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Nevada Today

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As Relevant Now As It Was Back Then: “Standing on Ugly Ground”

Cliven Bundy, Donald Trump, coup

There’s a lot going on. Eventually, I’ll fill you in some more on everything that’s happened.

For the time being, it’s important to remember the big picture. In light of last week’s mass shooting attacks in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, we must acknowledge some very uncomfortable truths, not just on gun violence, but also on who we are and what we’re allowing to happen underneath our noses. On that note, let’s go back to something I wrote in 2014, something that feels eerily prescient in light of this week’s tragic headlines.

Note: This was originally posted on my personal site in April 2014. I made a few edits to update broken links and clean up some language.

We tried to warn everyone. We took notice when Cliven Bundy invited Richard Mack and other shady (and rather dangerous) characters to Bundy Ranch. And we couldn’t mince words when we saw right-wing politicians like [then U.S. Senator] Dean Heller [R], [then Assembly Member, now Las Vegas City Council Member] Michele Fiore, and [now former Rep.] Cresent Hardy [R-Bunkerville] rush to Bundy’s side.

Even though it was painfully obvious that Cliven Bundy broke the law, far too many Republican politicians and pundits from across the nation were rushing to Bundy Ranch to proclaim “FREEDOM!!!” from the rule of law. It’s been embarrassing for all of us here in Nevada to witness. And we’re sure it’s given the rest of the nation further reason to wonder what the hell is going on in the Silver State.

But now, the level of crazy at Bundy Ranch has risen to a whole new level. Cliven Bundy recently did an interview with The New York Times‘ Adam Nagourney. And now, we’re becoming more familiar with Bundy’s views on American society in general.

How Bundy went from venerated outlaw to cringeworthy outcast
Photo by Andrew Davey

Even prominent conservative curmudgeons like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough have asked Republican politicians to back away from Bundy Ranch. And so far, Rand Paul has taken his advice. However, Rick Perry is now trying to have it both ways on Bundy. Far-right media personalities like Dana Loesch continue to make excuses for Bundy. And National Review writer Kevin Williamson still wants to compare the Bundy Gang to Mahatma Gandhi and “the heroes of The Alamo”.

Wait, haven’t we seen this before? Haven’t we seen far-right politicians and pundits rush to the defense of someone who wanted to “Stand Your Ground“?

Oh, yes. That’s right. Around this time last year, far-right “Culture Warriors” were hailing George Zimmerman as a “hero” because he “stood his ground” against Trayvon Martin. After all, Martin posed such a dangerous threat with his hoodie, that bag of Skittles, and that bottle of Arizona iced tea.

Earlier this week, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Michael Eric Dyson discussed how Bundy Ranch would be different if there were African-Americans resisting police at an urban or suburban “ranch”. Think about it. [Editor’s Note: To bring this even closer to home, read and watch my interview with civil rights activist Stretch Sanders for Nevada Forward in August 2017.]

Yes, this is bigotry.
Photo by Andrew Davey

Remember that Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis never actually resisted police. They didn’t even break the law when they were shot dead. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They just happened to be confronted by white men with vigilante fantasies dancing in their heads. And only one of those white men actually faced any sort of penalty for taking an innocent life.

The NRA and the gun industry have fought hard over the years to expand “Stand Your Ground” to Nevada and numerous other states. We’re seeing the consequences of this unfold before us now. While innocent people lose their lives because of how “threatening” they look, actual outlaws claim the law is on their side because they have the “right to stand their ground” against such things as federal law.

We tried to warn everyone. We suspected we were standing on some very ugly and unstable ground. We’ve been allowing the NRA to rewrite the rules on “acceptable use of force”. And this is the result. “Welfare King” Cliven Bundy can gleefully “stand his ground” while Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis lose their lives.

Postscript: When will we decide to reach for higher, better, safer ground?
Photo by Andrew Davey

I have a feeling many of you are sick and tired of reading about this. Imagine how it feels for me writing this. And more importantly, imagine how it is for the people living directly under the threat of gun violence, and for those who must constantly contend with the ongoing threat of white nationalist terrorism.

Ever since the start of Cliven Bundy’s “Range War” against the federal government, I and others have been warning the rest of the nation what would happen if we were to ignore the threat of the Patriot Movement, sovereign citizens, and other bigoted extremists… And for that matter, ignore the escalating racism and all-around bigotry that are fueling more and more violence across the nation. And yet, not only is Cliven Bundy himself now using the Moapa Valley Town Board to advance his extremist agenda, but the ideological fellow travelers who took part in his 2014 “Range War” have escalated their war against the America we know and love: Here in Las Vegas just three months after the April 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville, in Charlottesville in 2017, in Portland since 2018, in Pittsburgh in 2018, and now Gilroy and El Paso in 2019.

So here we are again. Over five years later, gun violence remains a public health crisis and far-right, white nationalist terrorism remains a national security threat. If you don’t want to believe me, start binging the Bundyville and It Could Happen Here podcasts. And when I’m ready to speak more about this myself, we’ll (once more) work on getting to the bottom of all this and uncover solutions. Hang with me here. We’ll do our best to figure this out.


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