It's unclear from media interviews exactly what the armed occupiers who have taken control of a federal outpost in rural southeastern Oregon want so this standoff can end peacefully.
On Monday afternoon, the newly named "Citizens For Constitutional Freedom" gave a news conference in the snow, listing their demands. On the surface, it seems they want justice of some kind for the local father and son ranching duo who have been convicted of arson and who reported to prison Monday for five-year sentences.
But I've argued there is not much the government could do that would convince these ranchers to cede control of the building back to the federal government. And that's because what they want more than anything is to take a stand against The Man, which they feel has left them behind politically and economically. It's a sentiment anyone following the outsider-driven presidential campaigns is probably familiar with.
The difference is that these people have chosen to manifest their frustrations physically and with arms. The rancher at the center of this, Ammon Bundy, watched anti-government activists across the nation arm themselves and travel to his father Cliven Bundy's ranch in the Nevada brush in April 2014 to try to stop government seizure of Bundy's cattle, which had been illegally grazing on public lands for years. That tense armed standoff caught federal officials off guard, drew the nation's attention and eventually ended when the government backed down and let the cattle roam free.
There is a similar anti-government strain playing out now in Oregon. And it's driven by people who either don't recognize the federal government or who do and are willing to point guns at it. That's hard to negotiate with, if you're the federal government.
So why aren't we calling these guys terrorists?
A group of people brazenly and blatantly take over a federal building and don't rule out violence to get their way. The media carefully treads over what to call them. (The Post has settled on "occupiers.") The Fix's Janell Ross asks if this mostly (or all) white group of activists were of a different race or religion, would we be so careful with our language?
She writes: "It is hard to imagine that none of the words mentioned above — particularly 'insurrection' or 'revolt' — would be avoided if, for instance, a group of armed black Americans took possession of a federal or state courthouse to protest the police."
Oregon joins a long list of citizen vs. government standoffs
From a group of nearly 100 people occupying Alcatraz Island starting on Thanksgiving Day 1969 to an occupation of Mount Rushmore in 1971, this occupation isn't necessarily unique, points out The Fix's Philip Bump.
He has more details on each standoff here. Most of these ended peacefully — the most deadly being the 1993 conflict at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., where 82 civilians and four federal agents were killed. No other confrontation between civilians and the government has even come close to that.
Your lightbulb map(s)
To better understand the takeover in Oregon, it also helps to know that out West, who owns the land (and what they do with it) is one of the dominant issues. Tensions between the federal government and folks out West have existed for more than a century — basically since the government stopped giving away land and started actively preserving some of it.
Today, the region is home to almost 93 percent of all federally owned land. Look how much land the federal government owns in Oregon and Nevada alone:
Given that, it's natural there will be tensions between the government and those who live there. But it's also important to note that, despite the century-old drama, the vast majority of ranchers out West don't condone what's happening in Oregon nor what happened in Nevada. These guys are very much on the political fringe.
That time Cliven Bundy 'sued' President Obama…
Oh, wait. This is actually reason No. 1,675 to be skeptical of news that sounds too bizarre to be true. As The Fix's Callum Borchers explains, BuzzFeed reported Monday morning that Bundy filed a "bizarre, hand-written lawsuit" against the president alleging Obama threatened Donald Trump with financial ruin "unless he shuts up and stops the Birther movement."
But upon closer inspection, the person on the lawsuit listed as Bundy’s co-plaintiff is a guy named David Rothrock, a convicted rapist who is in prison in Pennsylvania and has a history of filing wacked-out legal actions and affixing the names of famous people to them.