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What happened to John Africa and most of his fellow MOVE members was a tragedy. They were destroyed in a way that was horrible to imagine by our own government. What makes it an even worse tragedy is that the end result was logical, foreseeable, and preventable.

Here is a charismatic man who believed, among other things, that the system was corrupt and racist, and that people should return to a simpler way of living; one in harmony with nature. Because of this belief, he inspired others to join him in order to farm in Philadelphia. They composted garbage, which attracted rats and roaches, and in turn led the neighbors to complain about it. They apparently were constructing sheds on the rooftop of their building to raise vegetables, too. Maybe house a goat or a pig too. Who knows? Never mind the constant bullhorn sermons being foisted on the surrounding streets. Am I the only one who thinks what they were doing was absurd? Why not take whatever resources they had to farm in the middle of the big city, and establish a real farm in the country, where they could live and prosper in peace? But there is the rub; the idea must have been to force change onto society in general. A farm in the big city is a statement that goes something like this; we reject the system and everything it stands for, and we will demonstrate that rejection loud and clear. What alternative did the city of Philadelphia have at that point? Here was a group that was agitating for a radical change, and would settle for nothing less. It is apparent that John Africa’s group would not respond to mere court orders and summonses. They had already declared themselves outside of the law and government, and therefore immune to it. So, the unimaginable happened. The city authorized dropping a plastic explosive bomb on the rooftop, and a city block was burned to the ground. Several people died, and many more were rendered homeless, a logical result to an illogical and irrational philosophy.
The greater tragedy is the loss of a man who could have used his charisma for a more positive and sublime path. He had a lot going for him. Much of what he said was uncomfortable truth, but what he proposed as a solution was unworkable, and he should have realized that from the start. The real tragedy is that this gifted man lost his faith in the system and the ideals they represent when he had so much to offer. Somewhere along his life path, through his service in Korea as a soldier and through his efforts to survive in society, he lost faith that the system would ever truly work for him. That was the real tragedy.


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"We sit here stranded though we're all doing our best to deny it." (Visions of Johanna) Bob Dylan


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