“Patriots” or “domestic terrorists”? “Citizen soldiers” or “disenfranchised militiamen”? “Honest businessman” or “freeloader?” It seems many are firmly on one side or the other when it comes to the standoff between 67-year-old cattleman Cliven Bundy (and his armed sympathizers) and the Bureau of Land Management over his cattle grazing on public land in Nevada.
As Times staff writers John M. Glionna and Richard Simon wrote this week: “Bundy has his critics, but to supporters, his case is a symbol of everything wrong with America. Never mind that other ranchers pay the fees Bundy says he can avoid because his ancestors settled the area before the federal government stepped in.”
Numerous critics, and a few supporters, poured out their opinions to The Times in quick order.
Christine Goonetilleke of Santa Ana questioned sharply:
I wonder if the federal government, the same one he doesn’t recognize, knows he won’t be accepting his Social Security checks or Medicare benefits. He reeks hypocrisy!
Charles P. Martin of Los Angeles observed pointedly:
There isn’t a day that goes by that I, as an African American, am not insulted by the far right, tea-baggers and all the rest. Now comes this cretin out of Bunkerville, Nev., with his vitriol, who feels that I would be better off still picking cotton.... I’ve been listening to this hate speech since the day I was born. Even a teapot will boil over with too much input. More important, where is the outrage?
Alan Segal of San Diego faulted some others too:
This media-labeled “populist rebel” is really a wealthy deadbeat refusing to pay for government services and land he uses for profit. Yet Republican self-serving cheerleaders, including senators and their media mouthpieces, call this bigot and lawbreaker a patriot. More nails in the coffin of American exceptionalism from the radical right.
Patrick O’Brien of San Juan Capistrano sees some contradictions:
It is interesting to note that Bundy, a man of guns and independence and apparent patriotism with the flag and all that, is also probably a man who dislikes deadbeats and racists and crooks. He and his armed supporters put their wives and womenfolk on the front line, in case shooting broke out, so the marshals would be blamed. His supporters perhaps had unhappy marriages, but there are civilized ways to end a relationship with your country and your spouse. Perhaps a few years in prison might give him a chance to reflect on his flawed thinking.
Not so fast, countered Jeanne Mount of Beverly Hills:
Just one cotton pickin’ minute! Whatever you may think of Bundy, he is no more illegal than the BLM.... It was illegal for the BLM to show up in uniforms carrying guns, and to literally steal Bundy’s cattle.
Fritz Harrod of Los Angeles concurred:
This old rancher worked his whole life and is mad at giving money to the government so they can give it to lazy … inner-city low-lifes.
Look more closely, says Robert McEwen of Cypress:
I wonder what he and his followers would say if the Native Americans, the first owners of the land on which Bundy illegally grazes his cattle, refused to recognize the authority of the BLM and sought to reacquire their land at gunpoint? Given Bundy’s recent comments … it would appear that both he and his supporters fall into the category of not patriots but rather racist squatters.
Right, says John D. Kelley of Santa Barbara; it’s pretty simple:
Many have expressed surprise at the racist comments Bundy recently made. His statements about only recognizing the authority of the county sheriff should have been a clue to his beliefs.... Bundy flies the American flag, carries a pocket Constitution and has been called a patriot. Actually, he is just a bigot in a cowboy hat who runs his cattle on public land and refuses to pay the grazing fees.