About 16,000 ranchers across the country pay modest fees for their herds to graze on land owned by the United States.
The cattle of a rancher in Nevada graze on such public land. The rancher claims the federal government has no right to tax him. He has not paid his grazing fees (taxes) for years. He owes about $1 million.
When the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) came to take his cattle for payment, the conflict set off a local firestorm. Armed militias of private citizens, many wearing cowboy hats, confronted the BLM workers attempting to take the cattle. Guns were drawn. The BLM withdrew to avoid violence.
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress rights to own and manage property. The incident has started a debate. It is a debate that some people say makes no sense.
Conservatives – right wingers and tea party people – say the federal government does not own the land. If that does not work, they say the feds should not own the land.
Liberals and left-wingers have some issues with the way the law is carried out. But most agree the law must be followed.
The state of Nevada is bound by the rules of the federal Constitution. Courts can change laws and rules. Individuals taking the law into their own hands cannot change laws and rules.
What else is going on? Some Americans like to see men in cowboy hats with guns. It is a picture of the old West. Americans love Westerns. Many who participated in the protest simply do not believe in the U.S. federal government. However, they say they are patriots.
The ranch owner’s name is Cliven Bundy. He likes his cattle grazing on the land. He does not like paying for it. He made matters worse by making disparaging remarks about black Americans.
The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not endorse his methods. Its leader said, “This should not be confused with civil disobedience. This is outright anarchy going on here.”
We are nation of laws. Whether we like one or not, that is how we keep order in a democratic country.
Source: The New York Times April 23, 2014