The takeover and occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by a group who eventually began calling themselves, "Citizens for Constitutional Freedom" has ended with the death of an Arizona rancher named LaVoy Finicum. He and the other leaders of the CCF were traveling to a nearby town when they were stopped by law enforcement. For some reason, shots were exchanged. Although no one in law enforcement was injured, Mr. Finicum is dead and Ryan Bundy was wounded. As I write this, all news reports agree that eight people in total have been arrested, including one person not at the site who was helping organize supplies over the internet from his home in a different state. That person turned himself in to local police after hearing of the shootout. It is unclear if the Wildlife Refuge has also been cleared or if some people are still occupying that facility.
Liberal bloggers and social media fans wasted no time littering the internet with expressions of self-satisfaction. People who flooded the internet with tearful, angry rants against oppressive police brutally murdering black youth are suddenly filled with exhilaration over the death of an elderly cowboy at the hands of law enforcement. At the same time, constitutional militia groups are sending out impassioned calls for readiness and in some cases, calls for assembly. Tension between America's most radical extremes is at an all-time high, bringing to mind the pamphleteering, petitioning, and letter writing campaigns in the months leading up to the Battle of Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861. 1860 was an election year, if you'll recall, and the attack on Fort Sumter was the first major crisis of the Lincoln presidency. Apparently election years bring out the worst in us.
Personally, I am torn. I feel profound sympathy for Mr. Finicum's family and friends. By all accounts, he was a good man trying to defend a future for his children and grandchildren that he believed the federal government was trying to steal. On the other hand, his videos during the siege are heavy with conviction that he had come to Oregon to die. In many ways, he was a man looking for a fight. His convictions led him to abandon his home in Arizona in order to make an armed stand against the federal government. Those convictions cost him his life. It is not up to me to judge whether he was right or wrong. I would not have made this stand at this time. In another time and place, under different circumstances, who knows? I hope it is not a decision I am ever forced to make. Violent revolution seldom ends well for anyone. Even if the revolutionaries win, the land they inherit is broken and bloodied to the point it can take several generations to repair. The United States of America is the one anomaly. It is the only nation in history that took a single generation to rise from the ashes of revolution to a position of global influence.
The Constitutional Militia movement is not going away. It is here to stay and it is high time the rest of us accepted this simple fact. This was not an act of terrorism. Until their convoy was waylaid along an isolated stretch of backwoods highway, the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom had never raised a hand in anger, fired off a single shot, or planted a single bomb. True, they were fairly well armed for a citizen militia, but they neither brandished those weapons in a threatening manner nor used them to coerce local support. None of the members of the CCF were from Oregon, or at least, not from this part of Oregon. All of them were outsiders and as far as I can tell, very few people (if any) in the local community sympathized with their takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Relations between the locals and the CCF might not have been amicable, but they were calm enough that the CCF had full freedom of movement. They used that freedom to attend meetings aimed at propagandizing their takeover, negotiating a local alliance, or even negotiating an end to their occupation of the refuge.
An elderly cowboy has gone to his final round up. The leaders of the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are in jail. I don't know what has happened to the followers of the movement, but if they are still at the refuge then I suspect over the next few days they will disperse, returning to their various hometowns, farms, and ranches scattered all across our nation. I am glad this did not end in the massive bloodshed of Waco. I am saddened that one person is dead, one is wounded, and half a dozen more are now in jail. I am glad no one in law enforcement was injured.
Oregon Live: Oregon Standoff Spokesman Killed, Bundy Brothers are in Custody
Fox News: Oregon Standoff Ends in Shootout
Reuters: One Dead, Eight Arrested as Oregon Standoff Ends in Shootout
CNN: Ammon Bundy Arrested in Oregon, LaVoy Finicum Killed