Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Militia Movement and the Salafists: Looking for Lost Purity

The armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Oregon by a right-wing militia group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom puts on the front page an issue of longstanding importance to environmentalists -- grazing rights on federal land. There are several good comments that append today's story "Why the Government Owns so Much Land in the West," by Quoctrung Bui and Margot Sanger-Katz. Paul in Albany, NY says,
The Times is attempting to make rational sense concerning why these people are angry, but it's impossible because these ranchers are not rational themselves! These ranchers ought to be grateful for the federal government and the extremely cheap rents it charges. They should be grateful for the giant subsidies the taxpayers give ranchers every year. Go to Environmental Working to see how much individual landowners have received each year. The subsidies to cattle ranchers are outrageous in that beef production adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than do all cars! Beef is about the most destructive food ever devised.
Behind most overly-romanticized notions like a home on the range where wildlife and cattle live in harmony and the Indians keep to themselves somewhere else, is brutal reality.

Driving most native wildlife and people to near extinction aside, the basic economics of why no one wants to take over financial and legal responsibility of these huge tracts of land is why that home on the range can only be provided by the collective strength of the federal government.
Or JustWondering in New York:
What would happen out there if the land was transferred from Federal control to the States? You've got 3 very politically schizophrenic states (California, Oregon and Washington) but the growing progressive majorities are on the coasts and the inland areas are more rightwing. They're not likely to change the management process much; if anything they'll make it more restrictive and raise the grazing fees. State's the would sell this land, who would they sell it too? Small ranchers aren't likely to be able to afford it or pay the taxes on it so it'll likely go to big Ag and they'll rent it back - at market rates.

These guys seem to be dreaming of West that never existed except in a screenwriter's imagination. This is simply based on "belief"; facts are irrelevant. There was an earlier commenter that said that "Common Law" trumps statutory law. It the U.S. at least that is utter nonsense. However, for these folk the "belief" in that idea is where it gets its validity from. These fantasies help spawn things like the Sovereign Citizen' movement and idiocies like Oath Keepers or 3 Percenters.

What is truly galling is that they fly the flag, swear oaths the Constitution, shout out their "patriotism" and not a single one them believes in this Country not one. If they did, this nonsense wouldn't be happening - especially the guns part. Our history lesson here should go back to the Whiskey Rebellion and how George Washington ended that bit of nonsense in very short order.
This idea of a more pure past obviously motivates Citizens for Constitutional Freedom leader Ammon Bundy. This from a story yesterday, "Cautious Response to Armed Oregon Protest,"
by Kirk Johnson, Richard Perez-Pena and Erik Eckholm:
In a forum here last month, Ammon Bundy was explicit about starting a national movement, and said God had instructed him to come here. 
“We can restore the Constitution back to this county, and it can be an example to all the other counties across this nation,” he told local residents. “The people of this country will come to you and protect you if you will make the right stand.”
As Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud related in an excellent editorial that appeared this past Saturday, "ISIS’ War on Christmas," what unites the hard right of the West with the Salafists of the Middle East is this myth of a purified past:
To celebrate a birthday, even that of a prophet, is to accept the existence of Time, whereas Islamists fantasize about eternity. In their eyes, Time itself is a crime, because it is a departure from original Islam. Thus restoration is the Islamists’ second foundational myth. Their goal is to return to the beginning of Time, to T=0. To the moment of Revelation, when the prophet was still alive and God was so close to his ear. To the moment when Islam had not yet been soiled, to before it was contaminated by History and “Fitna,” the first Muslim civil wars, which followed the death of Muhammad.
This quest for purity also explains Islamists’ relation to physical space. In addition to wanting to conquer territory, the Islamic State seeks to negate and destroy any evidence of the passing of time, such as monuments and ruins, in Palmyra and elsewhere. It tries to extend the desert’s domain: to replace walls with sand, to flatten out landscape, to return to a vacuum so as to start history all over again.
The purification myth is not the exclusive purview of Salafists. It also runs through other utopian and totalitarian movements, as well as some of the Islamists’ enemies, like the far-right political parties of today. All of them share the same fantasy of returning to some (imagined) original state of purity.

The far right in France, for example, wants to go back to “la souche,” its roots, and restore the land of its Gallic ancestors to what it was before immigrants, the Stranger, flooded in. Like the Islamists, it glorifies geography and negates Time.
As the jihadists have been used as proxies for concentrated wealth, so too has the American far right. The Tea Party was Jiffy Popped into being owing to the Kochs' and other wealthy conservatives' fear of Obama's 2008 landslide. If it ever looks as if a coherent progressive movement is taking shape, you can count on some sort of well-armed militia showing up and taking over. The police will just melt away.

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