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Thrust Into the Spotlight as Icon Activist

NEW SETTLER: How have your injuries altered your life?

JUDI: Pain has changed my life in a lot of ways. Levels of pain that I didn't know existed, I experience every day. Not only is my back broken (which leaves me with a constant low-level pain), but I also have this nerve damage that makes the nerves to my paralyzed foot randomly fire, and when they fire, it feels like an electric shock. There are two places it does so in my foot, and sometimes, it does it in the back of my leg. The back of my leg hurts more because it is a larger area, and because my foot's paralyzed, it can't contract. But in the back of my leg, the muscles actually contract and I can't move when it does that.

Nobody can look at me with out thinking of the bombing. I can't just be myself
The level of pain of that is so horrible. People who used to hold my hand in the hospital saw me experiencing that pain; it was excruciating. Now I've learned to not change my expression. I've learned to tolerate those episodes (which last anywhere from three to ten seconds -- those zaps of electric shock-like pain) I've learned to tolerate them without changing my expression, because I've discovered that it warps my relationships with people so much.

My relationships with people have been destroyed by the bombing anyway. It's very hard for me to have an equal relationship with anyone. My pain makes other people feel so uncomfortable with me that they avoid me. It just warps the interaction between me and other people to express pain. So I've learned to suppress it. When nobody's around, I will grimace, I'll moan. I experience these zaps of electric shock anywhere from twenty to one hundred times on any day, and every once in awhile, I'll have an episode where I'll be taken out by it. I lose whole nights of sleep from it. I'll even lose whole days. If I lay absolutely still in bed I can calm it down a little bit.

The whole thing has warped my relationships. I used to be able to have equal relationships, but because of this weird kind of notoriety that I've gotten, where anything that I say has more weight than it deserves; if I express an opinion, it's considered a pronouncement. I can't relate to people as equals because they won't relate to me as an equal.

As a result of the bombing, you've become an icon activist...

JUDI: And people have these incredible standards of behavior for me. And if I meet them, I am resented for being too saintly; and if I don't meet them, I'm vilified for not being saintly enough.

And nobody can look at me without thinking of the bombing. I can't just be myself.

You know, I used to organize for a couple of years, and get into these intense public situations -- like I did in the unions -- and then I'd drop out for a couple of years, and I'd go get a job and I'd be a mom, I'd just live my life as a normal person. And then when I had recovered enough from the glare of the public exposure, I would be ready to go out.

Two thing happened after the bombing: I lost my physical sexual response and I lost my sexual attractiveness
I haven't been able to do that since the bombing. First of all, I can't work at a normal job because of my injuries. Secondly, people can't look at me without thinking of the bombing. And it's ruined my relationships. It's ruined my friendships. Since you're famous for asking everyone about sex, I'm going to volunteer that one of the unspoken results of the bombing is that it has ruined my sexual response. I don't have any. That part of me is numb. If this had happened to a man, nobody would expect them to perform sexually. They blew my butt up and all else associated.

There is this wonderful scene in the movie "Coming Home" where Jane Fonda goes down on the paraplegic -- off camera it is clear she is either kissing or nuzzling his penis -- and then she looks up and she asks: "Can you feel that?" And he, in total bliss answers, "No, but I can see it." ... Did the blast destroy the ability that necessitates the trust it takes to be overwhelming in love, and therefore sexual with someone else?

JUDI: I don't know, because I haven't had the opportunity. Before the bombing, I always considered myself a lesbian trapped in a heterosexual body. Although I've always mentally attracted to women and my close friends have always been women, I've always been sexually involved with men, and I've always had boyfriends or lovers or long-term relationships -- serial monogamy has been my life history.

But two thing happened after the bombing: I lost my physical sexual response; and I lost my sexual attractiveness -- because my body became distorted. This really changed my relationships with men. It made me realize how much of the day-to-day interactions with men that we think are interactions among humans are really fueled by sexual tension. Because that doesn't exist anymore...

But it does for men, with regard to you Judi ...

JUDI: It doesn't that I know of. There are no men in my life, and there haven't been since the bombing.

Yet one man after another -- especially in the timber industry -- fell in love with you, Judi. Became enamored with you and allied to you...

JUDI: But that's not falling in love. There's a difference between a physical alliance and a political alliance ...

What about the Pardini men -- in the middle of the Enchanted Meadow uprising? Or the logger who left his wife to be with you in the hospital ...

