In media interviews Bundy threatened the federal government and issued rallying cries and armed militia members showed up from across the country. I cannot get one image out of my mind: the young sniper-wanna-be on the freeway overpass, his rifle pointed at federal agents during the tense standoff. To avoid a bloodbath, the Feds gave in.
How are Bundy and his fellow “domestic terrorists” related to wilderness in southern Utah and the rising specter of the Book Cliffs Highway we thought was dead forever?
Fear of losing power and control. This fear smolders in their unconscious, something they don’t believe in and refuse to acknowledge.
Bundy and members of Oath Keepers, White Mountain, and Praetorian Guard Militias are afraid of losing the only power they ever had – that given to them as a prize for being born white, American, and male. Now, they are angry. They have nothing to blame but time moving on without them. They cannot stop time, although they will try with their last glimmer of strength.
The only questions left are how much damage they’ll do on their way out, and how many will die due to their violence? Based on their recent antics, these Angry White American Males (AWAMs) are willing to kill and die rather than lose this power.
But there is one more question: how much grace can I use as we all move through this coming transition, when so much of what I love is in the crosshairs?
Rob Bishop and Grand County leaders are afraid. They’re not afraid of “wilderness” directly. They’re afraid because more wilderness means less power, less control. What better symbol of power and control than building a massive road through the heart of the wild Book Cliffs, even when its very existence depends on extracting tar sands, the burning of which means “game over” for the climate, according to climatologist James Hansen, along with many scientists.
Rob Bishop’s “process” was designed from the get-go only to buy time. History suggests that presidents have used the power the Antiquities Act gives them to protect lands as national monuments only as a last resort – after other legitimate processes have failed. President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument only after years of efforts by then-Gov. Michael Leavitt failed to forge a reasonable compromise between rural county leaders and the environmental community. Bishop, after watching leaders in Emery and San Juan counties develop proposals for public lands that were unacceptable to the public, worried that President Obama (the Black President who must fail, even if efforts to make him fail take down America) will designate national monuments in Utah.
Grand County officials have ignored the public and presented a pathetic wilderness map which includes the gash through the heart of the Book Cliffs, the “Hydrocarbon Highway,” that says, “We are white American men, and look at our power.”
There will be protests. We will bring no guns – because we know that the possibility of death increases dramatically when guns are involved; because our side is treated differently. The young gunman threatening federal agents with death was not arrested. Tim DeChristopher, armed not with a Ruger Mini 14 assault rifle but with a ping-pong paddle, disrupted an illegal land auction, for which he was arrested, convicted, and spent two years in prison.
And, because we are not afraid, the reign of Angry White American Males is ending. Ours is just beginning.
Today, accompanying the latest news on the Battle of Bunkerville, was a photo of people carrying signs. One read, “It’s not about Cows. It’s about Freedom.” My first thought was, “Yes, this is not about cows. But no, it’s not freedom that this is about, but power and control.” Then, suddenly, I heard Janis Joplin’s scratchy voice reminding me that for some, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Brooke Williams’ conservation career spans thirty years, most recently with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. He has an MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He’s a freelance journalist with four books including “Halflives: Reconciling Work and Wildness,” and dozens of articles. He’s hard at work on a book about discovering places where the outer and inner wilderness meet.