Only by Blood and Suffering?

“What will happen when the Big Machine is missing pieces? Orders won’t get processed at the Walmart distribution center. The 18-wheelers won’t make deliveries to [grocery] stores. Gas stations will run out of fuel. Some policemen and firemen won’t show up for work, having decided that protecting their own families is their top priority. Power lines will get knocked down in windstorms, and there will be nobody to repair them. Crops will rot in the fields and orchards because there will be nobody to pick them, or transport them, or magically bake them into Pop-Tarts, or stock them on your supermarket shelf. The Big Machine will be broken. Does this sound scary? Sure it does, and it should. The implications are huge.”

James Rawles



Remember LaVoy Finicum? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t, most people have forgotten about him by now given that it’s been over a year since he died, so it’s an understatement to say that he’s been absent from the news cycle, despite his historic role during the Statist Turf War of 2016 as a member of Citizens for Constitutional Freedom (C4CF), perhaps most infamously as the #TarpMan. Apparently, Finicum wrote a novel so he could earn passive income in order to finance his legal contentions with the Bureau of Land Management, who had already fined him $1,458 before eventually tacking on an additional $5,000.

In many ways, Finicum’s fiction reminds me of James Rawles’ Patriots novel, in that both of them dealt with TEOTWAWKI doom porn scenarios. Unfortunately, it’s almost as if Finicum wrote two different novellas and then squished them together in order to have a single novel; the first half focused on the Bonham siblings (Cat, Dan, HayLee-H, and KayLee-K) bugging out from the cities and getting to the retreat stronghold of their family ranch, whereas the second half was all about how their father, Jake, virtually defeated single-handedly the swarms of government forces during the Long Valley War. By the time Jake is laying waste to public servants attempting to overrun his ranch, the character development invested in the four siblings appears to have been, well, forgotten.

That being said, I did like how in the first half, Finicum spoke in the first person for Cat and Dan, but then shifted to third person for the twins HayLee and KayLee; by the time Jake becomes the main focus, Finicum’s narrative voice goes back to first person. Shifting the perspective between the family members was awfully cool, and it gave the novel a feeling as if the Bonhams were an ensemble cast like the Brothers & Sisters television series, yet that was completely lost by the time Jake became a cowboy Rambo. I hoped during the first half that Finicum’s novel would surpass Rawles’ Patriots (because I had grown really tired of the third-person narrative), but in the end, Rawles’ story actually bothered with describing day-to-day life at the Northwest Militia’s refuge, which was completely missing at the Bonham’s ranch.

Right from the beginning, there are some presumptions being made that I’d like to question. Cat said:


“The psychological barrier of law and order had completely evaporated in south Albuquerque. The gangs that were already strong in the city had free rein, while many of the youth bands preyed upon the weak and defenseless. The adrenalin of anarchy rose up in them. The appetite of animal instinct was whetted to an insatiable level and all those who fell into their hands suffered horribly.” [emphasis added]


Last time I checked, the etymology of “anarchy” means without rulers; not exactly a stellar way to kick off a SHTF survival story in terms of accuracy. Cat remarks later that:


“One of the few things that the federal government had the right and responsibility to do was to protect this land. Democrats and Republicans both had their share of treasonous representatives. As a whole, the Republican party continue to alienate their conservative base. Freedom loving people put their trust in them because the leadership sounded good when they spoke, making promises and pledges, pledges of loyalty to the ideas of a responsible and limited government. They were hollow pledges and gave only token lip service to the Constitution. Almost no politician considered the Constitution to be the supreme law of the land anymore. They each placed their hand on the Bible and swore an oath to protect and defend it. Once in office they would promptly dishonor that oath. Moreover, the size and scope of the government continued to increase, abetted by their lack of integrity to the promises.”


Wouldn’t this be an indictment against political crusading? If so, then why does the patriot movement continue to support the Donald who just last month signed a bill into law that allocated subsides to both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the token attempt to “encourage” women to take up engineering “careers”? Are such allocations by Congress, such as these subsidies, truly constitutional? I mention this because throughout Finicum’s novel, the Bonhams absolutely detest welfare bums and consumerist drones alike because both of them are irresponsible spendthrifts. Cat also says:


“On a high ridge there was some tall, thick brush which I worked myself into. It had a good view of the land around me while concealing me from others. Not undressing or building a fire, I wrapped myself in a bedroll and sat down. Looking through the tangled brush, I could see the freeway in the distance below me. No cars were running and there were strings of people walking; walking west away from Albuquerque. Bringing my rifle to my shoulder I looked at them through the scope. I could make out men, women and children. All walking, some carrying bundles, others carrying babes. How would they make it? Where would they go? Who could help? It would not be FEMA, or Homeland Security, it would not be any government agency. They had long promised that if everyone did their fair share that all would have security, all would have a home, all would have a job, and all would have health care. Liars. All of them.”


Agreed, but then if true, what’s with the constitutionalists humping the Trump? Bad enough some of them have already denied the property rights of flag burners by way of physical violence while also violating Title 4 flag code, but now they’re spitting on Finicum’s grave as they wipe their asses with pocket Constitutions. You see, this is what happens when one betrays their own principles by bending with the winds of political expediency; they became controlled schizophrenics.

My favorite Bonham sibling was Dan, because despite Cat going through a noticeably harder bug out (initially alone), I thought Dan’s bug out with his family was much more realistic and less reliant upon coincidence, as Cat’s was. While en route to the ranch, Dan recalled that:


“A phone call from Dad was no small thing because he had no phone – no cordless phone, no cell phone, no smart phone, tablet or any electronics period. How could anyone live in today’s world without electronics? Not only did Dad live without electronics, he lived without electricity. He had made the calls from an archaic payphone in front of the small motel in the little town of Orderville, Utah. He would make the call on his weekly trips into town from the ranch when he would pickup groceries and his mail.” [emphasis added]


Doesn’t this sound like import-export with the servile society to you all? I’d also say that Jake was very wise in choosing to abstain from using cellular telephony given its vulnerabilities, yet not everybody is in a position to do that consistently (I guess off-grid homesteading does have its advantages). Dan remembers that:


“One of Dad’s contentions had been that, as bad as radical Islam and the caliphate were, they were not the major external threat to our country. They were useful puppets of Russia and China, but the caliphate did not have the nuclear arsenal and war machine of the super powers. ‘Communism, fascism, socialism and radical Islam cannot peacefully co-exist with freedom,’ he would say. ‘The economic principles of communism, fascism and socialism are false and cannot sustain themselves. The state run capitalism of Russia and China is nothing more than a reshuffling of the old communist leaders who traded military uniforms for business suits.’ ”


At the risk of sounding “meta,” I’m gonna take a leap here and guess that Finicum disagreed with fellow C4CF member Jon Ritzheimer as to the notorious hoax known as the Global War on Terror in being used as a thinly veiled excuse to tyrannize Americans, whether Muslim or otherwise. If anything, Finicum’s Jake character sounds closer to Alex Ansary than to Ritzheimer’s frothing tirades demonizing “radical” Islamists. Dan also points out that:


“As a Boy Scout, I had hiked from rim to rim, crossing the river at Phantom Ranch. Boy Scout. I laughed in disgust. I used to take pride in the Eagle Badge I had earned. Now I wouldn’t want anyone to know that I had been a Scout. The Boy Scout organization had violated their own Scout oath; their oath to be morally straight. Where in our Nation’s landscape could one find a people, a group, or an organization that stood by unchanging principles? If half of the troubles that Dad said were coming to this land actually came, only those who had unshakable principles would be left standing in the end.” [emphasis added]


Although this topic would easily be an article in and of itself, I’ll just say here in transitory passing that much like the fictional Dan, I myself try not to mention my own background with the BSA for arguably similar reasons whenever I can avoid it, unless it’s relevant to a subject (like “oath-keeping”) and there’s no other way to get around it. Personally, I think the BSA bureaucrats have systematically violated the Scout Oath by refusing to be mentally awake, because they promote unquestioning obedience to the federal government while hypocritically asserting that the height of patriotism is constitutionalism.

