If nothing else, the tense standoff at the Bundy ranch in Nevada provided a helpful reminder of what it means to be a patriot in America. There are many things one may do and a small handful of things one must do to be considered a true patriot. Real patriots vote. They vaccinate their kids. Real patriots pay their taxes. And genuine patriots don't threaten government officials with violence over laws with which they disagree. Especially when they use lofty rhetoric about "sovereignty" and "liberty" and "tyranny" as a cynical façade for illegally padding one's own bank account.
Which is why Cliven Bundy and his supporters, along with much of the media covering the confrontation northeast of Las Vegas, are misrepresenting what ABC News dubbed "the Range War." The Christian Science Monitor, for example, turned a case of freeloading into a crusade for freedom:
In the sparse Nevada rangeland this weekend, US western history came alive with a fight over cattle that threatened to turn violent.
In the end, federal land managers backed down, giving rancher Cliven Bundy his 400 head of cattle. The cows, which had been rounded up on public land where Mr. Bundy's herd had grazed for years, represented a classic clash of values: Old West traditions and practices versus New West environmental sensibilities.
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But the land where Bundy grazes his cattle, like most of the state of Nevada, doesn't belong to him but to the American people, all 315 million of us. He owes our government $1 million for his decades of unpaid use of those lands. He has repeatedly and rightly lost in court for a long list of reasons, including the inconvenient truth that the federal government owned the territory before Nevada became a state. And along with the abolition of slavery, the illegitimacy of secession myriad other issues decisively settled by the Civil War is this: states only have residents and only the United States of America has citizens. So, Cliven Bundy is utterly and dangerously wrong when he claims he is "a citizen of Nevada and not a citizen of the territory of the United States," or as he triumphantly did this weekend:
"There is no deal here. The citizens of America and Clark County went and took their cattle. There was no negotiations. They took these cattle."
Imagine for a moment that low-income minority residents illegally set up a community vegetable garden on a parcel of land in San Francisco's federally owned Presidio. Or contemplate Mexican migrant workers running a small farmer's market on land belonging to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The same militia members now armed to the teeth in Nevada and their right-wing fellow travelers
would doubtlessly denounce the "takers"
and volunteer to eject the scofflaws by force.
Instead, the friends of the freeloaders in Nevada declare Bundy's scam to shortchange Uncle Sam is "not about cows, it's about freedom."
To put it in words cattleman Cliven Bundy would understand, that's bullshit. And it most certainly is not patriotism.