Perspectives: The truth set them free; why the Hammonds were pardoned

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — Last Tuesday’s presidential pardon of Dwight and Steven Hammond was a welcome surprise to many of us. For others it came as a bit of a shock.

Read more: Trump pardons ranchers whose imprisonment triggered 2016 Malheur occupation

Like many Western ranchers, the Hammonds had struggled for many years with increasingly authoritarian federal regulatory agencies that seemed determined to put them out of business.

They were prosecuted for arson under The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act when, while burning brush on their grazing allotment, the fire they set accidentally burned 139 acres of nearby federally managed land.

That they should have been held to account for any damage they caused is not disputed. The Hammonds paid nearly $400,000 in fines for their actions. They were convicted and served prison terms of three months for Dwight and a year for his son.

The judge who had sentenced them balked at the harsh 5-year mandatory minimum the antiterrorism law imposed. Judge Hogan stated that such a sentence would “shock the conscience” were he to impose it.

However, vengeful federal prosecutors took their cue from the antagonist Shylock in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and demanded their pound of flesh. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and the Hammonds were ordered to return to prison to serve the full 5 years.

It was the manifest injustice of this act that prompted Ammon Bundy and others to undertake a symbolic occupation of the remote Malheur Wildlife Refuge in order to bring attention to the Hammond’s plight. In spite of the extreme risk and deep personal cost, Bundy’s efforts appear to have succeeded.

Because of what his own family had been through, Bundy understood that remaining silent in the face of official injustice could be seen as condoning such behavior. Courageously standing for truth, especially when it’s unpopular to do so, is essential to correcting injustice.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said it best:

Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.

The Hammond’s pardon is the latest in a growing series of federal prosecutorial failures involving Western ranchers and their supporters. Each time, it becomes a bit harder to dismiss concerns of abusive government overreach as the ranting of madmen and malcontents.

As might be expected, the ones howling the loudest over this pardon are those whose knowledge of the case tends to be the narrowest.

To state this isn’t to imply that those who are the angriest are stupid or evil. The problem is that they’ve been led to believe in an incomplete narrative that plays to their ideological prejudices.

It’s a symptom of a larger challenge of being able to discern and speak the truth in a time when those who seek power over us have largely gained control of the narrative.

Speaking out should not be a matter of seeking some perceived political advantage over one another. The real goal is protecting our ability to be able to make our own peaceful decisions without being arbitrarily bullied or controlled by government.

That’s not easy when the vast majority of folks have been taught since childhood that people calling themselves “government” have the right to create and enforce laws to control the peaceful personal and economic decisions of others. Both the left and the right have adopted this mindset as it serves their purposes.

Instead of focusing on whether this tendency for domination is being wielded by the political left or the right, we should be far more concerned about whether it’s right or wrong.

The only time government should enter the picture is when quantifiable harm has been done, and then its role is to ensure justice – not simply political vengeance. When this is tipped on its head, it’s understandable why so few are willing to speak up in the face of injustice.

Unfortunately, injustice thrives in an environment where the truth is carefully avoided by manipulative politicians, bureaucrats and their media stenographers.

Jim Quinn, writing about life in a society whose worldview is built on official deception, counsels:

It may seem quaint and naive, but for good to win out over evil will take individuals showing the courage to speak the truth when the majority don’t want to listen and have been brainwashed by the Deep State propaganda machine. Individuals must step forward and do the right thing.

The right thing, in this case is to make ourselves an unplayable piece on their chess board. This can only happen when our love of truth outweighs our attachment to ideology.

As Caitlin Johnstone points out, we’re not going to out-manipulate seasoned sociopaths.

We must first set our own compass to “true” and then be willing to seek and speak the truth without fear.

Truth is what ultimately set the Hammonds and the Bundys free. It just took some time.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • bikeandfish July 16, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    What is your evidence that “truth is what ultimately set the Hammonds … free”? I mea n seriously, you advocate the twisted logic of the “deep state” but somehow Trump only released the Hammonds because of truth? It wasn’t because of the political benefits to Trump and his cronies?

    And you used Caitlin Johnstone? She’s an “alt-left” astrologist turned “journalist”. Ironically, her piece states (since you seem to value her words):

    “The willingness to do anything to get ahead, to claw your way to the top, to betray whomever you need to, to throw anyone under the bus, to step on anyone to pass them in the rat race, will be rewarded in our current system. Being willing to underpay employees, cheat the legal system, and influence legislators will be rewarded exponentially more. People with a sense of empathy are often unwilling to do such things, whereas sociopaths and psychopaths are.”

    Did you miss the larger message there? Everything she writes in the linked opinion piece highlights an argument against how Trump would ever pardon the Hammonds for “truth”. Her other subtitles hint at the irony as well: Wealth Kills Empathy; Money is Power; People are Always Manipulating Each Other, etc. If you are going to trust her a source, which I don’t, then you better be willing to account for the inconsistencies she provides to your argument.

    You might want to turn your supposed need for “truth” and justice toward the administration releasing the Hammonds. You may believe they never deserved re-sentencing but assuming the rationale of Trump et al is so pure erodes the foundations of the very principles you have posited for years.

    • comments July 16, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Hyde is a bit of a doofus, and I’ve come to realize quite the little egotist as well. He’s filler material just like Kociela and the howard guy. oh well 😉

  • No Filter July 17, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Come on Bryan, this story is so old, especially in Trumps world. Either you are really passionate about this story or you don’t want to address what happened with Russia this past weekend.

    • bikeandfish July 17, 2018 at 11:11 am

      To his defense, he probably submitted this column late last week. I would hope Hyde shows the integrity of criticizing the President given the author’s antagonism toward the federal government and constant concern for American interests.

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