In the National Review, Charles C. W. Cooke writes critically of Cliven Bundy and compares him to the Founding Fathers.
History teaches us that, in all cases of rebellion, the final arbiter is success — a standard that, as a matter of raw fact, has some merit. Still, History is wrong to glue success and virtue together as if they were inextricable. George Washington is a man I admire greatly, and, in his fight against the British at least, he and his contemporaries had the distinct and happy advantage of being right. But had the signatories to the Declaration paid for their treason with their sacred honor — as they were greatly worried that they might — would they have been rendered as fools by their loss? Or would they have been a group of men who got the morals right but the fighting wrong? Likewise, if Bundy had lost in his altercation with the feds, would that have made his cause any less noble? I rather think not.
The comparison here would be less to George Washington than to the Boston Massacre, the history of which was equally ambiguous and debated.
Washington’s virtue may have been straightforward enough, but could the same have been said of the stories of the civilian participants in the Boston Massacre? The punditry could easily have dissected the stories of Henry Knox or Edward Garrick just as unfavorably as those of Cliven Bundy.
Did it in the long run matter? Not really.
The power of the Boston Massacre was in the way that it framed the larger story of British oppression. The story that was told fit into a larger theme even if the individual facts did not quite hold up.
And while that’s not ideal, it is entirely real.
It does not mean that the American Revolution was founded on a lie, but the triggering stories that force people to see a larger truth are not always themselves as true as that truth. Human fallibility and nature make that inevitable.
The people most likely to resist oppression at first are not necessarily ideal role models or devoid of blemish and self-interest. Cliven Bundy fits squarely within that mold of revolutionaries who disrupt the system and provoke it to react and withdraw.
As government expands and civil society retreats, bad laws pile atop bad laws, and the cause for dissent is magnified and deepened. Cliven Bundy has been dealt a raw hand by a system that is deaf to his grievances and ham-fisted in its response. But this is a republic, dammit — and those who hope to keep it cannot pick and choose the provisions with which they are willing to deign to comply.
The other side however has been picking and choosing. And that’s the larger question here. How serious is the divide and how grave is the crisis?