Have you ever contemplated?the prospects of living a?simpler, more self-sufficient,?unencumbered life? Perhaps?on a few acres of land with the nearest?neighbor over the horizon, down a dirt?road?
You could graze a few milk cows and?make your own butter in a wooden?churn, gather eggs from the chicken?coop and wring the neck of a hen on?Saturday for Sunday dinner. You get?used to the stench of boiling feathers?and the remnant pinfeathers on your?drumstick.
A stream would irrigate your truck?garden out back, as well as the fruit tree?orchard and the hay field. The shelves?of the root cellar would be stocked with?Mason jars of canned fruits and vegetables.
Your leftovers and spoilage would?slop the hogs so you can hang a couple?of hams in the smokehouse.
You could graze a few beeves for?market and slaughter. You?d compost?the soil with the sweat of your brow.?The hours would be long, the profits?meager.
You?d merely have to worry about?diverting more water than the government agents deem appropriate or?letting a backfire burn onto public land?or whether the government inspector?catches you bartering an uninspected?ham for a neighbor?s pure-bred rooster?or letting your cattle wander onto public land without a permit.
Then you might find your lifestyle?considerably altered.
In the 1840s transcendentalist philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau?tried living such a nearly monastic life?? as recounted in the book ?Walden.??And he followed his conscience in?refusing to pay the government agent?s?poll tax, resulting in a night in jail ? as?recounted in the essay ?On the Duty of?Civil Disobedience.?
?Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor?to amend them, and obey them until?we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?? Thoreau asks?in that essay. ?Men generally, under?such a government as this, think that?they ought to wait until they have?persuaded the majority to alter them.?They think that, if they should resist,?the remedy would be worse than the?evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse?than the evil. It makes it worse. Why?is it not more apt to anticipate and?provide for reform? Why does it not?cherish its wise minority? Why does?it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why?does it not encourage its citizens to be?on the alert to point out its faults, and?do better than it would have them? …
?As for adopting the ways which the?State has provided for remedying the?evil, I know not of such ways. They?take too much time, and a man?s life?will be gone. I have other affairs to?attend to. I came into this world, not?chiefly to make this a good place to?live in, but to live in it, be it good or?bad.?
Thoreau?s commentaries are taught in?public schools as enlightened examples?of the value of individual conscience?over the inexorable power of government.
When father and son Oregon ranchers were ordered to serve mandatory?five-year prison sentences under an?anti-terrorism law for the crime of?letting fires set on their own private?property accidentally spread and burn?140 acres of public land, it was clearly?a violation of the Eighth Amendment?prohibition against cruel and unusual?punishment ? but they went quietly?back to prison.
Sympathizers, however, occupied?vacant buildings on a wildlife refuge for?41 days to call attention to the ranchers??plight and are now also in jail for doing?so. Ironically, because of the occupation,?the feds had to call off a planned 4,000-acre controlled burn.
So far 19 people ? several already?charged in the Oregon occupation ??have been indicted on various charges?growing out of the standoff in Bunkerville when federal agents tried to confiscate Bundy ranch cattle two years?ago. The press invariably mentions?that Cliven Bundy owes $1 million in?grazing fees, but never mentions that,?if he had complied with the restrictions that came with such permits, he?would have gone out of business 20?years ago.
The ranchers have been labeled scofflaws and welfare cowboys.
Those who practice civil disobedience ? especially while heavily armed?? do and should pay the consequences?for endangering public safety, but real?grievances should also be addressed?and not eclipsed by the utter foolishness of a brash few.