He brought his rifle up at the sound of footsteps crunching the Oregon snow. “Who goes there? Stop and be recognized.”
A weary voice answered out of the darkness. “It’s me, Sam. It’s Bud.”
“Give me the password.”
“Come on, Sam. Stop foolin’ around.”
“The password,” Sam insisted.
Bud sighed. “’Patriots act.’ Are you happy now?”
Sam lowered the weapon as Bud stepped out of the trees into the meager circle of moonlight. “Can’t be too careful,” he said. He cupped his hands and blew into them. It was cold out here. “So where you been?” he asked.
“Down to the front gate.”
Sam grinned. “Bet you it’s a zoo, bunch of satellite trucks and media elites standing around. Who all’s down there? CNN? NBC? CBS? Sure hope Fox sends that Megyn Kelly. That babe can interview me anytime.”
Bud shook his head. “Ain’t much media down there at all.”
“Oh. Cops are keepin’ em back, huh?”
“Hardly any cops, neither.”
Sam had been stamping his feet trying to bring back circulation. Now he paused, looking over at Bud in shock. “No cops?”
“Not so’s you’d notice.”
“Do they know we took over a federal facility?”
“I mean, it’s only a wildlife refuge in the boonies, but it’s still federal property, ain’t it?”
“So that’s treason or somethin’, right?”
“Do they know Cliven Bundy’s sons are out here with us? Do they know we’re supporting local ranchers against federal tyranny?”
“Do they know we’re armed? Do they know we’re ready to shoot it out? Do they know we’re ready to die – and to take some of them with us?”
“Yup, yup and yup.”
“And they’re still ignoring us?”
“Appears that way.”
“H–l,” said Sam. Cold smoke drifted from his mouth. He couldn’t feel his fingers. “H–l,” he said again. “That ain’t fair.”
“How do you mean?” Bud stood hunched over, his hands pinned in his armpits.
“You think if a bunch of d–n Muslims had took this place over, the cops and the media would be diddling around like this? You wouldn’t be able to think for the helicopters buzzing overhead. You’d be blinded by the TV lights. They’d send Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Lester Holt. H–l, even if we was just black, they’d at least send Geraldo Rivera. But a bunch of white men? Nothin’.”
“I’m not so sure,” said Bud thoughtfully, “I mean, the media did turn out when ol’ Clive made his stand a couple years ago. He had plenty attention.”
“He did, but did you notice how they treated him? They acted like he was just an old kook like your crazy uncle Bubba. He’s out there with a bunch of armed men refusing to recognize federal authority, but they acted like he was … harmless.”
Bud nodded. “I see your point,” he said.
“I’m tired of bein’ treated like I’m harmless just ‘cause I’m white. White men ain’t harmless. Did you hear about that biker gang shootout in Waco last May? Nine people dead, twice that many wounded, almost 180 arrests. That sound harmless to you?”
Bud shook his head. “I must have missed that,” he said.
“See, that’s my point. If 180 Mexican illegals had shot it out, you think you wouldn’t know about it? H–l, it would have been the top news story of the year! The blacks, the Muslims, the Mexicans, they get all the attention they want even when they’re not doin’ nothin’, but guys who look like you and me, we get bupkes. What do we need, bikini girls? For criminy sake, we’re committing armed insurrection against the federal government! Ain’t that enough?”
Sam went back to stamping his feet. He found himself wondering idly about the symptoms of hypothermia. “A white man just can’t catch a break,” he muttered.
Leonard Pitts Jr.’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.