Right. Okay, you guys say you want to talk about the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot of Harney County. I can do that. It’s an extraordinarily stupid act, and it’ll probably just dissipate in a couple of weeks, leaving behind nothing but some trash and the fetid stink of disappointed testosterone — but sure, we can talk about it. First, though, I’m going to insist on a tangent. Maybe two tangents; I haven’t decided yet.
Harney County, Oregon. Named for William Selby Harney, a 19th century military man who fought in the Indian Wars, and the Mexican-American War (which, I should point out for Trump supporters, was a war between Mexico and the United States and NOT a war on Mexican-Americans), and the American Civil War. General Harney was also deeply involved in the Pig War.
Okay, the Pig War. I’m going to guess you’re probably unfamiliar with the Pig War of 1859. I’m also going to guess you’d be happy to remain unfamiliar with it. Too bad, on account of it’s sort of relevant. The Pig War was basically a dispute over who controlled a chunk of land. In this case, the chunk of land was the San Juan Islands, which are located between Vancouver and the U.S. mainland. Both the U.S. and the U.K. claimed sovereignty over the islands. They set up a commission to settle the fuss, which of course meant the dispute dragged out for years.
However, while the commission was doing whatever bullshit commissions do, people went on living on the islands. One of those people was an American named Lyman Cutlar, who had himself a nice little garden where he grew potatoes. Another of those people was a British citizen named Charles Griffin, originally from Ireland. Charles raised pigs. On the 15th day of June, 1859 one of his pigs (identified in court documents as ‘a large black pig’ though it’s unclear if that’s a physical description of the pig itself or a reference to the creature’s breed–a Cornwall Black, which is generally referred to as a Large Black) ate some of Lyman’s potatoes. Lyman shot and killed the pig. Charles objected to what he perceived as unmerited swine assassination. Lyman offered to pay Charles US$10 for the dead pig. Charles refused, demanding $100 (which, let’s face it, is an astonishing price for a dead pig, regardless of how large and black it is). Lyman refused, saying “Your pig was trespassing and eating my potatoes.” Charles responded “My pig doesn’t recognize your property boundaries, and besides it’s your responsibility to keep your potatoes out of my very fine pig.”
Charles asked the British authorities to arrest Lyman for murdering his pig. And they said “Yeah, okay, why not?” Lyman in turn asked U.S. authorities to protect him from the British. And they said, “Sure, okay, we can do that.” Because people are generally really fucking stupid, by August 10th, the British had five warships anchored off the San Juan islands, with some 2000 troops prepared to arrest Lyman Cutlar for killing Charles Griffin’s potato-eating pig. The U.S. had about 400 men with a couple dozen cannons under the command of Gen. Harney, prepared to help Lyman Cutlar protect his potatoes from being molested by wandering swine.
This standoff lasted for thirteen years (during which Harney and many of the troops went off to fight in the American Civil War, and most of the British troops went off to wave goodbye to some other part of the fading British Empire) until October of 1872, when an international tribunal chaired by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany in Geneva, Switzerland ruled that the San Juan Islands belonged to the United States. Therefore, Charles Griffin and his tuber-ingesting pig could go fuck themselves.
Seventeen years after that, in 1889, Oregon established a county comprised of more than ten thousand square miles and named it after Gen. Harney, who at some point in time probably had to pass through the area on his way to someplace else. We’re talking about 10,000 square miles, you guys, with a population of just over 7,000 people. This place is seriously rural. And in 1908 the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was created in Harney County.
And hey, nobody paid a lick of attention to the place until a couple of days ago. Which is when a dozen or so ten-gallon fuckwits, mostly from Idaho and Arizona, ‘seized’ one of the unoccupied buildings on the refuge. By ‘seized’ I mean they broke open the door, walked in, and marked their territory by spraying White Christian Cowboy musk all over the place.
A lot of folks are outraged that these guys aren’t being referred to as terrorists. They’re angry that these people aren’t being treated to the same sort of rapid response military force commonly used against unarmed black pedestrians. Which is totally justifiable anger and outrage. There’s absolutely no doubt this event would be reported differently and handled differently if the occupying fuckwits were fuckwits of color or Muslim fuckwits.
But are these guys terrorists? I have to say no. I mean, terrorists cause terror. It’s right there in the name. Terrorists are scary. These guys are terror-asses. For the most part, the public is treating them with well-earned derision. Their dramatic Red Dawn farewell YouTube messages are alternately sad and hilarious. Their insistence that they’re fighting tyranny by occupying a bird sanctuary in seriously rural Oregon in the middle of the goddamn winter is so patently ridiculous that it belongs in a Monty Python skit.
But hey, they’re there and something needs to be done about it, right? So, what to do? I’d suggest the very worst thing we could do would be to treat these as a threat to national security. This is NOT an armed insurrection. It’s NOT an act of sedition that warrants an armed assault. It’s a pathetic, testosterone-driven cry for attention.
Don’t get me wrong. I think every one of these paunchy, beef-witted, potato-heads ought to be arrested and charged with a Federal crime. I think those who can be proven to have carried a firearm in this mewling exercise should be charged with a felony, in the hope that they’ll be prohibited from legally buying or owning a weapon again. I also believe these idjits who yearn for another civil war in the United States can be a genuine existential threat to the security of the United States. But occupying the Welcome Center of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t merit a major response.
I think it would be a serious mistake to turn this clay-brained episode into the sort of military stand-off the occupiers (and the newsfotainment media) are after. That would just grant them legitimacy, which they don’t deserve. Even the folks on FreeRepublic are mocking these guys–that’s how completely fucking stupid this is.
This is only a big deal if we make it one. This ‘occupation’ doesn’t deserve the attention we’d give to a potato-thieving pig.