Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way
Bundy is just different from what is now America -- he looks different, talks differently, and dresses differently. These are the superficial veneers to someone who lives mostly through different premises from those of Pajama Boy nation, the world of Jay Carney and his cute Stalinist posters, the cosmos of Anita Dunn and her Mao gushes, or the metrosexual networking that is the gospel of Silicon Valley or the DC beltway. Few of us rely on human muscle anymore to survive one more day. Fewer of those who do combine that with horse-power, and its world of leather and wood and rope. Bundy is self-employed, without an SEIU union, a PERS pension, or a GS-15 health plan.
Given all that, I suggest Cliven Bundy is far more endangered than is the desert tortoise, and that his kind will be gone shortly in a way the federally protected tarantula and Gila monster or delta smelt will not. He, not they, is in the federal crosshairs. So, yes, I can make some allowances for the nihilism of Cliven Bundy. We could not live in a modern, high-tech world only of Cliven Bundys, but perhaps we cannot live in a world without a few of them now and then to remind us of what we have become.
Almost everything, natural and human, has conspired against these sorts: a hail storm that wrecked the plum crop two days before harvest, or a swaggering psychopathic neighbor who stole the irrigation canal water until stopped, or a no-good who filed a phony workers’ compensation claim for a stubbed toe, or an ancient wobbly grinder that sliced off a finger, or the thieving Packing Company that always sent back slips each year saying “45% cull rate,” whether the fruit was small or big, scarred or smooth, ripe, overripe, or green.
To be a cattleman in the Nevada desert in America of 2014 is to live on Mars, or rather to live among 24/7 enemies, human and animal alike. How a man survives from cattle ranching on leased land in the Nevada badlands I cannot imagine, but I wonder nonetheless and in that amazement wish to see him continue.
My cowboy grandfather, Frank Hanson, died at 80, while Reese Davis, my maternal one, died at 86, in a world where the former never, until his last day, went to the doctor after his year in a Belgium hospital (he was a Lewis machine gunner before the gassing), and the latter went just twice. Theirs was a pre-cholesterol-testing, no-colonoscopy world, in which you just chugged on eating the wrong food, getting up to hard physical work each morning until you “got a cancer” or “the ticker quit” and at your funeral the neighbors said “ya, he worked hard” and went home. I remember the oncologist saying to my father about his dead father, “Are you sure he didn’t smoke? Take a look at those burned lungs on the X-ray.” And my dad curtly answered the specialist, “That’s what mustard gas does.”
The point is Mr. Bundy is no Rahm Emanuel, Al Gore, or Jay Carney. He is no Jay-Z or Sean Penn. He is a world away from the Kardashians and the BMW meets Mercedes crowd of the California coastal corridor or the psychodramas of brats at Dartmouth. Bundy does not have the white privilege that those who have it -- mostly liberal, wealthy, and seeking an apartheid existence -- damn in others.
Money is not Bundy’s point. Pleasing Harry Reid or the federal bureaucracy is not either. Making a living from the scrub of a desert by providing people good food probably is.
Grant him that. He’s our past, Harry Reid and the bunch in Washington our future. To paraphrase the ancients, sometimes we’d rather be wrong with Cliven Bundy than right with Harry Reid -- and the SWAT teams that will revisit Mr. Bundy and his clan very, very soon to enforce a dispute over grazing fees and insensitivity to a tortoise.