There he stood at a press conference. Big man. Federal employee. FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing looked into the camera and said, “Actions have consequences.” As if that justified the killing of LaVoy Finicum at the hands of the Oregon State Police in a confrontation which the FBI orchestrated and could reasonably foresee would end the way it did.
If LaVoy Finicum had been a black teen in a hoodie, the media would be all over it.
Instead, he was a mature white Arizona rancher who—like many of us in the West—was tired of federal hegemony over our land and was willing to risk his life, his treasure and his sacred honor to do something about it.
You know, like those 56 angry white guys in 1776.
Maybe he was misguided. Maybe he wasn’t.
But, apparently, white rancher lives matter a lot less to the FBI and the Department of Justice than do black lives belonging to looters—or the Al Sharptons of the world.
Agent Bretzing appears to have no idea of the consequences the actions of his little band of shooters will have.
Causes need martyrs.
LaVoy Finicum just became one. In fact, he may well have become the perfect martyr. He told NBC on video before it happened that he had a good life and was unafraid to die for his cause.
He also was the father of 11, a foster father over the years to 50 troubled boys…in general not what you think of when you think of an “armed militia member.” Or, for that matter, someone who came to Ferguson, Missouri, to riot and loot.
He was just a tough old coot who believed that the Federal Government had vastly overreached in the West and needed to have its pervasive influence reduced. And, unlike Cliven Bundy—who was not a media poster boy for land rights—he had the appeal of someone with the ability to charm the media.
The truth about law enforcement is that much of it sees things in black and white.
If a person is violating a law—any law—then they are subject to the wrath of government-sanctioned guns at the complete discretion—or lack of it—of those wielding those guns.
Now, to some extent, law enforcement is important. Within reason, it is one of the few things we all agree that government is and actually should be responsible for.
We expect it to be there when mobsters are stealing us blind in New York and Chicago. We expect it to be there when gang-bangers are shooting up the streets of East Los Angeles or the Strip in Las Vegas.
We also expect there to be a proportionate response to, say, a traffic stop. Or an act of civil disobedience. We sort of learned proportionate response in Birmingham, Al., in the 60s from black and white films of Sheriff Bull Connor’s dogs attacking demonstrators.
Unfortunately, many times we get neither—but we do get a lot of rage from some quarters in law enforcement when they are criticized.
I’ll grant you that it is a difficult job, made more so by an “us vs. them” attitude cultivated by much of law enforcement over the years.
Actions do indeed have consequences. So do attitudes.
This nation does not—and cannot—depend solely on law enforcement to keep us safe. You cannot put a cop on every corner—or every Federal wildlife preserve. It takes voluntary compliance from a citizenry which has a basic respect for the law.
And, the occasional burst of civil disobedience to help put a bad law away.
That respect for the system has to be earned BY the system.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing may well have set that respect back 30 years with his flip recital of what we all know to be true, which was clearly intended to minimize the consequences resulting from a complete mishandling of peaceful civil disobedience.
The idea that a government employee can shoot you dead because you do not follow his “commands” doesn’t sit well with us in the West, where we, also, carry guns.
It’s not like Finicum was knocking over a liquor store in East LA with a gun, or selling drugs in Chicago for the Sinaloa cartel.
He was protesting Federal hegemony over Western land.
And the sentence for that should probably not be death.