First, let me say that—as an Orthodox priest—I cannot support violence. I both must support peaceful resolution, and I am committed to supporting peaceful resolution. Violence is something that we need to dread and see as only an acknowledgment that this is a very fallen and damaged world.
At the same time, we also need to confront what is wrong. In this blog, I have often confronted the wrong that is found in those who ignore the poor, those who have come here for refuge (even if illegally), those who are more concerned about business owners than about workers, and those who try to legitimize the immoral (such as abortion).
But, this is a different case. This is a case of government overreach. A farmer whose land had been his family’s since the 19th century, was told back in 1993 that it mysteriously was not his family’s. He opposed the land grab, but has been unsuccessful. Finally, he refused to submit.
In this country, we have laws that are a reaction to the way the powerful misused the law in merry old England. Among them are the land laws. Much of what the Federal government has done in the States since the early 20th century has been an out and out land grab of the most unlawful sort. Vast expanses of territory have been declared Federal land without concern for those who lived there before the land grab.
Note that I am not against Federal land ownership. There is nothing wrong with the Federal government owning land. But, there is something wrong with the Federal government claiming land as their own without due process and due recompense. There are appropriate times for the government to “condemn” land for its use. For instance, just because someone does not wish to sell their property should not mean that a new highway cannot be built.
But, there are legal limits to how land condemnation can be carried out. Sadly, much of the Federal land ownership of Western lands has more to do with convenience than with legal limits. In the incidents of this past week, we see the results of that indiscriminate policy.
This week, individual ownership clashed with Federal “condemnation.” It is sad that previous Federal courts automatically gave rights to the Federal government without much consideration. The result of decades of unthinking Federal policy toward a subculture of America that prices historical ownership is the confrontation that happened this week.
I am glad that no violence happened. I am sad that violence was threatened. But, it is important that some limits be set on Federal land ownership claims. Thus, the confrontation was not all bad. Sadly, I doubt that this will settle the matter. And, in the midst of all this, we often forget that Our Lord told us that it is better to lose our belongings (see the Gospels).
May this confrontation, and other State/Federal confrontations, be settled soon and in a peaceable manner. In what is possible, may local sovereignty reign. In what has to do with the poor, with human rights, with international commerce, with national voting, with immigration policy, etc., may our national policy win.