Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2014

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letter to the editor:

This isn’t the Old West anymore

The big story in Nevada today is that cattleman Cliven Bundy would not pay the Bureau of Land Management for letting his cattle graze on federal land. Bundy has even said he will obey no federal laws. So the BLM finally rounded up the poaching cows and kept the “big government” protesters away from the action in a “First Amendment area.”

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval complained that the First Amendment area was an attack on free speech. Although that is a legitimate issue, both major parties have established “free speech zones” away from their conventions where the protests cannot be heard by the politicians or the media, and if I understand the conservatives on the Supreme Court correctly, the only totally unrestricted free speech is money.

The real issue here is not free speech but whether the federal government has a right to control federal land. The fact is that the frontier is over. Bundy’s grandfather may have made his own laws, and maybe he had to fight the sod busters from putting up fences in cow country, but times have changed.

Bundy’s plight reminds me of the defeated Scratchy Wilson in Stephen Crane’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” The Old West gunslinger mentality is gone, and the crushing force of change and civilization will level those who cannot adapt.

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