Assuredly there are two Americas.
What else can one deduce from seeing venison sandwiches on the menu at Arby’s restaurants in rural communities of the Midwest Rust Belt?
How you choose: Kale and quinoa, or venison and curly fries might say something about your politics.
Our cultural divide begins at the dinner table but extends through vast swaths of America. Perhaps it explains the federal court acquittal of seven armed anti-government protesters who took over a wildlife sanctuary in Oregon last winter.
The protesters, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy were accused of using force and threats of violence to occupy the reserve, which is owned by the federal government. The New York Times reported that a jury in the case “appeared swayed by the defendants’ contention that they were merely protesting government overreach and posed no threat to the public.”
Reporters were shocked. Certainly armed men taking over federal land are guilty of something. Right?
While that might be a powerful argument to Tesla-driving 30-somethings who favor small-batch bourbons and artisanal Italian truffles. It won’t fly in a place where people know how to store elk backstrap for winter — and what combination of salt, pepper and garlic to use on the meat when they cook it.
Let’s clear the air on something. Oregon is not what you think it is.
Aside from Portland and a narrow ribbon of territory that extends about 10 miles from I-5 in either direction, Oregon is a blackhole. In the 1970s Oregon’s gravitational pull on the counterculture attracted nonviolent hippies, sex cults and psilocybin-fueled dropouts. But those folks have moved on to the greener pastures of assisted living in sun-basked Arizona or are weaving hemp shirts in Colorado for the tourists who come to Crater Lake every summer.
Oregon is hollow. The farmers, the shopkeepers, the restaurant owners and just about anyone else you might associate with small towns in rural America have gone missing. Methamphetamine has taken a powerful toll. But even its influence is on the wane.
“We don't have campers driving down I-84 anymore leaking toxic chemicals out the back," David Westfield of Lines for Life told KGW News in April.
Opiates are another story. Oregon has one of the highest opiate prescription rates in the United States and its one of the few places where you can buy Narcan over the counter and administer it when you're slamming buddy is foaming at the mouth as the result of a fentanyl OD.
All this is the backdrop for an anti-government sub-state that runs from Tulare in Central California north into Eastern Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Southern Washington. This is the place where cops like Mark Furhman of to retire. A place where farmers and ranchers that haven’t posted large “Make America Great Again” signs are in the minority.
There is a strong belief in this breakaway republic that the federal government has restricted access to lands that have for centuries been open for cattle grazing, fishing and the occasional deer hunt. This place is heart of the Alt-Right — the place that made Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE viable, and ground zero of a movement that firmly believes:
— The laws have been subverted and the rules of the game are rigged;
— The president is a felon and an imposter;
— The big banks launder drug money, and;
— The UN runs giant sex slavery rings that utilize children as young as four-years-old for prostitution.
Enter a functioning coffee shop in Bend, Oregon and you will hear the argument that the federal government is so corrupt it is run by foreign banks as part of a “New World Order” that has designs on the rural west.
“The feds are out of control they are starting fights everywhere. They are power grabbing, they are groping our genitals at the airport,” Infowars radio host Alex Jones explained on a recent broadcast that is an echo chamber for such beliefs. “Globalism uses the same tactics around the world to take over a country and when it enters the final phases of a total foreign takeover, they will try to start a domestic civil war in a country … and sell the idea of a war against the American people.”
It’s a belief system that is only reinforced when federal marshals use Tasers to silence an attorney who argued that his now-acquitted client — one of the Bundy family — should be freed.
Maybe the shock of the Bundy case verdict and its aftermath isn’t in the actual decision but in the slowly dawning realization that there is a significant and historic disconnect in American political discussion.
Our election — now less than two weeks off — will do nothing to heal the rift, because the certain outcome will only be held up as a further false “proof” that elites run the world and orange-haired White guys like Donald Trump or grizzled cowboys like Cliven Bundy have no shot.
Except in an Oregon court.
Girardot is an award-winning former editor and columnist with the Los Angeles News Group. He is co-author of true crime tales "A Taste For Murder" and the soon-to-be released “Betrayal in Blue: The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal that Rocked the NYPD” Follow him on Twitter@frankgirardot.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.