YOUR CAUSE IS JUST,
BUT I CAN DO NOTHING FOR YOU
The Bundys are multi-generational members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka, Mormons. The founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, was the victim of much persecution and denial of due process under the Bill of Rights. Joseph Smith recognized the importance of the constitution and, like the Bundys, held it in high esteem. Some of the writings attributed to Joseph Smith, speak to the high regard for the constitution of the United States, as laid upon his heart by the Lord:
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another. And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. Doctrine and Covenants 101:79-80
Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever. Doctrine and Covenants 109:54
In consequence of land and property being illegally and forcibly taken from them, false imprisonment, murders and rape of their people, and other injustices, Joseph Smith, in company with a Judge Higbee, made two visits to President Martin Van Buren, to deliver a redress of grievances and explain in more detail the many injustices that had befallen them. At the second visit, President Van Buren was rude and disrespectful, telling them,
“Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you…if I help you, I will lose the Missouri vote”
MEETINGS WITH STAFF FROM REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS STEWART,
SOUTHERN UTAH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
On two occasions, I had an opportunity to speak by phone to Gary Webster and Adam Snow from Rep. Chris Stewart’s office. The first time, was in front of the Las Vegas federal district court in response to a letter that I had written to the congressman.
While I appreciated their willingness to reach out to me, I kept getting the feeling that they were finding reasons why they could not help us. Mr. Webster first claimed that the Nevada trial and the matters involving the federal prison in Pahrump, were matters for Nevada congressional reps, not Chris Stewart. I reminded Mr. Webster that two of the imprisoned Bundys, Ryan and Dave, were residents of his district in southern Utah. Additionally, Ammon Bundy owned land in southern Utah. I explained to Mr. Webster, that our congressional representatives were charged with representing us on federal matters, wherever they were located, including federal prisons and federal courts. Recounted here
DOWN TO BUNKERVILLE, NEVADA
In my second conversation, I spoke to both Gary Webster and Adam Snow from Stewart’s staff. Adam Snow said that he came from a ranching family and was very familiar with the Bundy’s plight. However, he was careful to maintain a neutral view of the situation. I updated him and Webster on the recent torture and abusive treatment of Ammon Bundy in the 3 foot by 3 foot shower stall. Any hope I had of getting a shocked response from them, quickly faded away as they remained non-committal in their reaction.
I was pleased to learn that Adam Snow was going down to Bunkerville the next day to meet with some of the wives and get more details on the situation. I wrote them a follow-up letter expressing my belief that they would get all the details they needed to get more traction and interest in the situation. Surely, once he heard it from the suffering wives, he would shake his neutral attitude and get energized to help the Bundys.
THERE IS NOT A LOT WE CAN DO FOR YOU
Again, to his credit, Adam Snow did make the effort to visit and listen to the women at the Bundy ranch. They were able to tell him in great detail what had happened to Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy and several of the other defendants. It was emphasized that, regardless of guilt related to the federal government’s charges, the defendants were entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and that over 460 days had gone by without a conviction and that the right to a speedy trial had been denied. Chris Stewart’s staff mentioned the complex nature of the case and that seemed to be a reasonable justification for the time delay.
I have learned from one of the wives, that the general response from Adam Snow was,
“I will pass it on to the congressman, but there is not a lot we can do for you.”
Typically, the politician will have several excuses:
1. Separation of powers. It is another branch of the government, therefore, I cannot interfere.
2. Another congressional district. It is not my turf.
3. I am swamped with many constituent issues. There is only 24 hours in a day to address all the concerns.
Yet, in contradiction to their excuses, elected officials will often claim that one can rely on them to get things done and changed, “We have a democratic system that usually works, you should write letters, make phone calls and let us know your opinion. We value it and take it seriously. But, we cannot do everything for everybody. Keep working within the system, if you try long enough, maybe you will get something changed.” However, when it doesn’t work, and the suffering is extreme, then it is very tempting to take other measures, such as civil disobedience.
When one hears excuses from an elected official, one feels the same way that Joseph Smith did, when he heard, “your cause is just, but I can nothing for you.”
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN THE SYSTEM DOES NOT RESPOND PROPORTIONATE TO THE NATURE OF THE EMERGENCY?
Again, the law and order people, those who trust government to mostly do the correct thing, those who believe we have forever left the days of colonial tyranny and injustice and that today, will say, “We are blessed with a well-informed society, a free press and a well designed system of checks and balances, and that, whatever you do, don’t be civilly disobedient! No, this is not 240 years ago, this is the age of golf courses, jet travel, Disney World, Hollywood, CNN, 50” flat screen TV’s and smart phones, and all the mainstream blessings that our forefathers did not enjoy. Today, there is no excuse for being civilly disobedient.”
Mainstream society generally holds that no matter how extreme your situation, no matter how pressing, no matter how painful, no matter how life threatening and no matter how unjust, you must work within the system! If you don’t and you decide to go the resistance, civil disobedience route, there are several thousand SWAT teams and militarized law enforcement, anxiously waiting to get you back in line.
This led me to write a two-part article called “Ballot Boxes Versus Bullet Boxes”
So, absent the Bullet Box, what can we do?
1. Keep a scorecard on your congressional representative. I plan to do a survey or poll asking people to grade Congressman Chris Stewart on how he handled the Bundy et al situation.
2. With that scorecard, print several thousand flyers and pass them out at Walmart parking lots, door to door and at large crowd events.
3. Do what LaVoy Finicum and his friends did, educate yourselves and educate others. Study the constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and then when you meet with politicians, you will be able to make a strong case to them.
4. Do a triage on the issues, have a fire danger wheel. If the issue is highly dangerous, such as torture of political prisoners, show it on the high danger side. Prioritize and rank the issues.
5. Stay active on social media. Share, share, share and wake others up. Pop bubbles, bring people reality.
6. Run for office yourself. You may not win but your message will be heard.
7. Make an appointment with your elected representative, prepare a written statement of what concerns you and why.
8. Stay involved politically. Attend town hall meetings, political caucuses, delegate conventions and legislative sessions.
IT WON’T BE EASY, IT MAY BE THE HARDEST THING WE EVER DO
We got ourselves into this mess by being asleep, apathetic and distracted. We thought we could give the keys of power to the politicians and the government worker and then go back to our TV and entertainment. Now that we are finding out things are not fine, we find ourselves in a deep hole, or having to turn around a monster who doesn’t want to be controlled. It will take patience, it will take unity and it will take hard work.
Through the ballot box and becoming involved, let us get rid of the politicians with the attitude that the system works most of the time. The system is broken, especially when they tell us, “there is not much we can do to help you.”