Different Destinies at Stake in Oregon

A reflection on the men behind the siege of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters

There’s plenty to read about the Angry White Men who’ve occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Burns, Oregon. I’ve called them “Angry White Men” because that’s all I’ve seen in the hundreds of photos published since last Saturday, when the whole thing began. Calling them anything else (they’ve been called terrorists, revolutionaries, militants, patriots, jamokes, stunted halfwits, YallQaeda, etc. ) for me, is besides the point I want to make.

Cliven and Ammon BundyPhoto by Gage SkidmoreAmmon Bundy with his father Cliven Bundy at a conference. The Bundys and their band of “Angry White Men” want to ramp up all the activities that got us into this global warming jam to begin with, and spell certain doom if continued.

Yes, I believe that if these people were black or Muslim, they’d be dead and the refuge would be on fire. And, yes I believe that using deadly force to change anything is wrong-headed and doesn’t work. Do I have a solution for this? No, but it seems to me that the longer this goes and the more the men learn about how the world sees them, the more embarrassed they’ll be. Hopefully, sooner than later, they’ll figure out how to diffuse the situation and slink away as uneventfully as possible. Hopefully, no one on either side of this does something stupid. Hopefully, the punishment they receive will be not only what they deserve, but enough to discourage them — or anyone else — from committing similar crimes against the American people.

By referring to Ammon Bundy and his camouflaged comrades as “Angry White Men” I put them into a group that, I believe, is largely responsible for much of what we see happening in the world today. Angry White Men — not all of them police — are responsible for most of the 30,000 shootings occurring in America each year. They want to control the bodies of women, as women threaten their power. Angry White Men support any war against any group made up of people who either are non-white, non-male, or non-angry. Angry White Men oppose any efforts to protect or defend any of American’s natural resources, refusing to see any value beyond financial. For Angry White Men, holding onto the last of the power they were born with but didn’t earn is worth any damage done to our country or the planet. Angry White Men are at war with the future.

This may explain what appears to be a double standard: why authorities are letting this play out. Angry White Men stick together.

Why are these white men angry? Perhaps Manifest Destiny is playing a role.

Malheur National Wildlife RefugePhoto by Jeff Sorn/Oregon Department of Transport A view from the Buena Vista Overlook in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The role our western lands play is shifting from providing resources to becoming our source of wild beauty, the understanding of which may hold the key to thriving in the diminished future we face.

Manifest Destiny refers to the nineteenth-century plan for moving people west to take advantage of the abundant resources to be found there. Although the term was first used in an 1845 article describing the responsibility of white Christians to occupy the North American Continent south of Canada, the idea can be traced to the seventeenth century. English settlers were told by their Christian clergy to make an “errand into the wilderness” of America, which God had chosen for a special destiny. Tame the wilderness. First suppress then convert the natives to Christianity. And finally, become wealthy by taking advantage of the nearly untapped resources.

By definition destiny is ‘‘something that is about to happen or an inevitable, pre-determined course of events.” It worked already. White people spread all across America. Miners mined. Loggers logged. Drillers drilled. Ranchers ranched. The plan worked.

But it’s over. Manifest destiny is over. It’s been over for a century. What was not part of the plan was how some ranchers, miners, drillers, and loggers did so well that they were able to buy enough political power to continue subsidizing these industries far longer than necessary. And now, the most entitled among them express publically their hatred for the government whose checks they deposit privately.

The role our western lands play is shifting from providing resources (mainly meat and fuel) to becoming our source of wild beauty, (big, empty spaces, an intact web of life) the understanding of which may hold the key to thriving in the diminished future we face.

Ammon Bundy said that one of their goals is “getting the ranchers back to ranching and the miners back to mining, putting the loggers back to logging, where they could do it under the protection of the people, and not be afraid of this tyranny that has been upon them.” He forgot to add getting “drillers back to drilling.” These are all activities that got us into this global warming jam to begin with, and spell certain doom if continued.

Manifest Destiny may be their destiny, but the future of the world is based on a new destiny that has no room for Angry White Men. They need to move out of the way. We’re wasting time.

I have three questions regarding Angry White Men that apply both to the situation in Burns Oregon as well as the planet in general:

How long before they’re finished?

How much damage will they do?

What will be left when they’re gone?

(Brooke Williams can write about white men because he is one. He’s not angry so much as filled with sacred rage. But then this could all be relative, couldn’t it?)

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