There are strange rumblings emanating from the high deserts of South-Eastern Oregon. A tiny ex-lumber town called Burns has found itself in the icy grip of a slow-motion cold war between to warring tribes of heavily armed white men, each claiming to be fighting for the very soul of the community. All over the fate of two local ranchers named Dwight and Steven Hammond, sentenced to five years imprisonment for a slew of charges, most relating to two alleged acts of arson separated by half a decade. Now a modern day range war feels all but imminent with anti-government militia-men occupying the local Malheur Wildlife Refuge and a posse of federal agents and local lawmen biding there time until they can come up with a plan of attack but this has evolved into something far greater then a local cause-celebre. The entire country seems divided on there typical partisan lines with the right celebrating the occupation as a courageous act in defense of liberty and the left decrying it as a display of macho cosplay bordering on terrorism. As usual both sides are a little right but mostly wrong.
One thing that I've found hard to deny upon carefully inspecting the available evidence is that the Hammond's were fucking railroaded.
Ranchers have existed on the scrub lands surrounding Malheur lake for well over a century now, long before that darling mustachioed imperialist Teddy Roosevelt showed up with his pistol packing federales to claim the west as white mans conquest in the early 20th century. In fact, it was these very ranchers who's hard work transformed what was then swamplands into the verdant meadows they are today. All this history mattered little to the feds who established the Malheur National Forest in 1908. Rather then seeing the ranchers as possible allies in the thoroughly righteous cause of conservation they chose to view there new neighbors as antagonists to there efforts and summarily chose to make the total destruction of there way of life a prime objective.
Now, I know what your thinking, is an ardent and unapologetic Marxist really defending a bunch of private farmers over the federal government? My response to this is pretty basic. Your goddamn right I am. I may not be the biggest fan of the concept of private property, in my ideal world these ranchers would be given control of this land under the guise of a directly democratic autonomous council, but I am a very strong believer in the right for working people to control there means of production and self determination. After all, what is a family farm but a micro-collective. I personally can say that my first introduction to the notion of socialism came not from Marx or Engels but the local Amish farming communities I grew up around. It's not a coincidence that many Marxist insurrections begin in the farmlands.
I also find the idea of an entire community being forced off the land they've worked for generations just so it can be "preserved" for snot-nosed city dwellers to take selfies on to be despicably obnoxious. You see this same kind of shit in third world countries like Belize, Jamaica and Madagascar. A bunch of wealthy urban white people show up to declare someone else's land protected property reserved for first world tourists while the locals are left to put on costumes and play the role of the noble savage for pennies for there amusement. It's called Imperialism and it always fucking sucks.
Like it or lump it dearest motherfuckers but those ranchers are the embattled proletariat in this scenario and the well-meaning tree huggers are the privileged, silver spoon sucking bourgeoisie and this Marxist always stands with the proletariat, partisanship be damned.
With that being said, the Hammond family, led by there patriarch Dwight, joined this proud proletarian tradition in 1964 when they bought 6,000 acres of Malheur adjacent ranch land for there cattle to graze. Over the years they slowly saw there neighbors disappear one by one. Some were bought off while others were ran off, falling victim to the increasingly belligerent feds host of dirty tricks which included everything from shutting down vital country roads to diverting irrigation systems to literally drown out ranches in the fucking lake, Katrina style. By the 90's the Hammonds were essentially the last man standing with there ranch now completely surrounded by federal land. They could have gave up and took the feds dirty money. It would have been a lot easier but they were to damn proud and had worked to damn hard to just let the bastards win. So they stayed and fought the man like lions. Any self-respecting Bolshevik would have been proud to fight by there side.
The Hammond's ceaseless bravery and tenacity earned them two things. The hard won respect of there community and the spiteful ire of a federal government who had failed repeatedly to rid there Shangri-La of these peasants. The bitter rivalry had mutated into an ugly grudge match that could only end with the complete destruction of the Hammond family and by 2011 the bourgeois bastards finally got there wish.
