Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Souls in Turmoil at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Tensions continue in Oregon:
Local residents furious about the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon faced off in force on Monday against antigovernment protesters who support the occupation, with both sides gathering outside the Harney County Courthouse here in a nonviolent but dramatic confrontation.

With several hundred people screaming at one another, sometimes only inches apart, it was a fierce and visceral display of the emotions raised by the takeover, which began on Jan. 2.

As recently as this weekend, only one demonstration had been expected: Professed patriot groups had issued a call for militia members and others who support the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to come here and make their voices heard. . . .

In a surprisingly vocal counterprotest, local residents arrived at the Harney County courthouse first on Monday, and in what seemed to be larger numbers. They shouted, “Go home! Go home!” at the occupation supporters across the sidewalk — many of whom were visibly armed and carried American flags.

The supporters, most of them from out of state, shouted back that freedom for all Americans was under threat no matter where you lived, and that patriotism was on their side. “Where are your flags?” they shouted. “Where are your flags?”
Sign spotted in the crowd:
Here we have, it seems to me, two of the great themes of human life, acted out as if by two choruses on a Greek stage: the longing for some sort of radical, apocalyptic change, and the longing for normal life.

I see this unfolding in the primaries. All the media attention is focused on dissatisfaction, disappointment, anger, the sort of people who want Sanders' "revolution" or Trump's reawakened America. But Trump and Sanders both lost in Iowa, even within a small group of the most politically involved. The desire for dramatic change always wars with the fear of it, and the nagging voice of rationalism pointing out that dramatic change is usually for the worse. Some people come down decisively on one side or the other, although they may change their views as they age. For others, like me, there is always a tension. Anger at injustice has to be weighed against the horror of revenge; disappointment with the current state of things against the realization that it could be much worse; rage against others against the sad truth that we are creatures of the system we sometimes rail against, complicit to one degree or another in its crimes.

1 comment:

leif said...

/sigh/. so goes the inner struggle of moderates. eric hoffer speaks to the motivations of mass movements, and this continually comes to mind with our home-grown terrorists. they're less concerned with revolting about oppression than they are about shifting their locus of control.