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Shadowlands

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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 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. From the Occupation's beginnings, to the trials of the occupiers in federal court in downtown Portland and their tumultuous aftermaths, Shadowlands is the resonant, multifaceted story of one of the most dramatic flashpoints in the year that gave us Donald Trump. Sharing the expansive stage with the occupiers are 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. Gathering into its vortex the realities of social media technology, history, religion, race, and the environment-this piercing work by Anthony McCann offers us a combination of beautiful writing and high-stakes analysis of our current cultural and political moment. Shadowlands is a clarifying, exhilarating story of a nation facing an uncertain future and a murky past in a time of great collective reckoning.


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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 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. From the Occupation's beginnings, to the trials of the occupiers in federal court in downtown Portland and their tumultuous aftermaths, Shadowlands is the resonant, multifaceted story of one of the most dramatic flashpoints in the year that gave us Donald Trump. Sharing the expansive stage with the occupiers are 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. Gathering into its vortex the realities of social media technology, history, religion, race, and the environment-this piercing work by Anthony McCann offers us a combination of beautiful writing and high-stakes analysis of our current cultural and political moment. Shadowlands is a clarifying, exhilarating story of a nation facing an uncertain future and a murky past in a time of great collective reckoning.

30 review for Shadowlands

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Tugend

    Not enough I was aghast that the author first mentioned and then ignored the vicious and vile racism his subjects dIsplayed. i.e. 'if you see a Jew, run a sword through him.' This may not be an exact quote, but is an example of the book's structure and impact. These moron's come across as quasi-heros. James Tugend

  2. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    I loved McCann’s goals for what he wanted to convey. I learned much that is going to stay with me. I wish there was a different ratio of history to personal musing - more history less musing. Otherwise I would give Shadowlands a hearty endorsement.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steve Hill

    Meandering story of the Bundy cases, which amazingly resulted in zero convictions against the clan. A poet’s exploration of a myriad issues- the history, proper use, and future of public lands; a mutant strain of Mormonism where God speaks directly to his chosen ones and guides them on his reading of the US Constitution and the meaning of personal freedom; juror nullification and the randomness of the court system; the continuing injustice to Native. Americans from theft and misuse of their anci Meandering story of the Bundy cases, which amazingly resulted in zero convictions against the clan. A poet’s exploration of a myriad issues- the history, proper use, and future of public lands; a mutant strain of Mormonism where God speaks directly to his chosen ones and guides them on his reading of the US Constitution and the meaning of personal freedom; juror nullification and the randomness of the court system; the continuing injustice to Native. Americans from theft and misuse of their ancient lands; and the history and current peril of ranchers struggling to survive on the most remote and arid reaches of the American West. While there has been a lot written about the social ills of the Rust Belt that contributed to the rise of Trump, far little is known and understood of the anger and discontent of people in the rural West. This book covers that subject well, maybe better than anything yet written. It’s not easy going but strongly recommended for anyone trying to understand the politics and odd theology surrounding the public lands of the West,

