One of the things I really like about living on Kauai, and having a car with no AC that forces me to roll the windows down, is driving along and hearing bird sounds: the metallic notes of a meadow lark perched on a pasture fence; the raucous squabbling of mynah beneath banana trees; the nasal honking of nene, flying formation overhead.
I passed a hunter’s truck parked in a backcountry driveway the other afternoon, the owner inside the house, the dogs outside, waiting, viewing the world through the three-inch window between the top of the pick-up bed and the low plywood roof that contained them.
It was a narrow view, much like the one the government takes of citizen groups that become too successful at operating outside “the system,” as became clear when a friend called the other day to recount what’s happening to Food Not Bombs.
My friend had been involved with them years before in Boston, and still maintains contact with founder Keith McHenry, who took the very radical step back in 1980 of setting up a miso soup table and passing out day-old bakery goods in front of the Bank of Boston as the directors met inside.
The purpose was to draw attention to the plight of the poor, and encourage investments in programs that build communities, rather than destroy them through war and violence. Since then, Food Not Bombs has become a worldwide organization, with organizations in 50 different countries and 40 American states.
Anyway, my friend called Keith for a chat this past weekend. He wanted to find out how things are going since the St. Paul police staged a pre-emptive raid on a Food Not Bombs cookhouse before the start of the Republican National Convention, arresting volunteers and charging several of them with conspiracy to commit riot.
The answer: not good. Seems that Keith’s bank accounts have been frozen, bank deposits have gone missing, his mail has been intercepted and opened, and Food Not Bombs handbooks that are sent out never reach their intended recipients.
Needless to say, all this has greatly disrupted Keith's life and the organization. But Keith apparently found it equally hard to watch television commentators label his organization, which is committed to non-violent social change, as one of the top terrorist groups in the nation.
So how did this happen? Well, the FBI reportedly paid a woman $80,000 to infiltrate the group and try and persuade the members to go along with a plan to blow up some bridges, even supplying her with blasting caps for that purpose. Although the group wasn’t interested, they didn’t actively discourage her.
“In anarchy, you don’t tell somebody don’t do that, or you can’t do that,” my friend explained. “If they want to do it, that’s their trip.”
One guy, however, fell for the woman romantically, and agreed to help her. Now he’s facing 17 years in prison, and the entire group has been branded a violent, terrorist organization as a result.
“The government caused the terrorism to manifest in the group through infiltration,” my friend said. “I just can’t believe how ludicrous this is, how ridiculous. It’s a big smear campaign.”
And it’s working, just as it`s worked with numerous other radical social groups. When they become effective at mobilizing the disaffected and disenfranchised, that’s when the government sends in the paid infiltrators that ultimately destroy them.
“The government can handle the bombs,” my friend said. “It’s the food that scares the shit out of them.”