First, some background. There is a rancher here in Nevada named Cliven Bundy. His family has been in the area a long time, sine the 1880s, and like a lot of the ranchers in the state he grazes his cattle on public land. Whether or not you agree with this, it is very common practice and the fees go to help the BLM maintain the land.
Except that circa 1983, he decided that he no longer liked the BLM and the federal government "owning" (Actually managing it in trust for all of us) 84% of the land in the state, a condition set when the state was created during the Civil War. Mr. Bundy is free to believe any crackpot nonsense that he wishes, of course, but his decision that the federal government has no jurisdiction over him occasioned him to stop paying the grazing fees for the BLM land that he fed his cattle on. the BLM has taken him to court twice to get him to remove his cattle and pay what is owed, and won both times. After 20 years, the BLM has had enough and moved in to collect the cattle that remain on public land. Mr. Bundy has threatened violence from his family, and in a tense standoff days ago his son attacked BLM agents and kicked their dog, earning himself a well justified tasering.
And now the right wing anger and violence machine has seized upon this as another opportunity to create anger and fear among their target audience. Mr. Bundy himself has put out a call for armed militias to come resist the government tyranny of making a man pay his bills, and as I type this there are reports of extremists coming to the state to... create an armed insurrection? I'm not sure what their endgame here is.
Here is a brief q&a on the subject from a local paper, this from the same paper is a sampling of the extremists ramping up the tension, and a list of direct quotes from the family calling for violence is over here.
As a lifelong resident of Nevada, I thought that some perspectives on the state and atmosphere here might help. I grew up here, attended school here and though I live in Vegas have learned to understand the particular Western mindset of the people that live in the more rural parts of Nevada. See, this state is essentially Reno at one end and Vegas at the other, and Wyoming in between. In every statewide election the cities vote Blue and the rurals are a deep, deep red. They are steeped in the myth of the self sufficient Western rancher/cowboy, the loner who is his own autonomous kingdom. It was never true, but it is useful to those who would manipulate it for their own ends, like the wealthy ranchers who make large profits from public lands. (Incidentally, those awful and destructive wild horse roundups that so many of us hate? Yeah, that's at the behest of the ranchers, who want them off of the prime grazing land. But I digress.)
This is not true of everyone in central Nevada of, course. There are many good, hardworking people who respect civil rights and the law and their fellow citizens. But the majority are very much in the Palinesque "Real America is rural and the cities are Communist hotbeds" camp, with a distinctive Western patina.
So, Cliven Bundy is a rural One Percenter. The ranchers and mine owners in the middle (And the casinos in the North and South, which is another diary) truly believe that they are above the law, and local law enforcement bends over backwards to avoid dissuading them from this belief. One big reason that this has taken so long is that every time that someone in a uniform tries to talk to Mr. Cliven, he threatens violence and they back down. This is not a new issue to those of us here, our excellent local newspaper The Sun and the one or two actual journalists in the fish wrapping known as the Review Journal have been covering this for a while.
What is new is the mostly out of state extremist right wing push to use this as a flashpoint for some kind of violent revolution. Excellent diaries have already been written about how everyone on Fox News and the vaguely traitorous Tea fringes have been calling for open revolution to protect this man from the tyranny of paying his bills. I have been "discussing" this with a lot of them on the Facebook pages of several of our local news stations for days now. (Yes, I know, but someone had to present the view that stealing is bad.) They scare me, frankly. They have no idea of history or law or the actual facts of the case, and they don't care. They were told to be outraged, and they are. They're streaming into the state armed and dangerous and with an extremely tenuous grip on reality, looking for trouble. I fear that they will find it.
Edited to add: Thank all of you so much! I never expected to get on the rec list, and you all have my eternal thanks.