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kirby

    I was so excited to read this, but, alas, I was disappointed. Good things about Shadowlands: the Bundys’ armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is a fascinating story, and this book effectively captures the complexity of the situation. The author includes a great deal of historical context and some interesting socio-political commentaries (i.e. contrasting Bundy Revolution with the Black Lives Matter movement and Standing Rock). Although the author frequently shares h I was so excited to read this, but, alas, I was disappointed. Good things about Shadowlands: the Bundys’ armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is a fascinating story, and this book effectively captures the complexity of the situation. The author includes a great deal of historical context and some interesting socio-political commentaries (i.e. contrasting Bundy Revolution with the Black Lives Matter movement and Standing Rock). Although the author frequently shares his opinions, both points of view are presented in exhaustive detail… which leads me to my issues. Shadowlands is 400 pages long, but it felt never-ending. This was meandering and redundant AF. Some of the language is beautiful, but more often, it felt superfluous. The last 100 pages in particular bugged the hell out of me. 14 sentences on a long ride in a casino elevator. Saying that a prison facility defies description, but then proceeding to describe it anyway (JUST DESCRIBE IT). In a section about touring the refuge, he writes that he was there a long time because he was writing “too much,” then proceeds to share an example by quoting a long passage about ducks from his notes that day. Ultimately, I wish that the focus had remained on the situation and less on the author’s musings. He entrenched himself so firmly in this story that the book is about him as much as it is about the Bundys. I know this is a common nonfiction device, but it didn’t work for me because I didn’t particularly care about whether he agreed with something, or liked someone, or if a point made sense to him-- and these personal reflections were constant throughout. This book has gotten some great reviews so perhaps I’m an impatient reader. But if this had been tighter and more focused, it would have been much more compelling for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I read this after listening to Season 1 of Oregon Public Radio's podcast "Bundyville", which provides background into the economic and religious argument behind the Bundys' standoff with the FBI in Nevada and Oregon. McCann's book picks up these threads, expanding out the socio-economic and political arguments behind these standoffs. Like McCann, I was surprised at how some of their legal arguments either made sense to me or aligned with what our Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson, I read this after listening to Season 1 of Oregon Public Radio's podcast "Bundyville", which provides background into the economic and religious argument behind the Bundys' standoff with the FBI in Nevada and Oregon. McCann's book picks up these threads, expanding out the socio-economic and political arguments behind these standoffs. Like McCann, I was surprised at how some of their legal arguments either made sense to me or aligned with what our Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson, intended. The book also takes great care to explain the point of view of the Burns-Paite Tribe towards the occupation in Oregon, which was sorely lacking from the podcast. So, yes, the book filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge about this region, the Bundys, and their self-assigned mission. What I didn't like was McCann's insertion of himself into the story. He views this event, which occurred prior to the election of Donald Trump, as the canary in the coal mine, and the third and final part is dedicated to exploring that idea. There are so many books out there now attempting to tie the disenfranchisement of white men to our current political climate that McCann's book felt both unnecessary and poorly argued, in comparison. Hence the rating of 4 stars.

  6. 4 out of 5

    TR Gannon

    Wow, I can’t tell if the writer is trying to tell a story or impress is friends with his self indulgent prose. Once I read the term “providential certitude”, it was time to shut it down. The story itself could be quite interesting, but the writer spends a paragraph describing what happened, and then two more on some tangent to take you completely off track. Once I realized I could stand the writer, I had no desire to follow him through the rest of the story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bill Feldman

    What I loved about this book was that it payed out the myths behind the ‘militia’ Ideology and how absurd their arguments really are. It did it, as strange as it may sound, in a respectful way. It did not disrespect individuals but it did challenge their ideas. You know this is true not just from reading but from the acceptance that the ‘Ammonites’ and their opponents showed the author. I learned a lot!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Duncan McCurdie

    I really like it at first and then it became more and more about the author's thoughts and reactions to the unfolding action and its consequences. That may have been ok or even interesting if I knew who the author was or he had insightful or expert critiques of the actions but sadly no. I decided to give up when there was lengthy descriptions of youtube videos that are still up on youtube. Not recommended even for people interested in contemporary political/social discourse.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Charles Bookman

    Where is the line between protest and conspiracy? A poet tells the story of the Bundy family’s “American revolution” in Nevada and on the Malheur Refuge in eastern Oregon. This important and timely book about the changing relationship between the individual and the government deserves to be read and discussed widely. Read more at bookmanreader.blogspot.com .

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brian Muldoon

    Unlike many I found it difficult to sympathize with the protagonists. I have seen encroaching development on all sides of National lands and thank God someone does not permit sewer and water extensions. Leasing public lands without citizen approval is wrong. This would not occur under Sanders.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    I liked this better than Pogue's book, although there were some "wanderings" away from the story that I felt were distracting.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Josie

    I got some of what I was hoping for from this book and a lot of what I really didn't. Didn't finish.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  15. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Tolbert

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  18. 4 out of 5

    Markallen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lukas Evan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bloomsbury Publishing

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Ooten

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tigh

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tod

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Sowle

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gerry Keirnan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peg Willis

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sloan

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