Time to end a dangerous standoff with a barbecue

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There’s a big family barbecue scheduled tomorrow down by the Virgin River just over yonder from Cliven Bundy’s home.

Carol Bundy says the soiree will feature “live music, a ton of great food and we will spend time together.”

Mrs. Bundy didn’t use a French word like soiree, of course.

“We want to show them what real Americans look like when the government is not threatening them,” she said in the invitation sent to folks who have been following, through her email announcements, the family’s fight with the BLM and Park Service over who can graze cattle where and at what cost.

As you might suspect, it’s not just a party.

“It has been so hectic, it’s time to relax a little,” she said. “But we are not letting off the pressure.  We want this to be a huge rally of support to continue to drive home the message.”

I’m still not sure what that message is.

Is it that none of us need to follow any federal rules or regulations, or pay federal fees or taxes or subject ourselves to federal court orders while still demanding our U.S. Constitutional rights?

Or is the message you stand your ground when the government overreacts? You defend those constitutional rights even if government is attempting to trample them?

I can support one of those messages, but not both.

I try to see the Bundy family’s point of view. I’ve lived in rural Nevada since 1982 and was raised in Orange County, Calif., so I’m familiar with conservative opinions.

There are plenty of folks, most maybe a tad extremist, who claim the income tax is unconstitutional and they don’t want to pay it. They cite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a national income tax passed by Congress in 1894 as being unconstitutional.

And it was. If you doubt that, look up Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Company through your favorite search engine.

But the Constitution got amended to allow for an income tax.

The 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913 and we’ve had the income tax with us since then as part of the supreme law of the land.

I don’t like paying the tax. I don’t like how the government tends to spend my money. So, do Cliven and Carol Bundy suggest I stop paying my taxes?

Can I borrow their militia friends when the IRS comes a calling.

I’m not even close to ready to take up arms against my government. I wish I could say that about everybody, but I’m no longer sure of that.

The Bundy Brigade, if the family will excuse me for coining an expression, is only part of my long-term concern, although it’s foremost in my mind at the moment.

Long term, I’m worried about the divide that separates those of us who lean to the political left from those of us who lean to the political right and leaves the moderates in the middle without the electoral means to effect change. This country hasn’t been this divided since slavery was the wedge.

But short-term, I’m worried about what’s going on in the not-so Virgin Valley.

We are not just a nation of laws. We are also a nation of law enforcement.

The armed Bundy Brigade was able to back down the federal land management agencies, which cited safety of their employees and the public.

The militiamen who have taken up residency in the Virgin Valley are not naive about what will happen if the Park Service and BLM pass the enforcement baton to the FBI and ATF.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev) is asking for all of the protesters, armed or not, to return to their homes. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev) has repeated on several occasions “It’s not over.” And libertarian-favorite Ron Paul told Fox News this week, he expects an escalation and crackdown with force.

I talked with Mesquite residents Elaine Hurd and John Williams on Monday.

Williams is one of the purveyors of the Let’s Talk Nevada web blog and Hurd is a regular contributor. Her posting Saturday about the Bundy standoff, The Day the Law Died, drew the attention of John Ralston, who invited her to appear on his “Ralston Report” that airs weekdays at 6:30 p.m. on News 3, the Las Vegas NBC affiliate.

Williams has posted a clip of that show on the website, www.letstalknevada.com.

She told me and repeated on the “Ralston Report” that some Mesquite businesses had been threatened. In our conversation, she said she had heard that the hotel where federal agents were staying had been harassed.

I checked with the Mesquite Police Department and was told there was some reported telephone harassment but no reports of armed militiamen doing anything in town.

Nonetheless, Hurd told me she was afraid. If an armed mob can back down the authorities from enforcing the law out along Interstate 15, where the Bundy Brigade stopped southbound traffic as it “liberated” all of the cattle the BLM had already rounded up, what protection do the people and businesses in Mesquite have?

Nothing has happened to bring the dispute into town. Let’s hope none of the militiamen or Bundy clan break any local laws that might get them incarcerated at the Mesquite Detention Center.

At least the Bundy Bash (to coin another alliteration) is scheduled tomorrow instead of the day after. Saturday is April 19.

That’s the anniversary of the Ruby Ridge (Idaho) standoff in 1992 and the storming and destruction of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in 1993.

It’s a rallying date for many anti-government types, and Cliven Bundy proclaiming the United States government has no authority over him, certainly attracted more than a few people who fit that description.

You may recall the date was selected by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in 1995 to strike a blow against the government by bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Although Carol Bundy’s invitation to tomorrow’s barbecue said, “I am expecting a ton of you to attend, so don’t leave me with a mountain of uneaten food. Bring anyone and everyone and come hungry,” I doubt I’ll attend.

It’s not the food. I’m sure the Bundys will put on an unrivalled feast. Lordy knows they’ve got a lot of extra beef on their hands.

No, it’s all of those armed defenders of the First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution that Cliven Bundy selectively loves, who concern me.

If I were to ask rancher Bundy how much extra profit he made by not paying his grazing fees or what he’d do if he’s indicted on state charges or if he’s sued by Clark County for running cattle on grazing allotments the county owns, would those folks recognize my rights to free speech or would I be seen as no different from those federal “rustlers” and treated accordingly Old West style.

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