Of Cows and Birds: Oregon

I’ve been resisting reading about the situation in Oregon on federal land. I’m pretty sure I didn’t want to look too closely because of the intensity of emotion I encountered at even the outer penumbra of this particular cloud of human drama. The heart of the matter, I suppose I reasoned, must be pulsating with a lot of power. A dark electrical storm or furious blizzard tucked away and I felt that I’d rather not get too close.

Of course as we know ignoring the weather won’t change it. On the other hand, yelling at in won’t change it, nor pointing a gun. Well, that’s not strictly true. In our hubris we have developed techniques for creating rain by actually firing projectiles into clouds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_seeding

So maybe weather is an inappropriate metaphor for the standoff in Oregon (cold as it is there.) Because while we’ve demonstrated a remarkable facility for controlling the world around us, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to managing ourselves. Indeed this struggle is a good example of how we so easily direct attention outward while neglecting to tend to our inner wildlife refuge.

Ammon Bundy wants local control of public land but the locals don’t want his help. They do share Bundy’s anger at the feds– it was local cattle ranchers, Dwight Hammond and son who tried to stop a federal fence-building crew and the feds arrested them. Their arrest galvanized significant local support, including a protest of 500 local ranchers.

I don’t know the details of the situation and no doubt there’s blame to bear on all sides. Nonetheless the ranchers clearly have legitimate beef. The federal refuge is in their way, disrupting their ability to raise cattle, and in turn their needs hamper the various federal workers trying to run their refuge as a place for birdwatchers to visit. It’s a real problem.

And while the outside militiamen are even more ham-handed than the local ranchers, they too have a fair point. How come the feds get to arrest people at gun point while all we can do is shame them by spreading around fliers with pictures of the arresting officers?

Do the feds have a legitimate point? It’s harder for me to see from where I stand as one of the cattle– I tend to resent the prod and the slaughterhouse. The electric fence. The smell of hamburgers from the fourth of july barbeque. The laughing and carrying on that still cool evening summer air conducts from the farmhouse to my ears so easily and fully every year until I die. I tend to resent it, like I said.

And yet the birdwatchers must watch their birds. And the ecology needs protection as well as understanding. We need to protect it. We need to understand it. The cattle ranchers might be a dying breed. Maybe they aren’t. Why we need guns to solve this problem is a bit confusing, to say the least. Maybe we’re figuring that out too. I’d like to think that we are. In our own sloppy way. Making messes, then cleaning them up and with luck having a good laugh about it afterward.

I want a world where ranchers and birdwatchers can enjoy one another’s company. Maybe it’s at a fundraiser gala at the refuge visitor’s center. Maybe it’s at one of those backyard barbeques. Hamburgers, definitely. Maybe even some poultry. Probably leave the rare birds off the menu. Though we could always decorate it with photographs… Really come to think of it we should have proper steaks, I think. And a slide show really would be good for after the dinner. You know get all the best bird pictures in there and have one of the storytellers get up with his binoculars around his neck and his thinning hair and his wireless mic and tell us all about it. Yeah for some reason my mind is set on the vistor’s center. I don’t know why– I’m still thinking with my fourth stomach, I think šŸ˜‰

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