No, The Bundy Militia Isn't Rosa Parks. But They're Not Doing Anything Unprecedented. Just Ask Thoreau.

Ammon Bundy, says the left, is acting in ways unprecedented in American history. That’s a lie. He may be wrong, but he’s well within a tradition running from the Whiskey Rebellion through Henry David Thoreau.

Bundy has holed up with his armed supporters in a federal facility in the wilds of Oregon to protest the re-arrest of Steven and Dwight Hammond. Their case is explained here.

At 2:12 AM, someone claiming to be Bundy on Twitter tweeted, “We are doing the same thing as Rosa Parks did. We are standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom.”

This prompted spasms of ecstasy on the left.

Shaun King, the whitest black activist in history, wrote a full column on the tweet, in which he stated that Bundy must have “sleep-tweeted that foolishness.”

Actually, as it turns out, he didn’t tweet it at all. Bundy isn’t on Twitter.

But that didn’t stop King from going insane over the fake tweet, writing:

Whatever the case, I’ll indulge whoever wrote that comical tweet for just a few moments, and if you butt-dialed it in your sleep, just ignore everything I’m about to say. Rosa Parks was a human. You are a human. OK, I’m thinking, thinking, thinking.... that’s where the similarities end, actually.

King then describes Parks as a woman who spontaneously “bravely refused to get out of her seat that evening. The bus was stopped. The police were called and Parks was placed under arrest then and there. As a brave black woman in the Jim Crow South, Parks risked her life on Dec. 1, 1955. She did it without an armed posse to back her up. She did it as a petite woman of the oppressed class in the face of white men who were fully empowered to brutalize black bodies with little threat of punishment.”

By way of digression, it’s worth noting that King’s description of Parks doesn’t tell the real story. The Huffington Post details all the extensive activities that went into the Montgomery bus boycott, and Parks’ involvement in virtually every aspect of the planning. Her heroism was planned, not spontaneous – which actually enhances her heroism.

But in any case, Bundy isn’t Parks. Obviously.

Bundy is in the line of the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1791, shortly after George Washington became president, the federal government attempted to levy a tax on whiskey. Western farmers attacked tax collectors, and 500 armed men surrounded the home of a tax inspector. Washington rode in with an army 13,000 strong. The rebels left, and all of those arrested were pardoned; the tax itself became almost impossible to collect. After Thomas Jefferson took power, the federal government repealed the tax altogether.

Bundy is in the line of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau, whose Civil Disobedience you were forced to read in high school, talked openly about armed resistance. After all, Thoreau believed that one ought to resist a tyrannical government rather than complying with it if such resistance forwarded the cause of ending the tyranny, and even went so far as to defend the actions of anti-slavery vigilante John Brown, who killed 6 civilians in his attempt to start a slave rebellion:

I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the only righteous use that can be made of Sharp's rifles and revolvers is to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think that for once the Sharp's rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them. The same indignation that is said to have cleared the temple once will clear it again. The question is not about the weapon, but the spirit in which you use it. No man has appeared in America, as yet, who loved his fellow-man so well, and treated him so tenderly. He lived for him. He took up his life and he laid it down for him.

We find this over the top – so, in fact, did Abraham Lincoln, who ripped the John Brown raid:

An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution. Orsini’s attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown’s attempt at Harper’s Ferry were, in their philosophy, precisely the same.

By the time the Civil War started, however, Union soldiers were going to war singing not the later lyrics of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, but these original lyrics to its tune:

John Brown died that the slaves might be free,

John Brown died that the slaves might be free,

His soul goes marching on.

The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down, /

The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down,

His soul goes marching on.

As Christopher Hitchens wrote in The Atlantic, “Brown, far from being a crazed fanatic, was a serious legatee of the English and American revolutions who anticipated the Emancipation Proclamation and all that has ensued from it.”

We may not be in the active resistance phase of Thoreau’s philosophy. We may stand with Lincoln. I hope we all do when it comes to Oregon, particularly since passive resistance will do far more good than active resistance.

But let’s not dismiss that there’s a serious strain of Americanism that runs from the American Revolution to Henry David Thoreau and down to Ammon Bundy. What’s happening in Oregon may be wrongheaded, but it isn’t unprecedented. To paint it as such is simply historically ignorant – and dangerous. After all, as Thoreau wrote, there may be some causes that require resistance. Giving up that right altogether is a recipe for tyranny.


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