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Ferguson Riots and Bundy Ranch Showdown - Signs of an Approaching Breaking Point

Published: August 21, 2014
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If you don't immediately see the connection between the armed showdown that took place in Nevada this past year, and the riots taking place right now in Ferguson Missouri, look closer. The demographic makeup of the crowds are obviously very different, and the lines of support and demonization have largely split along the fault line of left vs right, however both events illustrate just how close the American public is to a breaking point, and both events demonstrate that law enforcement's reliance on brute force in such situations has the effect of throwing gasoline on a fire.

From an objective standpoint, the emotional responses to both events were disproportionate, and the sparks that set them off weren't clear cut, yet for some reason the rough handed tactics used by the BLM, and Mike Brown shooting became, for a moment, symbols of everything that was rotten about the current system and the focal points for years of pent up anger. It doesn't matter whether those focal points were logical or not. Rage has its own logic.

Another characteristic that these two events both share is the way supporters began flowing in from all over the country, some clearly itching for a fight. In both cases this phenomenon was highly destabilizing. The reaction to the Bundy ranch showdown was arguably more dangerous due to the fact that many of these supporters arrived on the scene with locked and loaded rifles, and began taking up tactical positions in preparation for a shootout. The Bureau of Land Management was obviously unprepared for this scenario and quickly backed down, but imagine what would have happened if those armed protesters had instead come face to face with a fully militarized police response like what we saw in Ferguson? It's no exaggeration to say that a scenario like that could easily set off a civil war.

Bundy ranch showdown

Bundy ranch showdown

Given these kinds of events one may be tempted to view the militarization of the police as a defensive policy, however when facing a people that are ready to snap, it is in fact a self fulfilling prophesy. Treating the civilian population as an enemy invites war, and sooner or later the invitation will be accepted. In a country like the United States where the civilian population is armed to the teeth, this is no joke.

Chances are that within a few weeks the media circus will have moved on to a new top story, and the Ferguson drama will fade from our collective attention just like the Bundy ranch showdown did, but make no mistake, the gasoline will still be there waiting for a spark (however insignificant or absurd that spark may seem to be).

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