In 2016, a group of armed, divinely inspired right-wing protestors led by Ammon Bundy occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the high desert of eastern Oregon. Encamped in the shadowlands of the republic, insisting that the Federal government had no right to own public land, the occupiers were seen by a divided country as either dangerous extremists dressed up as cowboys, or as heroes insisting on restoring the rule of the Constitution. To explore the occupation’s beginnings and aftermath and give us a portrait of the occupiers’ federal trials poet Anthony McCann joins us with insight from his book Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff—the resonant, multifaceted story of one of the most dramatic flashpoints in the year that gave us Donald Trump.
McCann expands the scope of our understanding of this fraught time in Oregon’s history, and offers a high-stakes analysis of how it has affected our current cultural and political moment. He demonstrates how the occupiers shared the stage with a host of others—Native American tribal leaders, public-lands ranchers, militia members, environmentalists, federal defense attorneys, and Black Lives Matter activists—each contending in their different ways with the meaning of the American promise of Liberty. Join Anthony McCann for a clarifying and exhilarating story of a nation facing an uncertain future and a murky past in a time of great collective reckoning.
Anthony McCann is the author of the poetry collections Thing Music, I Heart Your Fate, and Moongarden. He currently teaches creative writing at the California Institute of the Arts and in the Low-Residency MFA program of the University of California, Riverside.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.