by Bruce Patterson, March 2, 2016
“I’m just not going to prison. Look at the stars. There’s no way I’m sitting in a concrete cell where I can’t see the stars and roll out my bed row on the ground. . . It’s OK. I’ve lived a good life. God’s been gracious to me.”
--La Voy Finicum, armed insurgent standing guard duty, two days before he was shot dead by an anonymous State Policeman in Harney Co., Oregon.
* * *
I wasn’t going to write about LaVoy Finicum. Don’t speak ill of the dead, let sleeping dogs lie, never whistle past a graveyard and all that. I wasn’t going to write anymore about the Alamo at Bad Luck, neither, since it’d already become a nationally celebrated spectacle and every major media personality’s personal brand of Reality TV, all the storylines scripted, shallow and aimed to please. Sorry, LaVoy, but the media coverage was the real story. It was dishonest, gutless and about as deep as the puddle you made when you spat your tobacco juice into the sand. I could argue that the media coverage was disgraceful but I won’t.
Still… Imagine it’s the first Beatles tour of the USA and you’re a photo journalist filming for the Youth Market (and pitching an “Unprecedented Cultural Event”). To get at the meat of the story you’d interview as many female teenybopper Beatle Maniacs as you could get to sit still long enough for you to get a “good take.” Then you’d put the best “takes” “on the air” and away you’d go. When it comes to my man LaVoy, his mission and compadres, I’m talking that kind of mass media shallow. Except now it’s a half century later and the subject is death.
Since last January 2nd I must’ve read 50 newspaper stories and listened to or watched 100 TV newscast “bulletins” about the “Takeover in Burns” or “The Standoff at Malheur” or “Day 39; new details now becoming available” yet I won’t bore you. But the plain fact is that after all that I still don’t know a damned thing about LaVoy Finicum. The one thing I thought I knew about him, that he was an “Arizona Cattleman,” has turned out to be wrong.
Now I’ve sort of gotten used to the imitation journalism we get all the time as the one, big, never-ending “American story” we so love imagining. In a racket as whacked-out and corrupt as this one, real journalism equals political subversion, and a call for real Law and Order counts as an incitement to riot. Also, since I know my cardinal points and appreciate the meanings of place and topography, I’m used to picking up a newspaper and reading that Las Vegas is east of LA and Santa Barbara lies north. The NY Times news syndicate—New Yorkers regard people from The City the way the French regard Parisians—shouldn’t even be allowed to write about anything happening overseas, much less anything happening west of the Continental Divide. I mean, you know it’s bad when a syndicated news story has no bi-line: trinkets by assembly line instead of trinkets handmade.
Like in the opening days of the occupation/liberation of Bad Luck Marsh, one of these lazy, candy-assed Yankee tinhorns referred to the 108-year-old, 189,000 acre Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a “bird sanctuary.” The next day, out to “save words,” all across the country it’s being calling it a bird sanctuary. Well, if Malheur is that, then the Smithsonian is an Alligator Farm down outside Swampwater, Alabama (“out there beside Tickbit”). The Mona Lisa is just another painting.
It used to be in this country that all major newspapers made use of the storytellers (and journalists) called “stringers.” If ever you were interested in something happening in, say, Mountain Home, Idaho, you called there and talked to your stringer. Why? Because whatever he or she didn’t know about Mountain Home, Idaho, they’d soon find out. Stringers also knew the local power structure and personalities and they could sniff out a story’s hook. Or, if you gave him or her a hook, they’d either sink it in the target or tell you why not.
Since we’re the only allegedly advanced country on earth that has an entire nationwide political party goose-stepping under the Golden Calf titled Cheap Fossil Fuels as God’s Gift to the Free World’s Energy Future Forever—such staunch Party Discipline bring tears of envy and admiration to the ghost of Joseph Stalin—the rest of us should rue the day we forgot how to dot our i’s and cross our t’s.
As crazy as the ancient-looking old bone rack was, LaVoy reminded me of some of the old-timers I’d worked with back in olden times and so I thought I should at least google his name before forgetting about him. He’s famous now so there must be a record of who he was and some clues about why he chose to die so needlessly so far away from home. Cause of Death: making false moves.
Now when I got this new Windows computer my old one, Windows XP, was so old the young computer tech had never even laid his hands on one (he also figured I must be some kind of penny-pinching weirdo for enduring the thing). This here new contraption is so much faster I decided to try going back to doing some of my research on the internet. So long as a person doesn’t mind taking orders from a machine, and never getting a straight, simple answer to a likewise question, “search engines” ain’t so bad (“How much horsepower this thing packing, anyway?”).
So I typed in my man’s name—just his name—and, even before I’m done, a half dozen options pop up on my screen like snipers out of spider holes. One option is just his name and I click on it hoping to get some biography. I mean, how much more direct can a person get than just He, Himself and Him?
