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American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West

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American Zion is the story of the Bundy family, famous for their armed conflicts in the West. With an antagonism that goes back to the very first Mormons who fled the Midwest for the Great Basin, they hold a sense of entitlement that confronts both law and democracy. Today their cowboy confrontations threaten public lands, wild species, and American heritage.


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American Zion is the story of the Bundy family, famous for their armed conflicts in the West. With an antagonism that goes back to the very first Mormons who fled the Midwest for the Great Basin, they hold a sense of entitlement that confronts both law and democracy. Today their cowboy confrontations threaten public lands, wild species, and American heritage.

48 review for American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wayne

    "...our public lands are among the best things about being an American. And they are worth fighting for - with zeal and grit. Against the Bundys, right-wing politicians, the fossil fuel industry, climate [change] deniers, those who want to privatize, and militias. Our land has never faced so many threats, and we need to battle together more than ever to save it (p. 298-299). In April 2014, in an attempt to round up Cliven Bundy's illegally grazing cattle, there was an armed standoff between feder "...our public lands are among the best things about being an American. And they are worth fighting for - with zeal and grit. Against the Bundys, right-wing politicians, the fossil fuel industry, climate [change] deniers, those who want to privatize, and militias. Our land has never faced so many threats, and we need to battle together more than ever to save it (p. 298-299). In April 2014, in an attempt to round up Cliven Bundy's illegally grazing cattle, there was an armed standoff between federal agents and Bundy followers, including many militia members. The standoff ended when the feds backed down to avoid bloodshed. About a year and a half later, Cliven Bundy's sons, Ammon and Ryan, took armed control of the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. This book is an important addition to understanding the fight for public lands in the western United States. Much of the book sets the stage to understand Mormonism's influence on this fight. The book gives a fairly complete history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from its founding by Joseph Smith, the progressive migrations westward to escape persecution, the murder of Smith, and then the migration to Utah with Brigham Young in charge of the church in 1847. Utah was seen as "Zion" a homeland for the Mormons to escape persecution in the United States. In 1848, however, the United States caught up with them when the land they lived in became part of the United States after the Mexican-American War. The anti-government sentiments were spawned by this conflict between the US federal government that continue to this day. This book goes a long way to explaining the conflict inherent between Mormonism and the federal government over public lands. In a nut shell, Mormons feel that much of the West belonged to "Zion" their place of refuge from the government and Gentiles (their name for non-Mormons). In a real sense, it was God's kingdom on Earth. The US Constitution was seen as divinely inspired, written by God, which is why Constitution booklets are seen in the pockets of the Bundys and their followers. But their view of the Constitution, influenced by an alleged apocryphal prophecy by Joseph Smith (The White Horse Prophecy) that states that the LDS will fight to restore the Constitution to America. These ideas of conflict and a misinterpretation of the Constitution made its way into the Sagebrush Rebellion and the militia movement. Quammen writes that "Bundy's dismissal of environmental laws, his misinterpretation of the Constitution, and his take on entitlement are all very popular in some western, libertarian circles. It's not hate that attracts most of Bundy's followers, it's the sense of power that these ideas give those who feel powerless." (p.262). Along with that, many Westerners have adopted the viewpoint that government overreach and environmental regulations (views shared by the current Administration) have diminished opportunity in the West rather than "shifting economies, tapped-out resources, and habitat destruction" (p. 294). Quammen gives a balanced account of the "Battle of Bunkerville" and the Malhuer occupation. It also gives an account of the aftermath with the trials, the missteps by the federal prosecutors, and who served or continues to serve jail time. While I have followed this in the newspapers, it was nice to have it compiled in a single source. One aspect of the book that I found personally uncomfortable was the emphasis on the original owners of the land - the Indigenous tribes. For all my concern over public lands issues, this is one aspect that I neglect. I don't have any answers for it, but I do think that an approach that was to take place with Bears Ears National Monument of co-management with a coalition of tribes, was a step in the right direction. Sadly, this has been put on hold with the reduction of the monument by the Trump Administration. What are some solutions of this conflict? Quammen lists five things that should be considered: 1.recognizing that preservation of our public lands need to consider landscape conservation; 2. recognizing that public lands hold watersheds and crucial habitat; 3. Recognizing that less than 2 percent of all cattle raised in the US are raised on public lands; 4. Recognizing that protected lands mean income; and 5. Recognizing most Americans value public lands and want to keep them healthy (p. 290-291). I think that this book, along with the original Bundyville podcasts by Oregon Public Broadcasting, goes a long way to explaining the cowboy mythos of the rancher in the western US and how mainstream and obscure Mormon beliefs have affected it. And how they threaten public lands owned by all Americans. HIGHLY recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    I agree with the author on the thesis of the book. In other words I have the same bias as the author and I believe it is the correct perspective. I'm just not so sure such a biased accounting makes for a great book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ramona Mead

    This is a truly epic read. It covers everything you could possibly want to know about the Bundy family and their battle against the federal government over public lands. Starting with Jospeh Smith and going all the way up to the Trump administration, the author weaves together threads that seem random but definitely aren't. The first few chapters and the last few were most compelling for me, by the end I could hardly put it down. The middle of the book is pretty dense. I think it's partly the fo This is a truly epic read. It covers everything you could possibly want to know about the Bundy family and their battle against the federal government over public lands. Starting with Jospeh Smith and going all the way up to the Trump administration, the author weaves together threads that seem random but definitely aren't. The first few chapters and the last few were most compelling for me, by the end I could hardly put it down. The middle of the book is pretty dense. I think it's partly the formatting of the book (relatively small pages with a ton of small text packed in) as well as all the facts that are crammed into this book. It's all relevant and connected, but there are so many historical figures and dates, that I'd get lost occasionally. Though I wasn't surprised by that, and it's part of what makes the story so fascinating, it's just a lot of information. For such dense material, Gaines Quammen's writing is sharp and she creates a narrative that flows well. Her opinions and experiences scattered throughout the book keep the story real, and remind us how recent these events are. I highly recommend American Zion for non-fiction readers, particularly those interested in the history of the west, and religion. It's also a compelling read for conservationists, and lovers/users of public lands.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Turoczy Hart

