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Let them own cows

One of the four remaining individuals occupying a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon says they'll turn themselves in at a checkpoint. Also in Oregon, the FBI says Cliven Bundy was arrested. His son led the occupation. Feb. 11, 2016. (AP)

Given the rare chance in a nationally recognized publication to make a case such as this, I feel it necessary to propose a solution to a serious problem that we, as Americans, have faced and will face coming into the new administration.

Anyone who has been reading the headlines over the past two years understands the serious issue of race relations in the modern era and the need citizens feel to stand up to authority when it's in the wrong. We've seen it time and again, from the reactions of supporters of Freddie Gray in Baltimore to those who fought for Native Americans at Standing Rock.

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But there is one example that I think shows both the nexus — and the solution — to our problem: Cliven Bundy.

In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management impounded Mr. Bundy's cattle because he allegedly had allowed the animals to graze on federal land while paying no fees for some 20 years. His supporters then took up arms against the federal officials, aiming semi-automatic weapons at them, in an effort to take back the cattle, while Mr. Bundy claimed he didn't recognize the authority of the U.S. government.

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At present, Mr. Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, are set to stand trial on charges connected to the standoff as early as next March. And obviously, all of them are alive.

To date, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Walter Scott of North Charleston, Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Eric Garner of Staten Island and LaQuan McDonald of Chicago are still dead.

The only major conclusion we can draw to explain the difference is simple: They did not have cows.

Now, you may think me unserious, but there is precedent here. I am all for pressing forward for solutions in unpleasant times. There is a time for marching and speeches and civil unrest, but we need to consider all the options. I look back to the halcyon era of the civil rights movement, when in 1958 North Carolina newspaper publisher and humorist Harry Golden proposed his satirical "Golden Vertical Negro Plan" after he noticed that black people and white people had no problem associating with one another at bank teller windows, supermarket aisles and in five-and-dime stores — as long as they were standing up. The problem was when everyone was seated, such as at movie theatres, lunch counters and school desks. "Since no one in the South pays the slightest attention to a Vertical Negro," he said at the time, "this will completely solve our problem."

Golden's era is arguably that time of greatness to which the incoming administration wishes to return. And given our current penchant for mistaking fake news as genuine, perhaps we should today try a satirical solution for real.

If black people, Latinos, gays and lesbians, Muslims and other people at risk in a new Trump era were issued cows, this would head off all sorts of problems before they began. With cows, at-risk people could stand up to authority without fear of being cut down — be it by force or mistake. Since it clearly worked for Mr. Bundy and his progeny, it should stand to reason that the rest of America, protected as it is by the color-blind equal rights of the Constitution that our new president and his cabinet (and the entire Congress, but that goes without saying) swear their allegiance to, should be protected by the law. And failing that, hey, there's livestock.

If Eric Garner had a cow in front of him, it would have probably been a lot harder to choke him out to the ground for peddling loose cigarettes. If LaQuan McDonald had a cow, despite the video (that took a year to see the light of day), the animal probably would have taken the brunt of the 16 shots fired at him.

It is hereby suggested that incoming Attorney General-nominee Jeff Sessions issue all at-risk Americans a cow, simply as a placeholder to head off what could be worse problems to come. Because if it really does get worse, at least there will be steak.

Me, I'm hoping for a nice Holstein.

Brian Morton (brianmortonbsun@yahoo.com) is a former Baltimore City Paper political columnist and the author of "Political Animal: I'd Rather Have A Better Country." His quarterly guest column will appear every other Sunday through January.

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