The seeds to the Hammond's demise were sown in 2001 and 2006 with two seemingly standard acts of controlled burning. The first was done with the full consent of local authorities. The blaze, set to remove invasive juniper trees which posed a serious fire hazard to both the ranch and the refuge, inadvertently spread into federal land but the Hammond's put it out single-handedly while the feds sat by and twittled there thumbs. A judge would later rule that not only did the damages amount to a pittance of one-hundred measly dollars but the land had recovered completely and according to some conservationists may have even been improved. The feds, for there part, didn't even bother filling a complaint until they decided to add the "crime" to there mountain of charges in 2013, because fuck you, that's why.
The second burn in 2006 was a desperate act of self defense against the wages of mother nature. In the midst of a brutal lightning storm, the Hammond's found there humble homestead surrounded by a hellish lake of fire. They had two choices, take control of the situation with a controlled burn or be burned alive. They made the only sane choice but got burned anyway. The local heat picked up Dwight and his son the next day and charged them both with arson. Without a lick of proof that the burn had been the least bit criminal, however, they had no choice but to drop the charges. But that didn't stop the feds. They make there own goddamn rules because, fuck you, that's why.
Some five years later and over twelve years after the first burn the federal government charged Dwight and Steven Hammond with nine charges under Clinton's proto-Patriot Act, the Anti-Terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act, which carried with it a five year mandatory minimum sentence and the maximum option of the fucking Death Penalty because, fuck the constitution, that's why.
From day one of this kangaroo court the decks where stacked heavily against the Hammonds. All locals were barred from the jury pool insuring there was zero chance Dwight and Steve would by tried before a jury of there peers. While the defense was given a single fucking day to make there case, the prosecution was given unlimited time and even then the best piece of "evidence", for lack of a better word, they could wrangle up was the testimony of one Dusty Hammond, Dwight's long estranged and mentally disturbed grandson, who was only thirteen at the time of the "arson" he claimed to have witnessed. Even the judge himself declared this poor mixed-up bastard to be an unreliable witness but he was still aloud to take the stand and tell his ridiculous tall tale to the jury anyway because, fuck justice, that's why.
According to Dusty the first blaze was set by his giddy, match-happy kin in order to cover up acts of poaching. Now never mind the fact that this fruit loop and his federal handlers didn't present anything in the way of evidence to prove these claims, any rational human being with half a fucking brain in there skull can tell you that you don't need to burn down a goddamn forest to cover up acts of poaching. All you have to do is move the fucking bodies! & THIS was the prosecutions star fucking witness. There Kato. A half-wit black sheep with a story so shallow and one dimensional that it makes Little House On the Prairie look like No Country For Old Men. It's little fucking wonder that the jury chose to throw out all but two of the charges. Which was sadly just enough for the judge to rob the Hammonds blind. In spite of the nearly non-existent damages caused by the two controlled burns, Dwight and Steven were fined $400,000 and given a single year to pay off the ransom before there ranch would be stolen from beneath there feet, all but guaranteeing the complete ruin of a family who have never done anything to anyone because, fuck them, that's why.
Perhaps feeling guilty about fucking these poor people over so mercilessly, the judge did one half-way descent thing, at least by his primordial standards, and refused to enforce the despicable mandatory five year minimum. Instead Dwight was given three months and Steven was given a year and a day, which I'm sure was little consolation considering that there both fucking innocent. Never the less the Hammond's served out there time with little protest and struggled in vain to scrape together enough cash to save the farm. It looked like the relentless feds would finally get what they had lusted over for so many decades but stealing there land wasn't enough. The federal government wanted more. They wanted to make an example of the Hammonds so no other rancher would follow in David's footsteps and try to take on Goliath again. So the bastards appealed the sentence and sent the Hammond's back to jail to serve out the full five year sentence because, fuck you, that's why.
These people aren't factory farmers or Ponderosa land lords. There just normal, everyday, working class Americans struggling to get by. They payed all there taxes and followed all the rules only to get fucking obliterated by the federal juggernaut for being inconvenient to there Eco-tourism schemes. This Isn't about big government it's about bad government and you don't have to be a flag-waving, chest-beating, beef-eating conservative to recognize that these people didn't fucking deserve this.
But just try telling that to the mainstream left who have wasted little time jumping on the government bandwagon and writing the Hammonds and anyone who supports them off as a bunch backwoods hillbilly terrorists without even taking the time to study the fucking facts of the case.
