Relocalization as a Lesson of the Malheur Occupation


Relocalization as Solution

Other 2016 Presidential candidates don’t touch the issue of the current occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. I, however see it as a desperate act of felt powerlessness.  

It is generally considered unclear what the occupiers want, beyond lessened sentences for two ranchers convicted of arson and a general ‘return to the Constitution.’  The important part, though, is the supposed goal of having lands in Harney County be controlled by county residents, not the federal government.  Being a resident of Oregon, my understanding is that people east of the Cascades — who inhabit two-thirds of the state’s area but make up only a fraction of its population — often feel overlooked by the State government in Salem (and lush, left-leaning Western Oregon in general).  Writ large, a lot of residents of rural Western states feel like the coasts run the show and their interests go largely forgotten.

This is not surprising — and in fact should be expected — when we have a single federal government for 320,000,000 people.  How can it possibly do a good job of addressing the interests of all groups and regions?  Mediocrity is the best that can be achieved in such an over sized system.  

I see re-localization as an essential characteristic of our future functional society, where locals are empowered to decide far more than they are today.  Federal policy is a blunt instrument, whereas local decision making can respond to the nuance of specific circumstances.  This can operate at the local level, like Harney County, and at the state level.  Imagine what would happen if state laws trumped federal laws…

I believe there should be a principled, intentional breakup of the United States into smaller political entities.  One example is Cascadia, a bioregional unit of the temperate Pacific Northwest that extends from far northern California through British Columbia.  Smaller countries with natural borders (not arbitrary lines on a map) are our future.  With more resulting respect for local desires, we hopefully will not see unsatisfied civilians take extreme steps like seizing bird sanctuaries.

And if such local empowerment were the case in that location in the past, the U.S. federal government would not have sent the local Paiutes on an 1879 Trail of Tears march so white invaders could have the land.  Let’s wise up to these lessons from the past and present.