OPINION — Last Tuesday’s presidential pardon of Dwight and Steven Hammond was a welcome surprise to many of us. For others it came as a bit of a shock.
Like many Western ranchers, the Hammonds had struggled for many years with increasingly authoritarian federal regulatory agencies that seemed determined to put them out of business.
They were prosecuted for arson under The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act when, while burning brush on their grazing allotment, the fire they set accidentally burned 139 acres of nearby federally managed land.
That they should have been held to account for any damage they caused is not disputed. The Hammonds paid nearly $400,000 in fines for their actions. They were convicted and served prison terms of three months for Dwight and a year for his son.
The judge who had sentenced them balked at the harsh 5-year mandatory minimum the antiterrorism law imposed. Judge Hogan stated that such a sentence would “shock the conscience” were he to impose it.
However, vengeful federal prosecutors took their cue from the antagonist Shylock in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and demanded their pound of flesh. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and the Hammonds were ordered to return to prison to serve the full 5 years.
It was the manifest injustice of this act that prompted Ammon Bundy and others to undertake a symbolic occupation of the remote Malheur Wildlife Refuge in order to bring attention to the Hammond’s plight. In spite of the extreme risk and deep personal cost, Bundy’s efforts appear to have succeeded.
Because of what his own family had been through, Bundy understood that remaining silent in the face of official injustice could be seen as condoning such behavior. Courageously standing for truth, especially when it’s unpopular to do so, is essential to correcting injustice.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said it best:
Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.
The Hammond’s pardon is the latest in a growing series of federal prosecutorial failures involving Western ranchers and their supporters. Each time, it becomes a bit harder to dismiss concerns of abusive government overreach as the ranting of madmen and malcontents.
As might be expected, the ones howling the loudest over this pardon are those whose knowledge of the case tends to be the narrowest.
To state this isn’t to imply that those who are the angriest are stupid or evil. The problem is that they’ve been led to believe in an incomplete narrative that plays to their ideological prejudices.
It’s a symptom of a larger challenge of being able to discern and speak the truth in a time when those who seek power over us have largely gained control of the narrative.
Speaking out should not be a matter of seeking some perceived political advantage over one another. The real goal is protecting our ability to be able to make our own peaceful decisions without being arbitrarily bullied or controlled by government.
That’s not easy when the vast majority of folks have been taught since childhood that people calling themselves “government” have the right to create and enforce laws to control the peaceful personal and economic decisions of others. Both the left and the right have adopted this mindset as it serves their purposes.
Instead of focusing on whether this tendency for domination is being wielded by the political left or the right, we should be far more concerned about whether it’s right or wrong.
The only time government should enter the picture is when quantifiable harm has been done, and then its role is to ensure justice – not simply political vengeance. When this is tipped on its head, it’s understandable why so few are willing to speak up in the face of injustice.
Unfortunately, injustice thrives in an environment where the truth is carefully avoided by manipulative politicians, bureaucrats and their media stenographers.
Jim Quinn, writing about life in a society whose worldview is built on official deception, counsels:
It may seem quaint and naive, but for good to win out over evil will take individuals showing the courage to speak the truth when the majority don’t want to listen and have been brainwashed by the Deep State propaganda machine. Individuals must step forward and do the right thing.
The right thing, in this case is to make ourselves an unplayable piece on their chess board. This can only happen when our love of truth outweighs our attachment to ideology.
As Caitlin Johnstone points out, we’re not going to out-manipulate seasoned sociopaths.
We must first set our own compass to “true” and then be willing to seek and speak the truth without fear.
Truth is what ultimately set the Hammonds and the Bundys free. It just took some time.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.
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