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Enemy of the State
by Jessica Lee
Growing up in New York City, Daniel McGowan saw first-hand how pollution fogged the air and fouled the beaches in some of the city’s poorest communities, setting him on a lifelong path of environmental and social justice. But how he ended up drenched in gasoline and setting fire to Oregon’s Jefferson Poplar Farms in 2001 and was later targeted as a “domestic terrorist” is the story of someone who cared too much and didn’t know what else to do.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens’ Rockaway Beach, Daniel McGowan grew up sandwiched between asphalt and the sky, in a forest of buildings and buzzing streets. Until Dec. 7, 2005, the 33-year-old with a round face and a chipmunk smile was mostly known in local circles for his involvement in a variety of activist projects. Today, after a nearly two-year legal battle that saw him labeled an “eco-terrorist” by the U.S. government, McGowan is serving a seven-year sentence at a federal prison in Minnesota on 15 counts of arson, attempted arson and conspiracy to commit arson against two private companies in Oregon in 2001.
(for the full story and interview with Daniel go to Enemy of the State)
by Daniel McGowan
by Daniel McGowan
It's a question I have been pondering the last two months since I reported to prison and the clock started ticking. Why, indeed? What do I have to say that is new or fresh? Will I bore people with repetitive tomes about my case or the Green Scare? Do people want to read what I write? All these questions haunt me as I put pen to paper attempting to deal with a ton of unexpressed thoughts and emotions made worse by a self-imposed silence during my legal proceedings. Where do I even begin? I doubt at times whether I can handle the release of these emotions-- anger, frustration, betrayal, profound sadness. . . I fear that there won't be a lesson or a neat and clean conclusion to what I write about that you'll get to the end and ask. So yeah, that sucked-- what am I supposed to do? The idea that anyone might think I know also freaks me out.
As in all things though, you learn by doing. You start the journey with that first step, you are that much closer to leaving prison after the first day or month or year. I'm in prison so what sense is there in not trying to make sense of it all, to not risk failing or looking stupid or being wrong. So, I've decided to write, to not wring my hands endlessly, scared to release my writings. I've even figured out some damn good reasons to write too-- I'm going to write because we need to be more flexible in our approach and if I can't be on the streets fighting my ass off for a better world, well, at least I can speak my truth on these pages. Because we live in a world where people who abuse women rarely go to prison and when they do, go in for a few years while people who destroy the inanimate property of multi-national corporations go in for longer. Because silence is complicity and I won't be bullied or silenced by prosecutors who brag that I was forced to self-report early because of my website and speaking on Democracy Now. Because I've lost some friends and comrades these past years and they can't. Because I will never for a second accept the label of terrorist for trying to call attention to what our species is doing to our planet, and because maybe we can all learn from mistakes I have made.
See, there really are some good reasons to write despite my fears after all. I don't know what this path of exploration will look like but I'll do my best to keep digging and fighting.
© Daniel McGowan, Aug 2007, All rights reserved