Trivializing Atrocities: Why Cliven Bundy is a Man of Moral Turpitude

It is not my intention to examine in-depth the issue of “free-grazing” on public land. My position on public land is that we should return as much of it as possible to Native American tribes who had it plundered from them, so when asked whether I support or oppose free-grazing by ranchers on public land, my response is, “Option C.” What I want to talk about is a quote from Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who has become the flashpoint of a controversy over free-grazing. Initially, Bundy was touted as a hero by many conservatives for standing up to the federal government, though, of course, he would not have been touted as a hero by many of these same conservatives if he had stood up to the federal government in opposition to bans on, say, gay marriage or marijuana.. Many libertarians, who are mistrustful of government power whether it involves telling people where their cows can eat grass or telling people that they can’t smoke grass, whether it involves telling people what kind of gun they can own or telling people what gender of person they can marry, also expressed admiration for Bundy. But then, something happened. Like the Octomom of yesteryear, the more the public learned about Bundy, the less favorably he was viewed. The source of Bundy’s dip in popularity was a quote he made on video. The New York Times sums it up thusly: “‘I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,’ he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, ‘and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
‘And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?’ he asked. ‘They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.'” Now, granted, Bundy did express a desire not to return to the pre-civil rights era. Yet he displayed a callous, flippant, and downright racist attitude toward slavery. In essence, he said that while slavery was bad, it might have been preferable to living on the government dole. After all, in Bundy’s deluded mind, slavery did have positive points, such as teaching slaves to pick cotton and giving them something to do. I have no qualms about calling Bundy a racist, because only a racist individual would make any value judgments about slavery other than that it was a reprehensible institution. Slavery, the Holocaust, the genocide of Native Americans, Jim Crow, apartheid are all phases of history that are so horrific that any coda, semicolon, or qualifying statement as to just how horrific they were is a slap in the face to the victims of these atrocities, as well as their descendants. This is, of course, not the first time that someone has felt the need to trivialize slavery. Back in 2012, Arkansas legislator Jon Hubbard wrote that, “the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.” Considering the fact that Hubbard came from a party founded largely to stop the expansion of this so-called “blessing in disguise,” his statement was rather astounding. Even more astounding was the fact that conservative website ran a column by Walter E. Williams defending Hubbard. And while conservatives with any ounce of sense have disavowed Bundy’s statement, another writer named Doug Giles described the comment as “obtuse” and “the ramblings of an inarticulate old man” and mocked liberals for being so offended by it. “Obtuse” is an adjective you use to describe Alan Simpson’s comparison of Social Security to a milk cow. “The ramblings of an inarticulate old man” imply that the comments were simply silly and poorly phrased. The fact that a writer for a mainstream conservative site essentially shrugs his shoulders at the comments shows why all too many people use “conservative” and “racist” interchangeably. (Then again, Giles once wrote a piece claiming that LEGALIZING gay marriage was a policy of big government, a piece that involved such mental gymnastics that I almost got a migraine wading through it. I wonder how conservatives would feel if liberals copied their tactics and started saying the Affordable Care Act was a “small government” policy even though it clearly isn’t?) Racism is still a major problem in this country. And one thing that must be done to address this problem is to STOP DEFENDING SLAVERY. If any significant number of people persist in seeing slavery as a regrettable institution with some positive aspects to it, instead of the unmitigated evil that it really was, this country’s racial problems will never even come close to being fixed.


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