From the July 2002 Idaho Observer:

People forever hacking down upas trees in timeless effort to compost the bitter fruit

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The “abolitionist” era engraving pictured was from an anti-slavery pamphlet circa 1834. The timeless logic applies to modern day abolitionists: To have the fruit you must first have the tree. Slavery trees (there are many species) bear fruits. Those fruits, independent of the words and deeds of the farmers who grow them, are among those pictured -- the same bitter fruits we are eating today.

Slavery is paying tribute to masters. Paying with your labor or paying with the paper earned with your labor changes nothing -- the fruits are the same.

The juice of the javanese “upas tree,” a species of mulberry, is used to make poison darts. “Also called the 'ordeal tree,'” mentions a 1969 American Heritage Dictionary.

Throughout history ordinary people have been called to hack at the tree of slavery that began bearing fruit on their watch.

The pages of The Idaho Observer are filled with the efforts of those who have answered the call and are striving to prepare the ordeal tree of our time to become historical compost.

Slavery by any other name...

In looking through collections of Civil War stories and photos we learn an inviolate maxim of social order: Evidence of slavery is its bitter fruit.

On the frontpage this month is an abolitionist era engraving circa 1834. In it we see white folks hacking at the trunk of the upas (pronounced yoo-pus) tree. The upas tree, also called the ordeal tree, is a member of the mulberry family and its juice is used to poison the tips of spears and arrows in southeast Asia. The tree was used to symbolize slavery. The fruit of slavery, as depicted in the engraving, is a littany of societal ills that contemporary Americans do not immediately associate with human bondage.

However, the cause-and-effect relationship of slavery and social degradation was understood by abolitionists in the decades leading up to the Civil War. If the result of slavery was “villiany, violence, vice, brutality, knavery, lust, robbery, treachery, oppression, cruelty, adultery, rapine (plunder), murder, suicide and death in the 1830s, what could be causing epidemics of those things in our contemporary times?

Slavery is the well-fertilized 21st Century tree and the above-mentioned societal conditions its abundantly bitter fruit. Our political leaders tell us that those fruits are the result of men left to their devices and they would be more abundant and more bitter if it weren't for their rules, regulations and statutory schemes. I do not believe them for two reasons: One, because they are self-serving liars and; two, because freedom manifests as virtue, not vice.

What we are experiencing today is a direct correlation between increases in government intrusion into the lives of people and maturation of bitter societal fruits. Every problem that government addresses through regulation worsens. To my knowledge, there are no exceptions.

Government rules and regulations is slavery as they affix statutory chains to our activities under threats of fines or imprisonment. Government taxes that are levied without our consent is slavery as we must pay those taxes or be thrown into prison. Government programs are slavery because they throw us a few trinkets in exchange for our willingness to conform to its demands.

Slavery compels people to act contrary to their nature because their avenues of expression are stifled. They learn to lie, cheat and steal to get what they want; they learn to be secretive about their own activities and learn that there are rewards for reporting others who do the same things.

It's in our best interest to recognize slavery in its varied forms by the fruit that it produces. Our way of life under an increasingly intrusive government has produced the bitter fruits of slavery. We, therefore, live under a system of enslavement -- a system so sophisticated, however, that we believe we are free while being told the bitter fruit we are eating is sweet. (DWH)

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