Pick Wayne's Brain

April 26, 2014

The Binary Bundy

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 11:27 AM

It started with a story about grazing fees and ended up being a story about racism, as often happens with stories in America these days. Nevada cattle rancher Ted Cloven Cliven Bundy became the darling of right-wing media when federal agents seized his cattle for Bundy’s refusal to pay more than a million dollars in grazing fees and penalties. Supporters claimed it was an overreach of federal authority, despite the fact that courts have upheld the government’s actions at every step. Things were gearing up to finally have a national discussion on the role of government in our lives (a key and overlooked component in the disagreement between Liberals and Conservatives), when Bundy opened his mouth and talked about something other than property rights.

via Media Matters

After initially denying he ever mentioned picking cotton, Bundy made things worse for himself by trying to invoke the names of Rosa Parks and the Rev Martin Luther King, Jr., in defending his use of the term “Negroes.

via CNN

The clip above ends with Bundy claiming he’s not prejudiced, after screwing up completely what Prejudice is by saying “we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings.” No, Mr. Bundy, when we talk about prejudice we’re talking about exactly that – pre-judging – and all of us, myself included, are guilty of it to one degree or another. All of us look at other people and based often on nothing more than what we see, we make value judgments about them. And the primary thing we want to determine first and foremost is, “Is this person a threat to me?” That’s natural survival instinct and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what goes on in the mind after the determination that it’s safe to walk past that person that gets people in trouble. Prejudice isn’t about exercising what we think or feel, it’s about what we think or feel, and how we came to have those thoughts or feelings. When you see a family of black people sitting on their front porch, as a family, and immediately assume that they’re on government subsidy, you are being prejudiced. And not in a good way. Because you have no rational basis for believing what you’re thinking. I assume that when you talk about “exercising” those thoughts or feelings, it means acting on them in some way. Since your thoughts or feelings were not derived from some rational line of thought, but derived instead from your erroneous prejudices, I can’t allow you to act on them without consequence. That’s not denying you your freedom, that’s protecting innocent people from your ignorance. And his prejudice didn’t end there. He went on to say, “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.” Really, Bundy? Is that how you view black people? They’re either in jail or picking cotton?

What concerns me is the tendency for conservative-minded people like Bundy to engage in either/or binary-type thinking. If you’re a young black man, you’re either in jail or in a cotton field. Nothing else. No other options available. Either you’re a totally free individual or you’re dependent on the government for help. I love that one because most of our American way of life is only possible because of government activities, not least of which is police, fire, and military services keeping us safe and free to pursue our individual happiness. So I don’t understand this obsession with Freedom being a complete and total severance of any government authority over you. You might think that’s what the “free” part of a Free Society is, but it isn’t what the “society” part is about. Your Constitutional right to freedom is not absolute. It is limited to what Society says it is. And Government is the vehicle Society uses to ensure it remains Free. So we are all, to one extent or another, dependent on government. To pretend otherwise is to live in a dream world.

Clive Davis Cliven Bundy lives in a dream world. He thinks you’re either totally right or totally wrong, with no middle ground to be even partly right. He thinks he’s right so the government is totally wrong. Never mind that the arbiters of who’s right and who’s wrong have decided that the Government is totally right and Bundy is totally wrong. He’s just decided that the federal government is illegitimate and has no authority over him or his property. In this sense, he must be referring to the cattle as property because the land in this discussion is federal property, which he feels he has every right to use free of charge. Its owners (you and me) disagree. Who do you think is right?

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