Bundy Circus: On Welfare Cowboys, white privilege, and patriotism

Northern Nevada circa 1920-1930. Photo courtesy of Rick Cooper via Creative Commons

Northern Nevada circa 1920-1930. Photo courtesy of Rick Cooper via Creative Commons

The collective gasp following Welfare Cowboy Cliven Bundy’s assertion yesterday that slavery has its merits (video here) may be sending shockwaves throughout urban white enclaves, but it was hardly surprising to those of us used to uncomfortably sharing common-space with such “patriots,” as Sen. Dean Heller refers to the Tea Party media-darling. Even as folks like Rand Paul and Heller are now quickly back-peddling their endorsements of Bundy and his lot of “domestic terrorists” (an apt Reidism), I take no delight in reminding those afflicted with white privilege that folks like Bundy are everywhere.

In case you missed the racist comments:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

While there is no doubt that Bundy’s statements — which he doubled-downed upon today — ring with racism and a world-view many of us prefer to think is a relic of the past, the depressing truth is that Bundy will continue to be heralded as a hero to many. (It was just last year that Assemblyman Jim Wheeler said he’d vote for slavery.) No. Despite electing the first person of color to the presidency, America has a frightfully long road to hoe before we get to a place where white freeloaders are thought of as anything other than the moochers they actually are. For all Bundy’s assertions that “negros” are wasting away on the public dime, what freedom is he proving by sucking on the government teet (can you say, federal lands?) and gypping tax-payers out of $1.2 million in public lands grazing fees? Somehow, in his distorted world-view, it’s totally okay to rob the American taxpayers if you’re a white rancher.

From the Statesman Journal:

There’s no gray area. No contested facts. The lands are public lands. Bundy has been trespassing for decades. While some 16,000 other ranchers using public lands comply with the law, Bundy flaunts his lawlessness.

It catches fire with some segments of the population angry over federal land ownership and management. In 1995 and 1996, several BLM and Forest Service offices were pipe-bombed. Bundy son’s says the “the war has just begun” — true patriots grab your guns and run down to Nevada to help out.

In some circles, willful violation of laws, denial of the government’s existence and praise for sedition, coupled with bombings, violence and talk of war, would lead to labels of treason and terrorism.

But in the conservative media, Bundy is a hero of liberty.

He’s no hero. He’s a deadbeat. A moocher, flouting laws and bilking the taxpayer while law-abiding citizens pay their bills.

If he were an inner-city beneficiary of social safety-net programs, he’d be a conservative narrative example of a “Welfare Queen.” It turns out their Great American cowboy is nothing more than a “Welfare Cowboy,” a “taker” who uses up precious public resources, flaunts violations of the law and makes money off it to boot.

I mean, if Fox News could find that mythical “Welfare Queen” who was not only taking advantage of the system for more than 20 years, but was publicly flaunting taking advantage of that same system in defiance of federal law and the Supreme Court … certainly Sean Hannity’s groin would explode from the epic conservative-orgasm. Meanwhile, back in reality where Hannity’s boy Bundy is shown to be a racist … eh, crickets. Yep, fair and balanced!

Unfortunately, the damage is already done. Cliven Bundy has energized the kind of fringe base that I grew up around in Wasilla, Alaska — now referred to as “Palin Country” by the same sort of Tea Party enthusiasts. Indeed, I spent a fair amount of my childhood around folks who lived “off the grid” in compounds in the way-out-west of Alaska. People who found the “metropolitan” cityscape of Anchorage — population 250,000 — to be far too urban with its paved streets, convenient grocery stores and, you know, black people. As outraged as I should have been to see footage of Bundy acolytes boasting that they were putting women and children on the “frontline” of their protest so that if the government chose to move in Waco-style they would be shown to be killing women and children — it just felt like the natural out-growth of their paranoia and internalized rage. Of course Cliven Bundy hates women and children! Of course Cliven Bundy is against abortion! Of course Cliven Bundy hates people of color! Is an anti-gay sentiment really that far behind?

How could he and his ilk not be antagonized by an American landscape that is slowly evolving toward true equality for all people — including genders, sexual orientations and identities, and races? The very sight of so much equality — a curiously important selling point in our nation’s foundational treatise — is an affront to the white privilege men like Cliven Bundy cling to with the desperation of someone losing his grip on a life raft. He’s drowning in all this change!

In more news surprising to no one, Bundy’s domestic terrorists have stirred up fresh outrage in public lands protests in other states, including Texas. I imagine a Summer of 2010 Tea Party road tour is not far behind, either.

There’s really nothing more to see here. One can only hope that the BLM (perhaps with some help from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid) moves quickly to end the stand-off with this hateful Welfare Cowboy before someone really gets hurt. He’s already given Nevada another humiliation to live down and, frankly, hurt America with his disgusting rhetoric. Enough’s enough!

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