Superweeds. That’s what they call unwanted plants that survive despite being drenched with herbicides. We who work for earth and animal (including human) liberation must be superweeds of hardiness and adaptability.
We’re all injured animals, walking around with lead in our brains and pesticide residues in our veins. Many of us also have endured violence, either elsewhere in our lives or in the course of our activism. And yet, like the superweeds, we survive to thwart the machinations of multinational corporations and their ideologies of exploitation. As Audre Lorde wrote, “we were never meant to survive”.
Like the superweeds, we also must be always evolving in response to changing circumstances. We can’t be content to keep saying what we’ve always said or doing what we’ve always done. We must always be asking: Is this true? Is it working? What else might we do?
Luckily, nature is stronger than all of the guns and governments combined. The same strength coiled in the genes of the superweeds lives within us.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Virgil Butler, a true superweed, who survived child abuse and rural poverty to grow up into a generous and gentle man. Like many in his part of Arkansas, Virgil ended up working for the poultry industry while still a teenager. Like many others, he was disturbed and demoralized by the violence that his job forced him to witness and perpetrate. Unlike others, he summoned up the courage to walk away — from the job and from the ideal of aggressive masculinity he had been raised to embrace. Coming forward as a whistle-blower exposed Virgil to harassment and ostracism but he never gave up or gave in. He went from killing chickens to giving them sanctuary, finding his own sanctuary with his soul mate, Laura Alexander, and among the animal activists who appreciated him.
Virgil was big on blogging, using his blog, the Cyberactivist, to write about the cruelties he had perpetrated and observed. Among his most memorable posts were My First Night on Back Dock and Inside the Mind of a Killer.
Virgil was a man of both heart and mind. He felt empathy for others and also thought deeply about his experiences. His thoughts about masculinity deserve to be read by anyone who wants to understand how gender roles hurt everybody. For an example, visit his blog archive for August of 2005, scroll down to the series of postings entitled “my story,” and read upwards. Those postings were written during a 24-hour “blogathon,” during which he raised money for the Eastern Shore Sanctuary, even though he was living in rather desperate poverty himself. Asked why he chose to support our sanctuary, he said that he appreciated our efforts “”to show the underlying reasons this horror happens and the many parallels to it, like sexism, and why society allows something as horrific as factory farming to happen without questioning it.”
Virgil died in his sleep in December of 2006. I’ll always remember him as a comrade, as a friend, and as someone who truly understood the interrelationship of different forms of oppression. This blog will explore those intersections as well as the interconnectedness of the natural world, with which we must align ourselves and from which we must draw our strength.