JUDI: I very much love Ernie Pardini -- I love his wife and kids too -- but we are not lovers. There's a big difference between the two...

Whenever Ernie Pardini was in your presence, the same kind of crackle one associates with sensual attraction was evident.

JUDI: But I don't see it. One of the aftermaths of the bombing has been that it has changed my relationships with men very much. They don't treat me the same. And there just are not very men in my life anymore. I don't have many friends that are men. Ernie is one of the few. It changed very many things, and it left me with a sadness, in a way. And in a way it left me with a sense of relief.

A strong woman rendered helpless, I discovered, is irresistible to many men
The last time you interviewed me -- years and years ago it seems, though it was just before the bombing -- we were talking about men and women activists, and I said something like, no matter who they are, no matter how much you think they're really right there, eventually when you get to know them well enough, you'll find that deep down, they have a misogynist streak. I don't have to deal with that anymore. I'm done with that. They're either going to be interested in me as a human being, or they're not going to be around. And I've found, in general, that they are not around. And it's been kind of a revelation to me to see how much my relationships with men changed when I ceased to be a sexual being. It really surprised me. And it has caused me a lot of sadness to see that. At the age of 40 to be rendered asexual is pretty shocking.

It's amazing to me that you are blind to your own draw

JUDI: I am. I'm not aware of it. I'm extremely self-conscious of the way my body was left. I never had a positive body self-image of myself to start with, but having become physically disfigured, I'm extremely physically self-conscious, and it takes a lot for me to overcome that and stand up and speak, and do those things, because I am very self-conscious about how distorted my body is. . . . Maybe I'm more aware of it than others, but I am very painfully aware of it.

Especially when you were confined to a hospital bed, and then when you were in hiding, there was your attraction as the victim-woman

JUDI: Yes. A strong woman rendered helpless, I discovered, is irresistible to many men.

Many men came on to me in the hospital. I mean, it was disgusting. I actually fired one of my night bodyguards. I was very offended that in that state of devastation, some man would be trying to take advantage of me. A lot of men were attracted to me then. But when I came strong enough to be a whole person -- although I'll never be as strong as I was before the bombing; there was definitely permanent damage on many levels.

After that, those kind of men became threatened by me. Bruce being the perfect example, I would say. Became threatened by me, rather than attracted to me.

Timber Wars... they're called, you call them, you've named your new book.

JUDI: Hagiography -- instead of a biography -- it's where you create a myth... [laughs]

But not really. After the bombing, when I was no longer as physically immobilized, I began to write a lot. I used to write once a week in the AVA, practically. I rarely missed a week. I began to spend a lot of my energy I used to spend hiking around the woods, documenting the struggle.

People kept asking me for copies of the articles, so after awhile, I collected them and self-published them. I got the typesetting from the AVA, then made the print a little bigger (because nobody can read the small type in the AVA), and I published it into a collection which I called Timber Wars.

Eventually, a book company called "Common Courage Press" contacted me and asked if I would be interested in publishing this as a real book. This was two years ago. I negotiated it with them and we eventually worked it out. I have this standard book contract where I get 10 percent of the net profits. And what I did was I upgraded it.

The articles start in 1989 and finish in 1994. About two-thirds were in the AVA. But they are also from the Earth First! Journal, MS. Magazine, one of them even from the New York Times. It's not a coherent book -- it's not even what I would call "a book", because it is a collection and my ideas change from the beginning to the end of the book. But from the front lines, in the time frame it happened, it documents the struggle that's been going on here -- and, of course, from my own warped perspective.

Have you seen the book? The cover is beautiful. And the company that did this, the most famous person who they publish is Noam Chomsky -- they're kind of a lefty, intellectual book company. They're not a big company, they're a small company, but for some reason, they chose to promote this book out of their fall selection, and they paid for a full page ad on the back of The Nation. I didn't even know it was coming out. Being an interminable intellectual, I subscribe to The Nation, and the New York Times, and all these other things that I really shouldn't because they are full of shit. But anyway, I get my Nation in the mail, and I look at the back cover, and the whole back cover was an ad for my book.

So as a result of this, all of a sudden, I'm getting all this attention -- and not as a result of the tremendous revelations!

NEXT: News Blackout at the Press Democrat
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Albion Monitor January 13, 1997 (

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