. Tyranny. Camo. But it’s not a standoff against tyranny. It has nothing to do with any of the issues discussed. Journalists continue to flock to the bird sanctuary, asking the same questions: What are you doing here? And what do you want? Humans are special in this regard, in that we are the only animal who does not have an answer to basic existentialism. We need something to do. Man is utterly bored by the chiasma of stars, by the coruscating storm of madness and women and light beer. He asks himself the same thing every morning: Now that I’ve masturbated, what should I do the rest of the day? The impenetrable dawns are not enough. Day in and day out, the sun and the birds pass us by. The empyrean tundras, windswept and foraged by antique gods, are laid out in front of us. Enormous arenas of wildness. The impartial holy frontier, sastrugi sweeping across every flatland, every forest, every lake and basin and bathing animal. Darwinian ecstasies bounding through millennium, trying to give birth to something beautiful. Snow geese, wood ducks, cinnamon teal, night herons, great blue herons, eared grebes, northern harrier, mourning dove, black-bellied plovers, great horned owls, nighthawks, Vaux’s swift, belted kingfishers, red-breasted nuthatch, pygmy nuthatch, Caspian terns, black terns, Fortser’s terns, chickadees, warblers, tanagers, towhees, waxwings and finches. There is a quietly singing heaven, barely visible, shaking beyond the grasses. And Ammon Bundy sends out another tweet.
His perfectly manicured and primped beard scuffing the cold wind. “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God,” he tweets. This is a plagiarization of Benjamin Franklin’s Great Seal, which reads “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” He tweets another. “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” But there are photos published across the internet of Bundy and his boys huddled around a bonfire, trying to keep their fingers warm. In other words, Ammon Bundy loves the government as much as he loves a good fire. That is, when he most needs it. He got a $530,000 loan from the Small Business Administration in 2010. Ranchers are already given massive discounts for grazing on public land as opposed to private, the lease discount programs costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe it’s unfair to dissect a wanna-be outdoorsman’s literary incompetencies, his broken similes, and ideological deviations. But then again, he’s in a bird sanctuary, tweeting about freedom and free snacks. His head tagline is “Leave our land alone.” But the militiamen have also stated they want to use the land for ranching, logging, mining, and recreation. Not only are there no significant trees on the 187,757 acres of wildlife habitat in which to log, Teddy Roosevelt established the refuge in 1908 “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” The original intent has always been to leave the land alone. Besides, the land originally belongs to the Natives.
So what does Ammon Bundy want? Nobody’s really certain. He stood up at a town hall meeting, and began crying. “The Lord was not pleased with what was happening with the Hammonds. Okay?” he whimpered, wiping his eyes between sentences. His fellow militiaman Jon Ritzheimer, organizer of various anti-Islam rallies, posted a Youtube video of himself crying in his truck, waving a paperback copy of the Constitution, croaking “Daddy swore an oath!” Ammon Bundy said he and his new-age nationalists are prepared to stay for years. Not long after, Ritzheimer tweeted that they needed socks, snacks, energy drinks, snow camo, and gear. “We’re not asking for money,” he wrote, but “we will humbly accept money donations.” Again, fuck the government, but can you spare some change? Because Ammon Bundy and his band of camo-sexuals will eat all your Flaming Hot Cheetos, just to keep their fingers warm.
It’s not simply offhand rhetoric to compare these men with ISIS. Ideologically, they are the same: angry men with guns, wandering around the bleak landscape, crying about their God. Obviously they are hardcore nationalists, half-literate jingoists who rub the American flag on their dicks.
In George Orwell’s Notes on Nationalism, he describes the obsessive orthodoxy of men such as these. Not to be confused with patriotism, which is itself defensive, the nationalist has an insatiable urge for power and prestige for the nation or other great power unit in which he has identified with. But Bundy and the camo-sexuals have convinced themselves they are being attacked, the schizophrenic paranoia gnawing at their hungry stomachs. Nationalism, like any good perversion, is a sickness of the ego. “The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also […] unshakeably certain of being in the right.” The militiamen camped at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have deceived themselves beyond the depths of reason. Even though the Hammonds committed arson to cover up their poaching practices, and even though the Bundy’s have continuously asked for and taken government handouts, they persist in a power-hungry boy’s club, singing kumbaya with their assault rifles strapped to their chests.
Nationalism is described by three principle characteristics: obsession, instability, and indifference to reality. All the nationalist thinks and writes and speaks about is his club of suffering egos. He hates fact and reason and literacy, and does everything he can to disrupt their order. It’s been called the “Oregon Standoff” but there is no standoff whatsoever. It’s a menial distraction of dick rubbing and flag waving, inspired by religious fanaticism.
I can’t blame them. The prurient urge to play cowboys-and-indians is ever present, the nostalgia of the Wild West has always lured men. Just last week, I drove down to Mexico for a surfing trip, and spent the last of my money on a cowboy hat and a bottle of tequila wrapped in a cow’s hide and hoof. I wish I was kidding. There is no good reason to get dressed up in a funny hat, but we do it anyways, hoping for a bit of theatre. The biggest movies out now are The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, and Star Wars, all western films, all about men of adventure and peril, exploring the frontier. We sit back, put on our 3-D glasses, and gape at the spectacle of who we wish we were but never will be.
We will always be little boys, seduced by the thought of heroism, wading into the imaginary landscape of brawn and good looks. In the Christmas classic, A Christmas Story, Ralphie daydreams that he’s a cowboy protecting his home from invaders. In elementary school, I used to imagine saving all the pretty girls at school from something terrible. Ammon Bundy, Jon Ritzheimer, and company, have not developed past a six-year-old’s imagination of what is good and what is right. Their clinical retardation is crippling all that is good about America. Their funny attempts at manhood plays out more like a circle-jerk of camo-gear and free snacks.
No, they are not dangerous. They are just one more example of the slew of American embarrassments. Maybe they’ll get shot, maybe they’ll shoot themselves. Maybe we’ll change the channel. Better to watch some cartoons.