January 10, 2016
Never gave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge much thought before? Neither had I. I traveled nearby, once, a few years ago. Heading south to the Steens Mountain Wilderness, I skirted by to the west on the two-lane highway. I probably passed a sign telling me to turn east to the Refuge, but I missed it the high desert of sky and sage. Though traveling at 55 mph doesn’t allow for much, you can still catch your breath in this beautifully rural and open landscape
I find it sad that the first time most US folk become aware of this landscape it is not for its beauty.
Enough has been said about the gun toting, cowboy hat wearing folk who are living at the Refuge these days. However, as one who wears a cowboy hat, hunts, and whom neighbors think of as the local liberal, here are two more cents.
It figure it was about the time I first heard about #YallQaeda and #VanillaISIS tweeting and folk wondering about calling this occupy movement domestic terrorism, that I began thinking about the Refugee occupiers and the now, mostly, defunct Occupy Movement/99 percent movement in the same light. Sure there is a difference between those who carry guns and those who don’t, but then again, who is feeling their lives are threatened by the few folk in the 10-30 degree weather of the east Oregon high desert, locals notwithstanding.
I find I agree about as much with the Refugee occupiers as I did with the Occupy Movement. In both cases, it seems most folk are/were about maintaining a middle (or higher) class existence for themselves. I want more land (the Refugee folk). I want a better job (the Occupy Movement). My friends who support one group or the other would say that is simplistic and it is more complicated than that. I’ll give you that. My question though, then as now, is when this is all over will you give of your time and resources to better the lives of those who have less?
I have trouble believing either group will or does care for the oppressed, the hurt, the hungry, or the homeless when it is all over. The leaders on the Refugee left nice warm homes to make their protest and today, most of the folk in the Occupy Movement live in warm houses with good paying jobs. While all along, the people of my community, some who have been in poverty for over a hundred years, continue to live in substandard homes (too many with open sewage, bad floors, and leaky roofs), with inadequate food, water, warmth, health, and education. The reality of not enough simply is not the case today for most Refugee or Occupy folk.
We can do better. Both causes, in their own way, are saying that. The first step, a tough one granted, is for the people, the Refugee and Occupy, to know themselves as one. Part of that is ignore political and business voices which say you are different from them, that half dozen issues we don’t agree on should separate us, and that we/I am right and they are wrong. Part of that is to place the wellbeing of others and our children before our own. Part of that is to know that all mainline religions—not just my own—say the health of our society is both in the caring for those who struggle, and having them fully participating alongside us. Part of that is believing We The People are the people.
It is high time to lay down our guns, give up our high-minded tweets, walk across the street to our neighbor who is our ideological opposite, ask them over for dinner (well, maybe coffee is a good first step), and have a conversation. Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat…