McCann presents an in-depth investigation into the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed right-wing protesters determined to wrest control of the land from the government. 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.
...a strikingly empathetic nonfiction narrative by the poet Anthony McCann. The book is that rare beast these days — a chronicle of and a meditation on an intensely politicized affair that delves beneath merely partisan concerns to touch its subject’s absurd and tragic heart. As such, it’s a work of almost foolish courage, given the overwhelming rancor of our current social moment — not because it refuses to takes sides, but because the book sides with the people as a whole, with us, the puny, errant, bedeviled playthings of the all-American colossus ... McCann is unsparing in his critique, in his mockery even, of Bundy’s rhetoric, but he also regards him as a figure of considerable charisma — a sort of leathery Bill Clinton or militant Will Rogers ... McCann is too literate and too farseeing to lay the blame...on any one party or ideology, but toward the end of his agonized narrative, after blood has been spilled in a temporary catharsis, he offers a bitter elegy for Ammon and Cliven’s desert uprising, as ridiculous, shameful and selfish as it was. Their nemesis, in McCann’s final analysis, was not the federal government at all, but the financial forces that have leveled small-scale American agriculture in general.
Shadowlands,...offers fascinating insights and poses interesting questions ... McCann conducted extensive interviews with locals, area American Indians and, of course, Bundyites; each offered perspectives on the occupation. In fact, McCann interviewed everyone except federal law enforcement ... McCann seems to believe there is some merit to the Patriot movement, that the state has too much power. He also asks what constitutes a proper protest. Is it OK to block traffic and create chaos in a city, as the Black Lives Matter movement has? If yes — and McCann seems to think so — is that different from what the Bundyites did? Not giving the government an opportunity to respond makes the book appear unbalanced. McCann’s theses are further undercut by statements that make him look as out of touch as the Sovereign Citizens ... You may not agree with everything McCann says — and there were times he really ticked me off — but he does offer a valuable glimpse at a group of often overlooked people contributing to the great divide in American life.
Poet McCann...makes a momentous nonfiction debut ... The core subject is nothing less than the nature of American identity and the concept of freedom. Admirably, McCann’s ethos is not that of a neutral bystander but of a truth seeker. He thinks through viewpoints with depth and empathy, but he also takes stands and calls out the problematic ... Contradictions, hypocrisies, and sanitized history were at the forefront of a standoff that cost at least one man his life. This heavily researched and thoughtful book, written with detail and care, asks big questions of readers and the country