You wonder what sitting in jail for four months–all for running a private food club–does to a guy. You wonder what it does to the people around him who were supposedly watching his back.
I’ve certainly wondered, especially with James Stewart finally being released after four months in a Ventura County jail, capped off by five days at the notorious Los Angeles County jail (known as the Twin Towers). (He was jailed last July after missing a couple court appearances in Los Angeles and Ventura County.)
I haven’t been able to reach Stewart, but have heard varying accounts of his state of health and mind from his friends. They say he lost nearly 40 pounds in jail because he couldn’t/wouldn’t eat the disgusting food he was served. They say he emerged, released on his own recognizance, pretty discouraged, since he still faces multiple legal issues, including the 38 felony counts in connection with Sharon Palmer’s loans to acquire the Healthy Family Farms site back in 2008, and a dozen felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with the original Rawesome Food Club.
On top of the Rawesome and Palmer-loan cases, there are ten more felony counts in connection with alleged evasion of state income taxes and property taxes associated with the Rawesome Food Club. Plus a civil suit by old pal Aajonus Vonderplanitz, seeking $20 million in damages, and a falling out with two partners he owned the Rawesome site’s Venice, CA, land with.
I may not have all the legal matters exactly up to date, since they are subject to shifts depending on possible settlement discussions.
While Stewart had spoken frequently before being jailed last July about resurrecting Rawesome Food Club, since his release from jail he has told friends he plans to go in a new direction and likely pursue a business opportunity distributing premium olive oil. While he felt let down by many in the Rawesome community, according to one friend, he said he wasnt bitter. I cant be like them, so I send them love.
But, of course, Stewart’s feelings can’t be packaged so neatly. It couldn’t be so neat if any of us were in Stewart’s unfortunate shoes. There would inevitably be a tangle of feelings and potential plans as part of any effort to get one’s life, thrown into such upheaval, back in order.
According to an email exchange he had with some friends, he is quite bitter at times, feeling he was seriously let down by the Rawesome community. Stewart copied me in on one exchange that started out as an election rant against the Republicans ostensibly trying to create “a new world order.” To which Stewart responded:
with all due respect ……all of you people who just talk about “things needing to change”…..you are all full of hot air ………..i was just convicted of 2 felonies for ” actually doing something about it …it was called rawesome foods …….and ALL OF YOU TALKING HEADS ARE A BUNCH OF COWARDS ………………….HERE`S MY COMMENT
IF EVERYONE IS WAITING FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO HAPPEN….HOW CAN ANYTHING GOOD HAPPEN , IF EVERYBODY IS WAITING??????
all of you people are “entitled” just as the public is…….
non-violence ….but action (doing something ) is the ONLY answer………..and none of you guys even extended yourselves to help me …………so much for the idea of COMMUNITY
One of Stewart’s friends then sent Stewart’s assessment on to a number of other people, commenting: “I felt that all of us should understand how terribly sad it is that we failed this man by not lending our support to him while he was UNJUSTLY incarcerated…
“None of us…not one of us…who are supposedly fighting the fight before us against tyranny …did anything to stand by James Stewart…and I had to ask myself the very painful question…If this debacle had happened to me or any of my family members or friends…would I not have hoped that everyone would have come together and stood up and rallied around me?
“Think about how alone…hopeless and segregated he must have felt during the whole despotic ordeal he was put through…for simply STANDING UP against the very tyranny that the rest of us claim to do…His property of Rawesome Foods was illegally annihilated by Feds…His and his family’s personal lives were turned inside out…his Constitutional rights were violated and he was falsely imprisoned with defacto trumped up bullshit charges…
“He…unlike most of us WHO TALK BRAVELY BEHIND OUR COMPUTER KEYBOARDS… went through the motions of taking an ACTUAL stand against tyranny and paid the price for it…during which time not one of us saw fit to gather and organize a solidarity protest of any kind against the very defacto tyrants that were committing this horrible offense against this man…”
I’m sure this individual spoke for many. There are strong feelings of guilt and regret out there. To which I would add:
There is no question many people let Stewart down very badly.
There is no question the Rawesome community fractured badly as a result of the terrible divisions between Stewart and his one-time friend Aajonus Vonderplanitz. Once the government learned about the divisions, prosecutors exploited them all they could, piling charges upon charges.
I should also point out that Stewart did have the support of a few awesome friends, who have provided him with amazing moral and financial support, and did try to mobilize opposition to his imprisonment.
Finally, something else needs to be pointed out: Having a community behind you in the event of such a calamity doesn’t just happen spontaneously. It takes a huge amount of planning. Stewart obviously never imagined the law enforcement apparatus would come down on him the way it did, and so he never prepared his community for what it needed to do to turn the attacks around into a political cause, and an opportunity to build a sustainable movement.
I can very much understand Stewart’s bitterness. Hopefully, he and the rest of us who support food rights can learn at least a couple of lessons.
First, people don’t just rise up spontaneously. They rise up when they feel confident in both their cause and their leadership, and when they truly value what they have to lose if they fail.
Second, the forces opposed to food rights are very serious in their agenda to limit our access to privately-available food, and will fully exploit every tool at their disposal and every division in the food rights movement, including locking people up for extended periods.
It is too bad one man has had to pay such a high price, but then, that is one of the tactics the opposition forces use–they pummel one or a few individuals to send a message to the masses: If you don’t behave, you could be next. If the masses refuse to accept the message, then the opposition loses, because the forces of oppression can’t possible jail every individual who truly values food rights. Getting supporters to move beyond fear is the major challenge of a movement.
Max Kane has been traveling the country demonstrating his Farmmatch.com site that brings consumers and farmers together. Most recently, he demonstrated the service at the Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions conference, in Santa Clara, CA.
He reports, “We are averaging 27 consumers and 4 farms per day. We are over 2,000 registered users and just reached 2,000 likes on Facebook. We are in dozens of countries on all six continents and growing.”
His advice to readers here is to sign up at Farmmatch, and then: “Do a raw milk search and see consumers all over the U.S. who want non-GMO food and raw milk.”