March 2, 2016
By Paul Addis
In April 2014 I travelled to Bunkerville, NV to stand in solidarity with rancher Cliven Bundy and his family as a protest against the increasing authoritarian over-reach of the federal government, specifically the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This is the same BLM that, in another case against a Nevada rancher, Chief Judge Robert C. Jones of the Federal District Court of Nevada ruled had “entered into a conspiracy . . . that’s a sufficient basis to hold that there is irreparable harm if I don’t . . . restrain the government from continuing in that conduct.”
It was that kind of irreparable harm from which Cliven Bundy was trying to protect his family, and others. Of course, the news media didn’t portray the BLM as conspirators. They certainly didn’t portray Cliven Bundy as a victim of unconstitutional government action. Rather, Cliven Bundy was portrayed as a terrorist and the BLM were just doing their job. And inevitably he was portrayed as a racist hick for suggesting, albeit in an awkward fashion, that teaching a man to fish is better than giving him a fish.
There is a lot of back story to the 2014 Bundy ranch situation, which involves Chinese businessmen, endangered turtles and political corruption. For me, it was about standing up for liberty and justice for all. My final straw was seeing a pregnant woman thrown to the ground on the side of a desert highway for wanting to look into the back of a pickup truck. Not to mention the 57-year-old cancer survivor who was assaulted by law enforcement when she tried the same thing. At times the only thing we the people have to fight with is our superior numbers. If we stand up together, we can’t be defeated. That is why I went to Nevada in April 2014 – to stand up for justice.
In August of that same year I travelled to Ferguson, MO to stand in solidarity with the local community and Rev. Jesse Jackson in protest against the unnecessary killing of Michael Brown and the militarized response of local law enforcement to that protest. This is the same Ferguson area law enforcement that arrested and beat an innocent black man in 2009.
It was that kind of injustice that the people of Ferguson were so upset about, and rightfully so. Of course the news media didn’t portray it that way. Michael Brown was simply portrayed as a common thief. Inevitably, the people of Ferguson were portrayed as out-of-control racist hooligans, even though the violence was mostly instigated by outsiders.
There is more to the story than the killing of a black teen by a white police officer, but for me it was about standing up for justice everywhere by standing against injustice anywhere. Stories of the police firing on journalists had already piqued my frustration with their response, but the final straw for me was seeing a photo of an unarmed man standing on a sidewalk in Ferguson holding his hands up while a group of police officers dressed in riot gear pointed rifles at him. Again, the idea of people showing their numbers by standing together motivated me to go to Ferguson. Once there, I talked with locals who didn’t care about my skin color, and were thankful that so many people were standing with them against a government that was increasingly treating them as enemy combatants instead of the very people it exists to protect and serve. That is why I went to Missouri in August 2014 – to stand up for justice.
It may seem strange that someone would stand with Cliven Bundy and his supporters from the militia, and a few months later march with Jesse Jackson and members of Black Lives Matter. I’m sure there weren’t many people, if any, who traveled to both events. However, I believe it is essential to understand why both situations are important to the fight for liberty in this country and every community in America. The real story behind these events, and those like them, isn’t racial: it’s human. No matter how the media spin it, the real issue is that we all have certain unalienable rights simply because we’re human beings. The government can’t give you any rights and it can’t take any away, try as it might. The sooner we all realize that we are in this together, the sooner we can start standing up together for the benefit of all.
If we stand together, we can’t be stopped. If we stand together, we win. Liberty and justice for all. Not just for those with the most money. Not just for those with the right ethnicity. It starts with understanding the person across the false divide that has been erected by the social engineers who tell us how we’re all so different. We have much more in common with each other than we have differences. Scientists have shown that, genetically, humans are 96% similar to chimpanzees, but we behave like we’re 96% different than other human beings just because they don’t look or act like us. It’s time for someone to stand up and point out that we’re in this together and we should start behaving like it.
This false divide is most prominently displayed in the world of politics. Division has become the currency that can win or lose supporters for any group vying for political ascendancy. I would like to propose to my Libertarian family that we can be the voice declaring shared injustice as the way to bring us all together. A unified front that promotes human dignity and self-determination for every person. No longer using negative comparisons to garner support, but rather using common concerns to join with others on a journey toward a society that respects individual freedom regardless of what that means to them. In order to do that, we must first see others as similar and not different. It should be easy . . . because they are.
As you go forth into this world of division, try to find a way to break those walls down. Use the principles of liberty, justice, respect, dignity and give others the same consideration you want to receive. If you are a Bundy supporter and think it would be difficult to march with Black Lives Matter in Ferguson, or if you are a Michael Brown supporter and think it would be difficult to stand with the Bundy’s in Nevada, you aren’t looking hard enough at the human beings across the divide. They are just like you. Try to find a way to understand their concerns from their perspective, and believe they can understand your concerns from your perspective. But you’ll have to make the first move. It will be worth the effort. It’s the only way forward.