Sarah Jane Olson
Food for thought
By Anthony Peyton Porter
I met Sarah Jane Olson in 1999. As Kathleen Soliah, Sarah had been
involved with the Symbionese Liberation Army in the early 1970s. In
1975 she took part in a bank robbery during which Myrna Opsahl was
killed, and another time she helped make two bombs that were attached
to two police cars and that never went off. At least that's what she
was eventually convicted of.
Although I had never met her, I offered to help market Serving Time:
America's Most Wanted Recipes, her fundraising cookbook. Just in case
you've seen it, I had nothing to do with its production. I hawked
books and called bookstores, mostly independent and lefty, around the
country to get them to sell some books for us and give us most of the
money, and I set up appearances for Sarah on a planned fundraising
tour. Once I had dinner at Sarah's with my family. She's as good as
they say she is.
I never cared whether Sarah did any of it. Anything the FBI is
involved in is probably paranoid and underhanded anyway. Ditto the
CIA. And I can't support any law as blatantly commie as the one that
makes you responsible for anything bad that happens while you were in
the act of violating a law, even though somebody else, whom you may
not even know well, actually did the bad thing. Johnny threw the
spitball, so nobody gets recess. It's not fair.
I was sorry when Sarah went to prison because I knew that under the
right circumstance when I was 25 or so, I'd've done much more than
blow up some cops. I once considered applying to the FBI because of
what I thought would be opportunities for large-scale sabotage.
Last year I went online to find out the procedure for visiting
Sarahunfuckingbelievable, by the wayand I once called her old Saint
Paul number. Now she's out and back home with her family in Saint
Paul after seven years in the Central California Women's Facility at
Chowchilla. I'm glad.
I'm also glad she had the guts to resist a system she saw as
repressive and violent, albeit by violent, and so ineffective, means.
It was sad for the Opsahls that Mrs. Opsahl got killed, but I think
Myrna's doing just fine, being eternal and all, not to mention she
was depositing money for her church at the time and probably got
extra credit. I read that Jon Opsahl, her son, is still angry and
wanted Sarah to rot in prison forever. He figures that Sarah was in
jail for her part in his mom's murder for one year out of the seven
she served. I hope he gets over it.
What happened to rehabilitation? People change, all of us. Some of
us, like Sarah, evolve. Some of us don't.
As I'm sure Jesus would say, "Well, listen, the bombs didn't go off,
and you didn't shoot anybody, so go forth and sin no more, Sarah,
especially if I can have another one of those mushroom turnovers."
Olson needs to walk the walk
By Wallace Alcorn | Austin Daily Herald
Published Monday, March 23, 2009
Kathleen Soliah is now on parole from almost a decade in a California
prison, and Sara Jane Olson has come home to St. Paul. Soliah was a
felon, and Olson is no hero or role model. She has earned the right
to return to an ordinary life, but the public good is best served by
then ignoring her.
Kathleen Soliah is her birth name, which she also used as a member of
the radical Symbionese Liberation Army during the 1970s. They were
terrorists of the worst sort. Her specific crimes were participating
in a bank robbery in which a person was killed, holding newspaper
heiress Patty Hearst captive, and placing pipe bombs under two police
vehicles. Actually, this latter was attempted murder of police officers.
After committing these crimes and while others (including her brother
and sister) were being apprehended, tried, and serving prison
sentences, she became a fugitive. She escaped to Africa, hid for a
while elsewhere in this country, and then settled in St. Paul. She
assumed the role of an ordinary, law-abiding private citizen. She
became an actor, even on the stage as well as in her daily life. She
became a DFL activist, as if this were a redeeming virtue. She
married a physician and had children.
The news media in the Cities seem delighted to refer to this as
"hiding in plain sight." This would make sense only if she had spent
all 30 years under a bed. She was anything but "in plain sight" with
her cleaver cover.
I still cannot believe the irresponsible and illogical treatment she
received from the media upon her arrest. Not having blown up any
local police vehicles, robbed yet another bank, killed anyone else,
or kidnapped any more people, she was described as having become
innocent of any crime and, indeed, a paragon of social virtue. This
portrayal was irresponsible because it strongly suggested to other
criminals they can get over crimes, and we will eventually forget
them. It was illogical, because this treatment flouts the law and
The media reported her as having "lived a law-abiding life" all those
post-terrorist years. Nonsense. She broke the law every day she hid
as a fugitive from justice. She broke the law every time she signed
her name as "Sara Jane Olson." She was an inactive criminal, but
fully a criminal. Surely, there were among those closest to her some
who knew something or could have known. They had both legal and moral
obligation to seek justice. She was herself unfair and unkind to
those who sought to be fair with and kind to her.
Now they are at it again. She was released from prison last week, and
California officials routinely granted her request to return to
Minnesota to serve her one-year parole.
This was in rejection of appeals from police unions in both states
and of our governor's specific request. She invalidates the normal
provision of parole at home by claiming she had already rehabilitated
herself prior to her arrest. Moreover, the law refers to her "last
legal residence," but her St. Paul residence was not legal, being a
fugitive. But she is here, and we should make the best of it.
However, she has already announced the liberal causes she will
promote and for which she will work. And on what basis? Just what is
her moral suasion? Why are we expected to respect her opinions and be
persuaded by her arguments? What moral authority has she?
She complains law enforcement and the court system continue to punish
her husband and children by the way they treat her. It is she who
continues to punish her husband and children. She should have
confessed her multiple felonies, served her time, rehabilitated her
morality, and then offered herself as wife, mother, neighbor and friend.
One Minnesota legislator argues she has served her time, but this
parole is part of her time. While he calls for forgiveness, I listen
for repentance. What I hear is a consistently radical activist whom I
can neither respect nor trust. Sara Jane Olson, welcome back to our
state. Now, walk the walk among us. When you have accomplished this,
we might begin to listen to you talk the talk.