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A few hours before deadline I changed this column. For anyone interested, I have also written what I think is a very beautiful column about the caucuses on the 9th, and how exciting it is to engage in neighborhood conversations. Feel free to email me for it.
Instead, I’ve chosen to address a current events story. The News Tribune watered down its version. They omitted this: in Europe, grandmothers destroy genetically modified crops in full daylight. In the U.S., due to such things as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, people do it at nighttime and get no less than thirty years in prison.
I will try to summarize genetic-modification in general, as well as what happened at the UW arson in 2001. Here is a crash course. Hybrid plants are seen as traditional whereas genetically modified plants are considered new-fangled and untested in real ecosystems. Why care? Ecosystems support life on earth. UW dabbled in genetically-modified trees. What happened? A group of people carefully watched the building to learn when no one would be there, and then set fire to the lab.
It was a desperately flawed tactic; no grandmas were involved. Instead of encouraged to ask tough questions about other tree experiments (say at the WSU extension or at the end of Pioneer), the general public just got angry, for understandable reasons. Instead of worrying about mutant trees in our native forests, attention turned towards who had committed the arson.
The two people who were prosecuted “have named as many names as they can in order to reduce their own extremely harsh prison sentences.” One of the people they named is a mother now on trial in Tacoma, who faces a thirty-year minimum sentence if convicted.
The important point is not if she is guilty, or even what exactly the UW was up to. A sentence of thirty years is well beyond what many rapists and murderers serve.
In the U.S., we can thank the Patriot Act, Section 802, which says that a ‘terrorist’ is anyone who tries to coerce the civilian population or the government. If you’re like me, you’ll do a double take. Basically, that means all of us.
Here are some things I’ve done this week that could make me a ‘terrorist’: four letters to Congress and an email to Calvin, the caucus, two community garden meetings, the two columns, and all general phone calls and email.
CALENDAR: 2/23 two choices for restoration workparties, Surprise Lake (Edgewood) and Braget Marsh (Nisqually), 2/25 Sustainable Tacoma-Pierce meeting, “Living in Community”, 2/26 Environmental Health meeting, Graham, 3/8 L’Arche fundraiser auction.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR March 6, 2008 "Herald Guest columnist erred when she rationalized terrorist act, reader says."
The guest column (Feb. 21) by Kelda Miller rationalized the terrorist act perpetrated by a woman on trial in Tacoma. Ms. Miller downplays the seriousness of this crime by equating the destruction of GMO crops in Europe with the firebombing of a UW building.
You cannot equivocate a crime based on the criminal's religion, politics, or in this case radical environmental ideas. This was a planned violent and destructive act done to intimidate and push a radical ideology. A terrorist act is a terrorist act regardless of its origin or its ideology. Domestic terrorist groups like ELF, ALF and the anarchists have one common goal--destroy America, a goal no different from al-Qaida.
While Ms.Miller is abhorred by the possibility of a 30-year sentence for this woman, I wonder why only 30 years for such a terrorist? A convicted terrorist should spend life in prison without parole.
If not caught, this group was planning to firebomb grocery stores with the risk of killing people, but according to Ms.Miller's logic it's OK because it's in defense of mother Gaia.
I believe Ms.Miller's column would have been much different if ELF had decided to firebomb newspaper offices such as The Herald, disrupting her livelihood, because after all, hundreds of millions of innocent trees are slaughtered annually to make the paper upon which her columns are printed.
By the way, the professor who was the terrorist's target never "dabbled in genetically modified trees" as Ms.Miller asserts. He was using molecular tools to understand how traits are inherited through traditional breeding methods, similar to techniques used for all crops.
Jon D. Johnson South Hill
LETTER TO THE EDITOR (March 13 hopefully)
Jon, thanks for your response, I wish I had more time to incorporate it into the next column. On comparing the crops and the arson, you are absolutely correct, they don't equate. I wrestled with this, but chose to make the comparison to show how differently dissent is viewed in different countries. On the possibility of ELF ever committing a violent act towards any people or even animals, you are incorrect. They are committed to non-violence, and 'harm to property' is I'll bet a Hotly Contested topic. On the role of Prof. Bradshaw, he was isolating genes to be used in genetic modification, then sending them to OSU. That's why I said 'dabbled'.
This was a tough topic to bring up. I in no way advocate the ELF's tactics, but in an age where suspicions and wire-tapping are common, it is all the more important to share real information in the light of day before any fingers start pointing. Thank you for letting me clarify.
Kelda Miller Puyallup