The Cliven Bundy case in Nevada provides many insights into the state of our nation with respect to the relationship between the people and the government.
The Bundys appear to be honorable American citizens without adequate legal counsel to help resolve a federal land issue about which they disagree with the Bureau of Land Management. Without question, they violated some of the innumerable laws and regulations that continue to entangle every aspect of American life.
Their violations certainly could have been handled through a multitude of less brutal means than those employed by our federal government, which through the mouthpiece of Sen. Harry Reid emphasizes how important it is for the government to enforce its laws.
It is quite interesting to see, however, that those same bureaucrats refuse to enforce some of our federal border-protection laws and other domestic policies with which they disagree. Perhaps Reid’s time could be better spent explaining why it is acceptable for the federal government to pick and choose which laws it wishes to enforce.
The senator readily referred to the Bundys and their supporters as “domestic terrorists,” but the current administration is reticent about applying the same term to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who admitted slaughtering more than a dozen people in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas. What does this tell us about our government and its perceptions and alignments?
The massive show of federal force in the Bundy case is frightening because it gives us a brief glimpse of the totalitarian regime that awaits a sleeping populace that does not take seriously its voting responsibilities and places in public office (and returns to public office) people who do not represent traditional American values.
The fact that the ranchers were well armed and willing to literally fight for their rights probably tempered the enthusiasm of the federal forces to engage in further aggression. It was clear from the body language and from some of the reported verbal responses of the government forces that they were not prepared to engage in lethal combat with fellow Americans.
Those Americans who are concerned about the possible future imposition of martial law after a financial collapse or some other event should take solace in knowing that many military and law enforcement personnel would likely refuse to obey commands inconsistent with freedom and American values. Such commands could emanate from any political party in the future, but it is likely that such a party would be one controlling an administration that selectively enforces laws and ignores or excuses corruption.
Another important lesson from this incident is the value of a well-armed citizenry. The Second Amendment was crafted by wise citizens who recognized how quickly an enemy invasion could occur and how our own government could be deceived into thinking it had the right to dominate the people.
Such domination is considerably more difficult when people have arms and can put up significant resistance. This is the reason that brutal dictators like Fidel Castro, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin tried to disarm the populace before imposing governmental control. Such domination could occur in America in the not too distant future if we are not vigilant.
We must be reasonable and willing to engage in conversation about how to limit the availability of dangerous weapons to criminals and violent or insane people. In light of past worldwide atrocities committed by tyrants, though, to threaten the Second Amendment rights of ordinary American citizens is itself insanity. Those wishing to ban assault weapons fail to understand the original intent of the Second Amendment.
Just as insidious as the attempt to limit weapons and ammunition to law-abiding citizens is the incessant invasion of privacy by the government. Unless there is reasonable cause for suspicion as determined by a court of law, there is no need for the government to know all of the intimate details of our lives, including whom we talk to, where we spend our time and money, or which weapons we own, provided we’re not purchasing tanks or fighter planes.
For our nation to once again be a thriving metropolis of freedom and innovation, the people and the government must peacefully coexist in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. This can occur only when laws are equally enforced and political favors are a thing of the past. When obvious governmental corruption is discovered, it must be swiftly and openly dealt with, and the perpetrators must face easily verifiable punishment.
This is just the opening salvo of what a trustworthy and honorable government should strive for. If we had such a government, border enforcement would be a given, the rights of the people would be respected, and events like the incident between the Bundys and the Bureau of Land Management would not occur.
We the people of the United States are the only ones capable of preventing uncontrolled government expansion and abuse. Like the ranchers in Nevada, Americans must find the courage and determination to maintain a free and vibrant nation. Government should be our friend and ally. When it is, we should support it wholeheartedly.
• Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.