When Rand Paul is the most prominent voice for peace on a polarizing issue, you know something strange is happening to America.

Who would have expected a political furor to erupt around a single Nevada rancher? But Cliven Bundy is exactly the sort of weird person that today’s ideological camps struggle to understand. To vocal conservatives, he’s a folk hero, a model of civil disobedience. To Sen. Harry Reid, on the other hand, his supporters are “nothing more than domestic terrorists.”

Meanwhile, Larry Sheets, an Iowa state representative, is drawing headlines for aspeech on the floor of the statehouse that makes Reid seem prescient: “The government must be careful not to appear to be out of control and must follow the law,” he intoned, “or there will be violence like in the case of the Oklahoma City horror.”

Cliven Bundy isn’t the only one spoiling for a fight. And he’s not the only one with an increasingly apocalyptic sense of the confrontation between government and citizen.

So the task falls to Sen. Paul to insist on Fox News, in the face of skepticism from his interview host, that we should de-escalate the controversy surrounding Bundy’s legal relationship with the federal Bureau of Land Management.

In one sense, Bundy’s 15 minutes of fame is more or less as apt to pass as everyone else’s. In another, however, we’re only just getting started with the issues he’s raised. Americans are so confused and passionate about their relationship with the government that we’re drawn to the Bundy story like moths to a flame.

We Americans can’t stand the thought that Bundy is neither a hero nor a villain. At National Review, the point had to be made by one lonely Englishman. Taking the quaint position that “Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes,” Charles C. W. Cooke cautions that, however romantic Bundy’s stand may seem, irate conservatives should remember their “government of laws and not of men.”

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