by Athena M. Henderson
The roar of trucks and motorcycles
the dust and chaos of men in enemy uniforms.
“Where are you going?” my mother asks.
“To another town,” the Nazi Captain says.
Where they kick in the doors of the church
and order two young men into their truck.
Offering of figs, quince, and pomegranates
from their families cannot save the men.
The Nazis hang them. The markings of the rope
on the oak tree branch can still be seen.
Comments by “Tall Scott”—
This poem is about an experience from Athena’s childhood in Greece during the Nazi invasion. The young men who were hanged were accused of acts of sabotage—property destruction, in other words— intended to slow down, delay and harass the invading army.
Of course, the Nazis had no way of knowing who had committed those acts of sabotage. The men who were chosen to hang were simply scapegoats.
Within the past few weeks, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have made multiple raids on the apartments of people involved with Occupy on the West Coast. They claim to be looking for evidence of who might have been involved in Black Bloc property destruction activities during the marches on May 1.
Of course, they don’t have any way of knowing who actually committed acts of vandalism. So instead of conducting a serious and unbiased criminal investigation (which, in any case, would never involve the FBI for a petty crime like breaking a window) they are looking for what they describe as “anarchist materials” or “anarchist literature.”
The point is not whether you the reader are an anarchist or can sympathize with anarchists. It’s not about whether you support acts of property destruction by the Black Bloc. I don’t, and I’m not trying to draw a moral equivalency between these West Coast activists and the young Greek men described in Athena’s poem. The equivalency is in the mindset of the authorities.
The FBI is literally kicking doors down and throwing flash-bang grenades into people’s bedrooms in order to look for forbidden political literature. The fact that they hope to use this literature to connect people to acts of vandalism in the mind of a jury is beside the point.
Vandalism is a crime. Possession of “anarchist literature” is not. If you can have your door kicked down and a grenade thrown at you merely for possessing the wrong kind of book, then this country is in much deeper trouble than even most activists realize. If the analogy I’ve drawn seems overblown to you, you might be saying to yourself, “Well, they aren’t hanging anybody.”
My reply to that is, “They aren’t hanging anybody yet.”