Now I make more then my share of white-trash cousin-fucker jokes on this sight but that's my right as a lifelong hick, myself. But when I here a bunch of Manhattan trust fund babies shitting on fellow rural folk, that's where I draw the fucking line. These rednecks maybe cousin-fuckers but there MY cousin-fuckers and incest aside that doesn't automatically make them fucking terrorists so eat a bag of flaming dicks New York, you elitist bagel-munching bigots.
Perhaps most absurd of all is the mindbogglingly ludicrous argument that since Black Lives Matter protesters were wooped by the pigs in Ferguson, not subjecting the honkeys to the same treatment somehow amounts to racism. What fucking horse-shit. Can you imagine Huey Newton or Malcolm X making such a stupid ass-backward comment? Never! Whatever happened to fucking solidarity? An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere? Am I really the only one who remembers what the fucking sixties were about?
Sadly, the solidarity most environmentalists today seem to carry is for the trees alone, never mind the people living beneath them. This has become a pervasive problem with the earth first set. They conflate environmentalism with whole-sale anti-humanism. They forget that human beings are part of the ecosystem too and that farmers have peacefully coexisted with the environment for eons. But what do you expect from a bunch of sock-headed, latte-slurping hipsters who have never stepped a single foot outside of a major metropolitan area without a camp counselor. Unfortunately the rural right are also blinded by there own genre of ignorance.
In the days and weeks following the Hammond's re-sentencing, protests began to spring up around the Malheur Refuge, mostly attended by sympathetic locals who gathered peacefully to demand justice for people they had grown to love like family. Unfortunately a more insidious element had infiltrated this grassroots uprising. A small coalition of out of state, self-styled militiamen decided to use the opportunity to lead an armed occupation of several empty buildings on the Refuge. The leader of this little camera-ready coup? None other then Ammon Bundy, son of the infamous Cliven Bundy, one range-legend totally undeserving of his folk hero status. Old Cliven presided over an uncannily similar stand-off in his hometown of Bunkerville, Nevada over his refusal to pay grazing fees, not because they were too high but because he just didn't feel like it or as he put it because he didn't believe in them. Unlike the Hammond's, Cliven Bundy wasn't a victim of big government. He was just a dead-beat racist who took his own community hostage in one big armed hissy-fit.
As it turns out, Ammon is a regular chip off the old block only this time he was holding someone else's community hostage. Now, being the radical malcontent that I am, I have no problem with the tactic of armed occupation in theory, I mean, shit, it worked for the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement. But when you launch an occupation in some one else's neck of the woods without even seeking the approval of the local population, that's not activism, that's Bush-grade fucking interventionism. These bastards didn't even bother giving so much as a heads up to the local Paiute Indian Tribe, the original Hammonds, who have sacred land within the refuge that's currently being violated by another horde of pale face invaders claiming a divine right to there property.
& then there's the goal given for this invasion. After giving the necessary platitudes to the Hammonds, who played zero part in this charade, Ammon announced his real goal, calling for the privatization of the whole damn refuge leaving the land to be sold to the highest bidder. This comes as a surprise only if your unfamiliar with the Bundy's long standing ties to the Wise Use Movement, a nefarious collection of AstroTurf front groups run by the extraction industry who basically sought to hijack elements of the militia movement and turn them into there own private armies in a war to take all public land and pollute it to the point of being worthless to farmers and animals alike.
These people are no friends of rural folk and could give two shits about anyone's property but there own. I've learned this myself first hand in my home state of Pennsylvania were so called "libertarians" like the Koch brothers have shown no qualms about using big government vis-a-vis eminent domain to rob hard working farmers just like the Hammonds of there land so they can pollute many more by fracking the soil into poisonous sludge that couldn't sustain an ant farm and Pennsylvania isn't alone. Just ask ranchers in Oklahoma and North Dakota what they think of the fine patriots who line the Bundy's pockets. These bastards are know better then those jackbooted thugs in the Federal Government.
Yes indeed there are strange rumblings emanating from little Burns, Oregon. A town that has become a symbolic microcosm for the precarious position all of rural bucolic America has found itself in. Trapped between a rock and hard place. Between big business and bad government. At the end of the day it matters little which side fires the first shot when either way it's small town America caught in the crossfire. God help us dearest motherfuckers. Today Burns, Tomorrow Bellefonte.