Christian conservatives constantly complain that they suffer from a double whammy of bad press and discriminatory treatment in today’s America. According to them, the war on Christmas is part of a bigger war on Christianity, directed by a President who treats Muslims better than Christians and by the media who kowtow to political correctness. That same media treats conservatives with disdain and twists the truth to unfairly portray them. It’s a wonder that both conservatism and Christianity have survived such social and political repression.
That’s a nice argument. All that grousing has convinced many Americans that the government and press lean away from them. Nobody who has really experienced persecution gives these claims any credit except as the laments of the ruling class. It’s never been true, but reality-based evidence tends to be scorned in contemporary conservative politics, in favor of imaginary evidence.
Well, here’s some imaginary evidence. Imagine a group of armed men taking over a government facility, and calling for armed supporters to come join them. Imagine them appropriating government property for their own uses. Imagine them threatening local authorities and ignoring public outcry to get out. Imagine them proclaiming a religious war on our entire governmental system, including our state and national law enforcement authorities. Imagine them Muslim.
The Constitution-quoting, Bible-toting band at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was treated with exactly the diffidence and conflict avoidance that they criticize government for. It is hard to imagine another group of rebels who would be so coddled by political authorities and so uncritically lionized by the media. When Ammon Bundy wanted to explain why he can ignore the laws of the land, every reporter west of the Mississippi slogged out to his “headquarters” to hear and film him. Even in jail, he’s a celebrity member of the sovereign citizens movement, a religious rebellion against our entire political structure.
Despite being armed and threatening, Bundy and his band had been treated so kindly that they thought they could just drive off to the town of John Day to give a speech and then return to their conquered territory. How dangerous they actually were was demonstrated by LaVoy Finicum’s last stand.
Government, law enforcement and media are in fact tilted in exactly the opposite way than conservative whining would have us believe.
Imagine the occupiers as anything but white. When armed Native American activists occupied the town of Wounded Knee in 1973, they were surrounded by roadblocks, armored vehicles, federal marshals and FBI within days. After 30 days, water, electricity and food supplies were cut off. Armed Black Panthers were consistently met with deadly police force.
Even if we imagine that the occupiers had been Occupy Oregon, an offshoot of the unarmed, peaceful Occupy Wall St movement criticizing our economic system from the left, it is unlikely that nothing would have been done for more than three weeks. Occupy Cincinnati was forcefully dispersed after 14 days, Occupy Atlanta after 20, Occupy Austin after 24; Occupy LA lasted 2 months before being attacked by 1300 police.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, under the auspices of Homeland Security, surveyed state, local, and tribal law enforcement professionals about terrorist threats two years ago. Most respondents had over 15 years experience in their agencies, and had been specially trained in anti-terrorism intelligence and practices. They rated the sovereign citizens movement as more threatening than Islamic extremists. Over half agreed that sovereign citizens were a “serious terrorist threat” and one-third strongly agreed.
I would never advocate going into Malheur with guns blazing. I agree with official tactics thus far, which allowed everyone to see how little support the occupiers have. Malheur exists for public use and the people who have legitimate interests in being there should have been able to re-occupy it. I think that the occupiers wouldn’t have harmed birders and fly fishers who come to use their occupied buildings or unarmed park rangers who went back to their jobs.
But we can’t be sure. There is no war on Christmas. But there is a war against our government, and this is an early skirmish.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, February 2, 2016