March 20, 1997
This is in response to Alexander Cockburn's article in the March 24th issue of The Nation, "Judi Passes." It wasn't just cancer that "nailed poor Judi Bari" It seems now that she cannot defend herself the left press is doing to Judi what the corporate press did to her after the bombing -- demonize and vilify. Cockburn marvels that in death the corporate press wrote long obituaries. I too marveled that in death the corporate press treated Judi much kinder than they ever did in life. But after all they owed her that after labeling her as a terrorist after the 1990 bombing. Too bad Cockburn did not have the grace and dignity to treat Judi Bari with the respect she deserved in both life and death.
Judi Bari was my hero! I must say this as a former timber worker, and current union carpenter. In other words I am one of those fantasy workers Cockburn wrote about in his hit piece. In March of 1990 Judi fought to get me placed on a panel at the University of Oregon's Land, Air and Water (LAW) Conference which was about bridging the gap between workers and environmentalists. I was working as a green chain offbearer at Roseburg Forest Products and we had just come off a lengthy strike the year before.
It was at that conference panel that I challenged Earth First! activists to renounce the tactic of tree spiking if they really desired to bridge the gap between workers. Judi Bari who was sitting next to me immediately stood up and said she agreed with me and she loudly denounced tree spiking. After the panel we worked closely together with other Earth First! activists to get Oregon and Northern California to renounce tree spiking publicly, which happen in dual press conferences on April 14, 1990.
A little over a month later Judi and Darryl Cherney were car bombed after a series of death threats, and false press releases advocating tree spiking and violence towards workers. After two months of negative press and lies from the FBI no charges were ever filed against Judy or Darryl, but it had the effect of isolating Judi from the many timber workers she was building alliances with. She was labeled by press and FBI as a bomb thrower, and it took years for Judi to overcome that stigma within her community.
Cockburn states that "there were many on the Northcoast, who detested her." But fails to mention there were many, many more who loved Judi very much. At Judi's wake there were over a thousand people. I put it close to 2500. She hosted a regular and very popular weekly talk show on KZYX in Philo, and for a while also hosted a program on KMUD in Garberville.
Cockburn says, "But a lot of what she did -- she was prickly and arrogant -- undercut any possibly of the worker-enviro alliance she was proclaimedly trying to create." Judi was not arrogant! She was intelligent, and a leader. She knew current labor issues and labor history, as well as all the current environmental issues. She fought classism within the environmental movement with great passion. Judi called BS on the hypocrisy of the environmental movement and the left, in general, and for that she gets labeled as prickly and arrogant by a writer who many, including myself, consider an arrogant prick.
Judi Bari's life and work is a success story. She was the most courageous person I ever knew. She will continue to be an inspiration to me and many other working people who really knew Judi and what she stood for. Besides Judi's work in saving the Redwoods she will be remembered for her wonderful sense of humor, her laughter, and her wonderful joyous music.
Judi Bari was a warrior of the Earth and she had a mountain for a heart. Her legacy, her work and words will long be remembered. In the future when our great grand children shall judge us very harshly for the destruction of the environment Judi Bari will be remembered for the true heroine she was, while Alexander Cockburn and Bruce Anderson will just be little nasty footnotes in the herstory of Judi Bari.
— Gene Lawhorn
Gene Lawhorn is a union carpenter with Local 247 in Portland, Oregon. He also hosts a monthly radio program on KBOO community radio titled "The Price Paid; Labor History, Herstory, News and Views." He can be reached by email c/o Melody <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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