Not a chance, my machine informs me. How about some of this, that and the other thing? So after some clicking and unclicking, I found and read my man’s obituary but, come on, everybody’s a saint after you’ve plugged them, and no kind of lie is beneath the broken-hearted and the weepy.
So instead of biography I get all kinds of references to the cold-blooded and premediated FBI execution of my man LaVoy and the COVER UP and—good god—I’m an ex-GI back in Klan Kountry except now it’s FBI’s turn to hafta “play nigger.” While I saw some poetic justice in it, I’m not a poet and, by my lights, wrong is wrong. The all but indisputable fact is that my man LaVoy committed suicide by cop and, guess what? I admire him for it. Life at any cost is no life at all. By refusing to ram the roadblock, or to come out his rig with his guns blazing, LaVoy proved he’d rather die than kill people and so maybe he was a real Christian after all. No doubt he was a warrior.
The only quality article I read during the entire ordeal was written by Nigel Duara for the LA Times: “A twist on a Founding Document,” 1/25/15. I can’t remember who coined the phrase “conspiracy theorist” but, in explaining what the occupation/liberation was all about, Mr. Duara’s focus on just where these self-appointed Citizens for Constitutional Freedom (Gee, what a neat idea!) got their ideas is illuminating. You know, like the Bundy bunches’ idea to seize all federal lands out West and then sell them to the highest bidder.
“What do I hear for Yosemite Falls? Come now, people. We’re talking Upper and Lower Falls in one discounted package with easy financing available. So what do I hear for Yosemite Falls?”
Now, if the above is such a bright-assed idea, how come you’ve never heard it? Ah, just try’n imagine all the things you’ve never heard of, pilgrim. Come, open your mind. Stretch your wings. Have the courage to believe any damned thing we tell you. What are the facts but the Devil’s playthings anyway?
Mr. Duara’s article introduced me to one W. Cleon Skousen, conspiracy theorist extraordinaire. At one time I myself was vehemently anti-communist but, unlike this guy, even in Vietnam I never saw Communists lurking behind every tree. Come on, even I knew it was only paranoids and demagogues who saw Communists hiding under their beds—traitors like that red-baiting Senator McCarthy and the wackos in the KKK, the Legion of Decency and the John Birch Society. Well, check this out: this W. dude (was W. inspired by J. Edgar or was it Kafka’s “K”?) was reportedly kicked out of the John Birch Society for being too rightwing Mormon, racist and nazified.
Now, to be fair, we should remember that, before the start of WW2, Adolph Hitler was held in higher esteem than FDR by America’s White Men of Means (Hitler wasn’t taxing them). It’s also a fact that among what passes for the USA’s God and Country brigade, President Truman was seen as a traitor for having “given away” China to the Chinese. Truman then betrayed the Chinese again by keeping Cash My Check’s invisible liberation army chained up in Formosa and thereby blew to smithereens our last best chance to rid ourselves of the Red Chinese once and for all.
Yet, to real hardcore “Conservatives” like W., Truman’s greatest crimes were passing a federal anti-lynching law—another shameless and outragious federal usurpation of State’s Rights—and purging from the US military the Free World’s hale Caesar: the Most Honorable Admiral Douglass MacArthur. By firing MacArthur, Truman denied Allied Forces in Korea the military victory tens of thousands of our blue-blooded boys had earned with their lives and their blood. If that “stab in the back” wasn’t High Treason, what was?
Nowadays when these self-proclaimed True Conservative Christians like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the rest of that Party of God proclaim it is the Divine Mission of our gloriously Godly American war machine to bring “peace” to the world and “security” to ourselves, they’re tipping their hats to W. Cleon Skousen. Might say they’re eating sesame seeds out of his hand. When these True Conservatives assert that America’s revolutionary fathers wanted this to be a Christian Nation subject to Christian Laws, they’re bowing to Godfather W. When they say that under the US Constitution the federal government is forbidden to own land, they’re giving W. a standing ovation.
When General Dwight D. Eisenhower settled into the White House, he didn’t do much better than Truman in W’s eyes. Eisenhower passively “allowing” the Soviets to crush the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 struck W. as so treasonous it seems to have totally unhinged him. By now America’s so-called Christian Conservatives were routinely accusing Eisenhower of being “soft on Communism” and weak on Law and Order, but W. saw in him something far more sinister. According to W., Eisenhower was a Soviet Agent. I shit you not.
The monkeys have escaped their cage, my zookeepers. If you value your bananas, you’d best help get them back all safe and sound to where they belong. Or, if by some chance you’re tempted to vote for one of W.’s disciples, or if you’ve always yearned for a hog-jowled, failed casino operator to be your personal Moses, then google the name “W. Cleon Skousen.” No matter what your politics, it’s always wise to look before you leap.
FOOTNOTE: According to the American Lands Movement, Custer never died for our sins. It was the Indian Givens who died for their own sins.