The death of an armed militant in Oregon is a tragedy but it is not surprising.
LaVoy Finicum, one of the de facto spokesmen of the illegal occupation of the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, vowed that he would rather die than be taken into custody. This Mormon rancher, father of 11 and grandfather of 19, had his vow fulfilled on a lonely stretch of Highway 395 when a vehicle he was riding in was stopped by members of the Oregon State Police and the FBI.
"There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them," Finicum told MSNBC, three weeks ago. "I'm prepared to defend freedom."
If you don't know already, the armed militants (some call them terrorists, some call them armed protestors and others call them freedom fighters) seized the refuge on Jan. 2 after two local ranchers were sentenced to prison for setting fires on government land. They vowed to stay there until federally owned land was returned "back to the people."
On Tuesday night, several of the militants, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Cliven Bundy who had his own standoff with the feds over grazing rights in Nevada in 2014, were driving to the town of John Day for a public meeting. Their car was stopped and a gunfight ensued, though the details are still sketchy at this point. The conspiracy types are screaming up and down that the feds ambushed the car but a witness told authorities Finicum charged at police with his weapon drawn.
Despite what we learn over the next few days, the people who support the occupation from behind their computer screens (who are also some of the same people who claim that the massacre at Newtown, Conn., was a "false flag" operation utilizing "crisis actors" to justify the confiscation of firearms) will never believe any reports that don't originate from websites with names such as The Daily Blaze, The Free Republic, Newsmax, Red State, Town Hall, Western Journalism and the Independent Journal Review. Those websites borrow, shall we say, liberally, from each other and feed on each other in promoting misinformation, half truths and downright lies.
What we know for certain happened on Tuesday night is five people were arrested on Highway 395; one was killed and another wounded. Two others were arrested in a separate incident and a third turned himself in to authorities. All the suspects face federal felony charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.
Meanwhile, a handful of militants have vowed to not give up and remain in the wildlife refuge, which is essentially surrounded by police. There is no end in sight now that the leaders of the occupation have been taken into custody.
Their motives are mixed, and though they say they are standing up for the two ranchers sentenced to five years in prison for arson, their over-arching grievance is with a Big Brother government they believe has usurped the Constitution and is ushering in a New World Order where the United Nations will be invited in to confiscate all our firearms on the orders of the Illuminati and the United States will become just another Third World country under the heel of tyrants.
It's a world view that has found incredible traction with the tentacles of the Internet connecting all the conspiracy theorists together and the election of a black man to the office of the president , a man many believe was not born in America and is intent on bringing to an end all that is good about the nation and turning us into a Muslim nation subject to Sharia law. Their vision is an illusory one from the 1950s that never really existed: of John Wayne riding on the range and taming the injuns; of Ronald Reagan curbing those nefarious labor unions; where Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon were heroes portrayed by the liberal media as villains; of women and minorities knowing their places and glad to be told what to do; of wars won if we had only been allowed to use nukes.
Their rage, their delusions, their aggrieved entitlement is being fed by the current crop of GOP presidential candidates and before them the right-wing echo chamber of hate radio, news stations that are anything but, and obstructionists in Congress who yell "You lie!" during State of the Union addresses.
We can hope all this sound and fury signifies the dying of the light of a regressive vision that has benefited the few at the expense of the many, including the militants who, although they believe are serving a greater purpose are actually pawns in a struggle that pits us against each other while the true villains laugh behind their gates while their minions are delivering their money to the bank.