Welcome to the New Normal — with Its Full Slate of Labels — by Todd Macfarlane

Are you a Patriot?  Do you Believe in the Constitution? Do You Have Feelings of Patriotism?   Be careful.

The outcome of the investigation into the law enforcement shooting death of LaVoy Finicum is now old news. Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris said they had concluded that the shooting was justified, but that FBI operatives involved in the shooting had lied about their involvement, and sought to cover-up rogue elements of federal involvement in the operation. Bretzing 2FBI Special Agent in Charge, Greg Bretzing, joined the discussion to cast doubt on any conclusions with respect to the FBI’s involvement, by basically saying “So what? Despite the fact that FBI operatives lied to investigators, there’s nothing anyone else can do about it; the FBI intends to bury the whole thing in its own internal investigation (that has a record of clearing officers in 100% of recent cases) and there will never be any real accountability for any of it, and particularly for the FBI’s role in the whole thing.” In conclusion, however, on what Bretzing claimed was a positive note, he said that hundreds of federal operatives had already withdrawn from Harney County, and “life is getting back to normal.”

Let’s take a minute to explore and take a look at that. Exactly what does that mean? What is normal at this point? What is the new normal?

LaVoy Finicum TM 1In a previous piece I said I was going to write a piece about the “so-called justice system,” and what we can expect out of it. I also talked about a conversation between my friends, the University Administrator, and my former law partner who is now a judge. He’s the one who made the comment about having seen me on TV “with the nutcases up in Oregon.”

Since then, a couple weeks ago I attended the Utah State Bar Association’s Spring Convention in St. George. I ran into that same judge there, and we had a great conversation. Among other things, I made reference to his “nutcase” comment to my other friend, and after laughing about it, we had a very interesting conversation. Before getting into the details of that conversation, I want to reiterate that this judge friend of mine is someone I have utmost respect for. He is both straight-laced and a straight shooter. And very mainstream in the sense of most of his perspectives. Among other things, in expressing his concerns about what had happened in Oregon, he said, “You know me, I’m a pretty straight-forward, by-the-book kind of guy. I struggle with unconventional, extra-legal approaches.” He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. Then he said something that I found most interesting. He said: “But I want you to know that I can see the problem. I can see that with the way the BLM has been treating ranchers in the West, we really do have a problem, and it looks to me like it’s only going to get worse as the federal government continues to flex its muscles.” And then he said something that was even more interesting: “I can see that with the philosophy and approach the federal government seems to be insistent on taking, we are now on an inevitable collision course, and at some point this isn’t going to end well for anyone.” To have such a straight-forward, mainstream kind of person, who I have so much respect for, telling me this was a very interesting experience.
It tells me that thinking people can see the issue that is developing. And they can see that given the current track things are on, it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

Labels 1Labels and the Ironies of the New Normal.

In this country the U.S. Constritution is supposed to be the supreme law of the land.  In cases of conflict between statutes and constitutional provisions, the Constitution always takes precedent.  All our elected leaders, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and some government officers and employees take an oath of office. In that oath they specifically swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and in some cases the constitution of the state in which they are operating.

At the same time, according to the new normal we now live in, anyone who reads and studies the constitution, believes in it and what it stands for, and mentions, or talks about it, is considered to be a radical extremist. We now live in a society where public school “resource officers” are asking students to tattle on their classmates who talk about the constitution, or express feelings of patriotism.

This is how the equation works under the New Normal: Interest in the constitution equals extremism. Patriotism equals extremism. In a nutshell, this is the fundamental equation of the new normal: Constitutionalist = Terrorist. Patriotism = terrorism. Never mind the fact that I have yet to see how any of the folks at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge actually threatened or terrorized anyone. Never mind that what started the whole thing was an effort to bring attention to the IMG_20160222_102248327_HDR[1]injustices being inflicted upon Dwight and Steven Hammond. But a big part of the new normal is labeling and guilt by association. Labels have become the major weapon of choice. Self-proclaimed patriots, and so-called constitutionalists are labeled as terrorists. Utterance of words like “life, liberty and property,” or simply “property rights,” are labeled as fighting words. Pocket constitutions are now labeled as dangerous weapons, and a symbol of extremism. A pocket constitution is now labeled as a tool of terrorism. And if you have any association with people who are thus negatively labeled, based on their principles or patriotic views, you are now considered guilty of extremism and terrorism by association.

Patriotism MT 1Suffice it to say, we’ve got serious trouble in River City, and perceived threats by pocket constitution-packing patriots is the least of that trouble.

In encouraging the FBI and Oregon State Police to undertake an operation to “stop the virus from spreading,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was giving expression to the realities of the new normal: Anyone claiming feelings of patriotism or belief in the constitution are radical, extreme terrorists, constituting a virus that must be stopped from spreading, by bloodshed, if necessary. Never mind that they are simply attempting to defend the constitution that Senator Wyden swore an oath to uphold.

Deliberate Indifference.

A phrase in developing jurisprudence is taking on increasing significance. That phrase is “Deliberate Indifference.” What is becoming increasingly obvious to those who pay attention is that despite going through the motions of taking Oaths of Office and swearing to uphold the United States Constitution, the vast, vast majority of such officials are deliberately indifferent to the principles which it stands for.

Ironic indeed. Welcome to the new normal.