Opinion

Misguided Oregon protesters ‘constitutional’ in name only

A member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters wears a camouflage jacket with a patch on his shoulder Monday near Burns, Ore.
A member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters wears a camouflage jacket with a patch on his shoulder Monday near Burns, Ore. AP

It’s not a stretch to conclude that some Harney County, Ore., residents and law enforcement have been annoyed and inconvenienced by the armed protesters who moved in to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge over the weekend.

I hope this soon ends peacefully for all involved. When and if it does, I’m going to be left with a sorry opinion of the so-called Citizens For Constitutional Freedom, because all they have done since showing up in Southeast Oregon is to close a wildlife sanctuary, co-opt one of our sacred documents and make a mockery of some of its principles.

Coming all this way brandishing Second Amendment guns and getting behind First Amendment podiums to make anti-government ultimatums has not won over anybody in the undecided camp.

If the goal has been to point out the injustices or overbearing nature of federal land managers, any teachable moment has been lost with the intimidating tactics this group has put on display. I don’t think of them when considering the preamble to our Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

If they are all about constitutional freedom, they can’t cherry-pick through the articles, sections and amendments and take matters into their own hands.

We elect people to represent us. We don’t force ourselves on a community, move in on a federal building and start making threats. Fortunate for this group that our commissioned militia and our levels of law enforcement are exercising restraint at the moment.

My take on the Constitution is that the people we elect to the legislative and executive branches are in charge of appointing the overseers of our resources. It is spelled out in Article 1, Section 8: “ ... To make rules for the government and regulation of the land ... ” There are ample opportunities in our system to redress the grievances of the citizenry.

Though it is true that in other nations the impatient are sometimes successful in making demands and, by force, getting what they want, when they want it, that’s not how most of us roll, and we don’t condone it.

As we have learned over and over in our history, progress on a better union is sometimes frustrated by these people we elect. The tenacious efforts of the long-suffering have overcome mighty and reoccurring injustices.

It just so happens that this is an election year, a time when citizens for constitutional freedom could campaign for those who will fight for their ideas and issues, and then exercise their right to vote. Things can and do change after elections.

The occupiers should take a clue from the tundra swans who visit in late fall and early winter at the refuge. They gather in the various ponds and their voices carry long distances. Though some stay, others know when it is time to move on.

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