    I seldom read non-fiction books for pleasure or at all any more but this one was a must-read for me. It explains in ways I have been unable to, the intermountain west feelings about Public Land. It inspires me to continue fighting for the National Wildlife Refuge system and the lands of beauty and wonder that make our country what it is.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This excellent book teases apart the roots of American mythos, Mormon history, and the convoluted relationship people have with public lands in the United States. Betsy Gaines Quammen takes a subject that might seem from afar to be vast and sprawling and elegantly traces its evolution in language that is sharp, elegant and empathetic. Her nuanced but unflinching take on what could easily be a two-dimensional conversation takes the reader down a path that demands their attention and engagement. A This excellent book teases apart the roots of American mythos, Mormon history, and the convoluted relationship people have with public lands in the United States. Betsy Gaines Quammen takes a subject that might seem from afar to be vast and sprawling and elegantly traces its evolution in language that is sharp, elegant and empathetic. Her nuanced but unflinching take on what could easily be a two-dimensional conversation takes the reader down a path that demands their attention and engagement. A poetic and passionate (but deeply researched and data-driven) account of why we cannot turn away from the issues of public lands if we care at all about sustaining this nation and its many creatures, humans absolutely included.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Lewis

    A map of the American West is a Rorschach test - people see what they want to see as reflections of who they are. So begins Quammen's introduction to what ultimately is her forum to scorn people who don't see the American West the way she does. She claims that she took on this project so that we could better understand Cliven Bundy and his reasons for militantly occupying public land. There is some good information here, but you have to weed through the author's biases to get to it. Most of us th A map of the American West is a Rorschach test - people see what they want to see as reflections of who they are. So begins Quammen's introduction to what ultimately is her forum to scorn people who don't see the American West the way she does. She claims that she took on this project so that we could better understand Cliven Bundy and his reasons for militantly occupying public land. There is some good information here, but you have to weed through the author's biases to get to it. Most of us think we do things for the right reasons - whatever "right" means to each of us. Whether my "right" is the same as yours doesn't matter. We all make poor decisions believing we're doing the right thing. I'm not saying I agree with Bundy's extremist views. I'm just saying that it's clear from the beginning that Quammen thinks she's right and Bundy is wrong.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Quimby

    American Zion was a tweener for me. It offers good survey-level coverage of Mormon history and Cliven Bundy's emergence as figurehead of rancher resistance against the federal government. If your appetite for the subject is limited, American Zion will give you an engaging overview, especially of how the Latter Day Saints developed as a uniquely American faith/cult/enterprise/political power in the Great Basin and intermountain west. But if you have already read a fair amount about right-wing sepa American Zion was a tweener for me. It offers good survey-level coverage of Mormon history and Cliven Bundy's emergence as figurehead of rancher resistance against the federal government. If your appetite for the subject is limited, American Zion will give you an engaging overview, especially of how the Latter Day Saints developed as a uniquely American faith/cult/enterprise/political power in the Great Basin and intermountain west. But if you have already read a fair amount about right-wing separatists, appropriation of public lands, and Mormonism's peculiar brand of socio-capitalism, American Zion may leave you wishing it had devoted more pages to new material about Bundy and fewer to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Coy

    This is an engaging and, at times, funny read. Its synopsis of the founding of the Mormon church and the migration west is refreshingly evenhanded - this is not a "faith promoting" history, which I appreciate. The book could use better temporal organization in the second half, as she tends to skip around the timeline, making the story confusing to follow. Also, this is not an unbiased account of the Bundys, and inflammatory language like "crackpot" actually undermines Quammen's authority as a re This is an engaging and, at times, funny read. Its synopsis of the founding of the Mormon church and the migration west is refreshingly evenhanded - this is not a "faith promoting" history, which I appreciate. The book could use better temporal organization in the second half, as she tends to skip around the timeline, making the story confusing to follow. Also, this is not an unbiased account of the Bundys, and inflammatory language like "crackpot" actually undermines Quammen's authority as a reliable narrator. However, she shares my bias, and she put this whole mess into a context that I now understand.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jaren

  11. 5 out of 5

    Linda Gabel

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meg

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jake Losinski

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kirk Astroth

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liz Bagley

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael J.

  21. 4 out of 5

    George

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chad

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter Pierson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Torrey House Press

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marc Robins

  28. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  31. 5 out of 5

    Eric Sinner

  32. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  33. 4 out of 5

    Nichole

  34. 4 out of 5

    Annie Lee Phillips

  35. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  36. 5 out of 5

    Kylie

  37. 5 out of 5

    Laura Lampkin

  38. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  39. 4 out of 5

    Bryce Powell

  40. 5 out of 5

    Dean Mitchell

  41. 5 out of 5

    Tara Catogge

  42. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  43. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  44. 5 out of 5

    Ragan

  45. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

  46. 4 out of 5

    K

  47. 4 out of 5

    Oz

  48. 4 out of 5

    Max

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