Over the past few days, there has been an ongoing incident in the USA that has not been widely reported in Europe. Following a long-running dispute over cattle grazing on Federal land, various white militia groups have congregated in a nature reserve, in a remote part of Oregon. They have occupied government buildings, and caused a large area to be closed to the public, at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This action has supposedly been taken in support of the cattle ranchers involved in the dispute. These groups are heavily armed. Some have been pictured with assault rifles, and estimates of their numbers vary, though there are believed to be less than twenty occupying the property. Local demonstrations have seen as many as three hundred supporters marching on behalf of the aggrieved ranchers, who have been quick to distance themselves from the armed incident.
I won’t go into the history of this dispute, or debate the rights and wrongs of cattle grazing or Federal land ownership across rural America. I will add a link though, for anyone who wants to read the whole story. But I will make a few observations. No arrests have been made. No law enforcement officers have attended to confront or disarm these suspect ‘militias.’ Local police seek to keep the lid on the situation, and even the FBI are only ‘observing.’ So far, nobody has been hurt, and the site is a long way from anywhere, so passers-by are in no danger. That’s OK then, is it?
Just imagine if these ‘militiamen’ had not been white Christians. Suppose they had been disgruntled black men, with a grievance to support. What if they had been of Mexican origin, and occupied a similar area in the south-west? Or perhaps American Muslims, outraged by recent attacks on them in the media, had occupied a government compound somewhere, brandishing firearms, and stating that they were ‘determined to fight’? Would the outcome have been very different in those scenarios? You can bet your life it would.
But these idiots are white. So that’s alright then.
With this giving more publicity to the farcical gun control in the USA, President Obama appeared on TV, squeezing out a few crocodile tears, and promising stricter regulations. These involve not allowing convicted felons and people with a history of mental illness to own firearms. To my incredulous ears, this sounds as if people with criminal records and mental illness are currently allowed to do so. It also sounds as if a white Christian ‘militiaman’, with no criminal record, and no history of mental illness, will not be affected at all. Funny that.
Trump has jumped on the bandwagon. Speaking to baying fans, he promised to make sure that nobody will be stopped from being armed to the teeth. ‘They won’t get your guns.’ He yelled. The argument about the Second Amendment to the US Constitution has gone on long enough. here is what it says.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This was written in 1791, after the War of Independence, and at a time when it was reasonable to suppose that the new nation might be under threat from foreign powers. They also had to defend themselves against unhappy native Americans, whose land had been taken away from them. Does it really have any significance in 2016? It certainly does.
That’s how you end up with the current situation in Oregon.