City Officials order the destruction of a Tulsa woman’s garden, claiming herbs and fruit trees are “tall grass.”
I’ve complained about the same broad language in Franklin County’s health code. It outlaws “all vegetation” over so many inches, effectively criminalizing trees and shrubs. “We have no intention of enforcing it that strictly,” I’m assured. Yeah? Then change the rules to encompass only what you do mean to enforce. There’s no point to having a law on the books outlawing something you don’t mean to outlaw…because eventually, someone comes along who has the bright idea that they’re supposed to enforce the law as it’s written.
When I see stories like this one–and I seem them all too often–I’m reminded of all those movies where the peasants stand by, helpless and horrified, as the warriors destroy the peasants’ gardens and fields. It’s a worn-out plot device. Whenever a screenwriter wants to demonstrate either that people are living under tyranny or that they’ve been invaded by heartless villains, that’s what they do: show the troops tearing up vegetable gardens and setting fire to wheat fields. It’s become a cliche. Had Denise Morrison’s house had a thatched roof, these city officials would have been fairly obliged to toss a torch on it. I think it’s a rule, maybe something in a contract with the screenwriters guild.
Except that Ms. Morrison is no actress, and this isn’t a movie. There’s no hero who rides in and leads an armed rebellion. We’re not savages, after all. Government thugs who destroy someone’s livelihood because they prize the look of a newly razed yard over lush, green sustenance may be guaranteed an arrow through the forehead in the movies, but the most that happens in real life is that some language gets changed in an ordinance after the damage is already done. The same officials who ordered this wanton carnage against Ms. Morrison’s yard will cut a ribbon at a well-funded non-profit organization’s community garden, and they’ll get some media coverage about how “green” they are in time for the next election.