Even his homespun-sounding name”Cliven Bundy”hints that he is part of a dying breed. Reputed to be the “last rancher in South Nevada,” he locked horns with the US Bureau of Land Management last week in a highly public battle of wills.
Bundy is a father of 14 and a descendant of a ranching family he says has been grazing cattle on these dusty desert lands since the 1870s. His ranch, near the town of Bunkerville about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, assumed a bunker mentality last week as armed federal agents stormed his land, began rounding up his cattle, arrested one of his sons and Tasered another, and allegedly shoved his sister”a cancer survivor”to the ground.
The feds claim that Bundy owes them roughly $1 million in “grazing fees” that have gone unpaid since 1993. They also say that he’s stubbornly ignored a 1998 court order to remove his cattle from public land set aside for the preservation of the desert tortoise, a creature that federal officials apparently value more than they do cattle ranchers. According to statistics from 2012, the US federal government claims ownership of 81% of Nevada’s land. The feds refer to such areas of conquest as “public lands.” We are told that “the people” own them, which must be the reason why the people are forbidden from owning them.
Bundy, however, is from the old school and says the feds have no jurisdiction over the land. He claims he’s been dutifully paying his fees to Clark County, NV, the whole time. He also says that federal policies have made it impossible for dozens of other ranchers to eke out a living, gradually driving them away and leaving him the last rancher standing in Clark County.
As news of the “Old West-style showdown” spread last week, armed militia members and self-proclaimed patriot types began streaming onto the ranch, escalating tensions and stoking fears that the situation might unspool into another Waco or Ruby Ridge.
On Saturday, federal forces retreated and claimed it was for the sake of public safety, although they vowed to pursue their case against Bundy. It was suggested that their retreat may have been linked to embarrassing revelations that Nevada Senator Harry Reid and his son had been negotiating with Chinese investors to use that part of the desert for a solar-energy project and that the area’s last rancher may have been standing in the way.
During the standoff, a County Commissioner from Utah named Darin Bushman wrote on Facebook that Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins referred to the Utahns who’d pledged they’d come to support Bundy as “inbred bastards” who’d “better have funeral plans” if they dared to show up.
It is these “inbred bastards” of rural America”those continually mocked hillbillies and rednecks and teabaggers and throwbacks and country bumpkins”that have consistently been the target of openly articulated cultural bigotry in the USA for generations now. The federal government, major media, academia, and most city slickers hardly seem to view rural white Americans as human.
This coincides with the fact that in real numbers, they are a dying breed. In 1790, only 5% of Americans lived in urban areas. Now over 80% do. A century ago, roughly 70% of Americans lived in rural areas. That quotient is down to about 15% and falling.
According to Census data, last year almost 60% of America’s rural counties suffered a net loss of residents. In real numbers, America’s rural population has been dwindling for three years in a row. This is the result of what’s known as “natural decrease,” with deaths outnumbering births. As rural America grows older and all remaining manufacturing jobs have been tidily offshored, young people either flee to urban areas for jobs or toil for $8 an hour at the local Walmart, where they stock, sell, and buy items made by Chinese workers in Chinese factories.
As Americans get more tightly packed into sprawling megalopolises, what coastal snobs dismiss as “flyover country” is rapidly devolving into one giant ghost town. What used to be known as Middle Americans are now called extremists. The heartland has become the hinterlands.
One of the biggest cultural divides in American culture has always been urban v. rural, city mouse v. country mouse. It appears that the city mouse has won.
It is no coincidence that the last generation or two”an era of escalating sensitivity toward minorities, women, and gays”has unfolded amid a cultural climate that cheerleads the open negative stereotyping of that strange exotic breed that is the rural white American.