Rebellion: 1) opposition to one in authority or dominance; 2) open, armed, and usually unsuccessful defiance of or resistance to an established government
I am inspired to write my first blog of the year by the January 6 flash fiction challenge from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch, which references, as a starting point, the occupation by an armed group in Oregon of a federal wildlife preserve, in protest over the government’s imprisonment of two local ranchers.
To provide perspective on this event, Charli gives us both a personal history of the kind of people who make their living off the land—and who often find themselves front line in the battle over use and control of resources—as well as an impassioned appeal to try to understand the intersection of power, control of resources, individual rights, and our duties as members of a democracy.
Most of us can surely sympathize with cases of justified dissent and protest, of instances of the provoked little guy finally standing up to the big bully. Indeed, I resonate with stories of farmers and ranchers standing up to the government’s overreach, tracing my own paternal roots back a hundred and twenty years or so to a farm cut from the open prairies of a remote stretch of North Dakota (how much of that state is not remote?) And like all Americans, and perhaps especially those who’ve grown up in a Western state like Arizona (in my case) or Idaho (where Charli lives and writes), I have also gotten drunk on the lore of the staunch, independent pioneers, ranchers, and cowboys who risked all to stake a claim to open space, land, and greater self-determination.
Ahh the passions such a train of thought can dredge up!
But I am no believer in the free rein of passions without the restraint of reason. Passion is the voice not only of rightful advocates of good causes but of mobs, fascists, and demagogues.
Which brings us to the current climate in the United States and the underlying issue of guns. Forgive the overt sexism, but any group of men wielding AK-47s is apt to make me piss my pants. I am one who shudders at violence as a response to conflict and to the vitriol, distortion, and irrationality of the debate surrounding the Second Amendment’s presumed guarantee that every American has the constitutional right to arm themselves to the teeth with high-powered automatic, military-grade weapons. So while I may find it edifying to hear the stories of the half-frozen men—now appealing for deliveries of vittles via the United States Post Office (a public service of the Federal Government)—their wielding such weapons makes them immediately suspect in my eyes. As does the recent evidence (the arrival Saturday of a similar group calling themselves the Pacific Patriots Network) that their example sends a clarion call to others whose main objective may not simply be solidarity with a cause but an opportunity to engage in rabble-rousing and mayhem.
In short, I realize it’s a complicated issue, but I do not support insurgency or outbreaks of seditious activities by any group. And I’d like someone to explain to me the justice in one group forcefully claiming 187,000 acres of federal land on behalf of the county in which it is situated. Last time I checked, we are supposed to be a government “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” and that land has been set aside and protected since 1908, for all Americans. Again, I admit there are issues here that I do not understand. I am willing to be enlightened.
For now, I prefer to hold faith with a central government that, imperfect organ as it is, strives to balance the rights of all Americans and the competing interests of states, special interest groups, and individuals. And when that faith is tested, I turn first towards educating myself on the various angles of the issue being contested. In the case of Oregon, I first try to understand why the government owns so much land in the first place.
So many angles of this issue compete for our hearts and minds. That’s why I applaud Charli for honing in on this theme for the prompt this week on rebellion. Her appeal at the end makes it a particularly thought-provoking challenge.” As she notes: “Perhaps little story-rebellions from marginalized communities around the globe can teach us to better appreciate one another’s struggles. But how do we stand up to the powers that be? How do we take control of our lives and livelihoods without becoming what we struggle against?”
January 6, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a rebellion. Is it one a character fights for or is it one another suppresses? Explore what makes a rebellion, pros or cons. Use past or current rebellions as inspiration or make up one of your own.
And here’s my flash, inspired by reports on just one of the groups roused to anger by the events in Oregon.
In the spring they came. From Florida and Minnesota, New York and Texas. A great gentle army streaming from the four corners of a common patrimony—the land. Along the Pacific Flyway they massed, their pickets like pistons, rising and falling with their footfalls. The first yellow warbler flashing topaz against the sky heralded their arrival.
Sharp angles marked the buildings of the Malheur Wildlife Preserve. Sunlight glinted off gun barrels from beyond the entrance. The marchers halted. They readied their arms. Focused their targets in their sites. And let loose a volley of shutter-clicks.
The Birders had returned.