Dear Judge Hovland,
Thank you for making the arrangements for me to visit Greg in jail after you sentenced him to a year and a day in federal prison. The jail officials had been rather adamant in their unwillingness to allow me to visit, so your intervention made the visit possible.
At trial and again at sentencing, I noted your willingness to educate yourself even beyond requirement about matters relating to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Here Plowshare action and the three who carried it forth. I found your openness rather exceptional and am confident that you will take these thoughts into mind and heart.
I was rather dismayed to hear you berate and chastise Greg for being an irresponsible father and spouse. Your presumptions about what we need from him were not only erroneous, but belligerent and disrespectful. To call his participation in this witness a "juvenile act of vandalism" is an insult to every one of the Saints and Heroes who have ever taken a stand to protect the sacredness of life. You had made it abundantly clear that you didn't agree with their methods, an opinion to which you are entitled, but to attack Greg's integrity as you did was disgraceful.
Our daughter Rachel and I love and admire Greg for the stand he has taken to make this world safer. Yes we are saddened by this lengthy separation, but we are strengthened by emotional and spiritual bonds that far transcend physical ones. Those bonds are further deepened because we know the good and decent intentions with which Greg acted. If you get an opportunity, take another look at the picture of the banner "Swords into Plowshares.'' Rachel did the artwork. The peace sign, flower, heart and smiley face were the hopes that she entrusted her dad with to make present in the world through this disarmament action.
I recently watched a documentary about the scientists, including Oppenheimer, who left their families to create the atomic bomb which was eventually used to annihilate the people of Japan. Many of our history books refer to them as heroes. After Oppenheimer realized what he did, he felt disgraced as a human being, not only in his own eyes but in the eyes of his blood family and in the eyes of the human family. When soldiers leave their families to go off to war, they are referred to as heroes. Many of them come back feeling disgraced for having left their families to kill other people's families. This is a feeling I can assure you, that Greg will not have to live with nor die with.
Finally, I have to say I was quite disappointed in the defeatist attitude you seemed to take regarding the efficacy of this action. You consistently referred to their action as a waste of time because it did not result in the elimination of nuclear weapons. Again, you insult the lives of all who have ever worked for the abolition of sins and crimes such as slavery, military occupation of homelands, government sponsored oppression, etc. I believe you are smart enough and well educated enough to know that it has sometimes taken centuries to abolish such crimes.
Thank God for all of those that never gave up hope, that withstood years of imprisonment, defamation of character, mockery, isolation and death in their struggle to enhance the dignity of all life. Greg, Rachel and I will not let those hopes die in vain. We stand with the sentiments expressed by Fr. Kabat, that this action is not the only way, but it is one way and a way worth living for.
Blessings on your life's journey.
-- Michele Naar-Obed
Michele Naar-Obed is married to Greg Boertje-Obed who was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison in November 2006 for hammering on the concrete lid covering the missile silo which houses the Minuteman III nuclear missile. Greg and Michele are the parents of a 12-year-old daughter, Rachel. Michele and Greg and Rachel are part of the Loaves and Fishes Catholic Worker Community in Duluth, MN. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A full account of the plowshare witness and court proceedings can be found at www.jonahhouse.org.