Regarding war veterans, most of us know the risks which exposure to extreme violence imposes on mental equilibrium. The psychic wounds are deep: Veterans have tragically high rates of suicide, crime and homelessness. Public indifference and lack of support increase the morbidity.
Similar life-shattering effects occurred among the veterans of Humboldt County's so-called timber wars. The campaign to protect the public trust against the ravages of MAXXAM Corporation was waged for 20 years through our forests, treetops and watersheds. Unlike soldiers, these troops were not toughened by boot camp and drill sergeants. Their training, if any, was in nonviolence and humanism. Their average age was younger than most military recruits.
They experienced extreme violence, especially in the most inaccessible parts of the forest. MAXXAM gave free rein to hunt down the defenders. A boy was lowered 100 feet, suspended by a rope and cocooned in duct tape. A girl was dragged, naked, from a treetop. Often trees were dropped right in the middle of a circle of praying witnesses.
Most local media took little notice, When it did, it encouraged prejudice against these young people, characterizing them as vagrant hippies, and refusing to grant their legal infractions the dignity of civil disobedience.
The Times-Standard editorialized that they would “deserve little sympathy if they got hurt.”