Jake’s statements and thoughts were so filled with nostalgia it was suffocating, but it did paint an exquisite mise-en-scéne of a rural desert landscape. At one point, Jake muses:


“Sitting our horses atop the rim with the morning sun in our faces, I looked over my little valley. I was bound to this place. It was my heritage, it was the land of my forefathers, it was my home. Without the right and control of property there was no freedom. Here I would live free or die. I would not be the first in my family to die in a last stand for freedom. I thought of the Bonhams who had fought for the liberation of Texas and the one who had died at the Alamo. This was our Alamo; this was our ‘line in the sand.’ We would soon be surrounded by those who hated us with no backdoor for our escape. My prayer was that our success would be better than the Alamo’s. At four-to-one, our odds were better than what they had, so I had hope.” [emphasis added]


So, here again is the rhetoric of dying for this, and dying for that; just, dying, dying, dying constantly (whatever happened to living freedom?). Despite his outright denial to MSNBC correspondent Tony Dokoupil, I sincerely think that Finicum had a death wish, and this can be testified by his own statements regarding “draw[ing] a hard line” back in May of 2014, which were made less than two months after the Cattle Unrustling during the Bundy Affair (that being said, I appreciate the mention of the 1835 Texas Revolution, who like the American revolutionaries, also had their own Committees of Safety, such as the one in Mina, which is now modern-day Bastrop). According to Jake:


“This once was the land of the free. A man used to be sovereign in his own home and his property was his own. Just because the majority of you here need food, it gives you no right to take my cows, Bill’s farm, or Jack’s orchard. I do not care what the federal statute says or what your town council resolutions are, my cows are my cows. It is not right that a man should steal from another, nor is it right for a group of men to vote for a government agency to do their stealing for them. If a man needs help he can ask for help. And when we freely help each other we become good neighbors. Once you take a man’s choice from him, you take his freedom and our freedom is more precious than our lives.”


Naturally, Jake says this during his grandiose upstaging of the local government tyrants, both of whom he bumps off later; of course, Finicum himself said something arguably similar five months before he died (as side note, this scene that kicks off the second half of the novel eerily mimics the scene from Rawles’ Patriots where Todd Gray squares off against the heartless bureaucrat Mr. Clarke who literally tries to impose “law and order” by way of a mandatory National ID card and gun confiscation). Elsewhere, Jake states:


“If a man cannot own and control his property, he does not have freedom. Just because you need it, you have no right to take it, even if a majority agrees with you. Generations ago people in this country took care of one another without the government in the middle. When the big flood came through here in my grandfather’s day, when homes and crops were wiped out, they all pulled together. They did it willingly and freely. They were not forced or threatened by a government. It drew us together as friends and neighbors.”


It’s a recurrent theme throughout the novel that Jake despises welfare statism, but of course, there’s virtually no criticism of the warfare state, aside from finger-pointing the head DHS agent as a tool of the Fabian Society as if he were the devil incarnate (what else can I say? – conspiricism is most appropriate for fiction). Without revealing too much about the ending or any other spoilers, I’ll just say that I thought Finicum ended the novel way too abruptly, and I felt that the ultimate fate of the Bonham siblings were left hanging in the balance, almost as if he just got tired of writing the damn thing and he simply wanted to be done with it.

LaVoy Finicum’s Only By Blood and Suffering: Regaining Lost Freedom is a less than stellar mishmash of survival manual, nostalgic reminiscing, and warrior fantasy. As Finicum himself said about the novel four months before he died:


“I’ve written what I believe what we’re going to be facing as a nation, and as individuals. It highlights the natural rights of man versus the collective; it is a great book to teach these principles at an emotional level (at the family level). I believe that it is a great tool to help teach your family; it pulls at the heartstrings. It’s difficult to read in that it emotionally gets to ya, at least it does to me; I’ve reread it a couple of times, and it still gets to me even though I wrote the book.”


Sounds an awful lot like he had read We the Living, huh? To be fair, though, I thought that other literary reviews of Finicum’s novel didn’t even try to give him the benefit of the doubt, or bother mentioning the good aspects of his creative work. All in all, I much prefer Bill Neville from Net Assets and Nat Lyons from Hardyville over Jake Bonham in terms of a “libertarian patriarch,” for lack of a better phrase.

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