Let the punishment fit the crimeI started this column three times, and each time the words made the computer crash. I finally decided that this old Windows platform doesn't like angry words. Since the Honking Tree went down, I've spouted lots of them, and a few tears, too. "Get a grip," a friend of mine told me. "It's only bark."
I started this column three times, and each time the words made the computer crash.
I finally decided that this old Windows platform doesn't like angry words. Since the Honking Tree went down, I've spouted lots of them, and a few tears, too.
"Get a grip," a friend of mine told me. "It's only bark."
No, it's not. I know there are murdered people and aborted babies whose deaths can't begin to be compared to the unwarranted death of this tree—but that doesn't mean we can't grieve. The Honking Tree was something special to a lot of people.
I was charmed when I moved here back in the '70s and heard the story of the tree. I always honked when I drove past, and lately I've wondered if I was the only one who did. I wondered if the tradition had somehow fizzled as the years went by, as more new people moved to town, as things like the economy and Middle East wars loomed large.
I wonder no longer. Honking stories began filling coffee shops, web sites and phone conversations mere hours after the news got out. The big white pine was an icon for home, haven, playground. It was something a lot of today's adults grew up with and told their children about. It had become a legend.
Maybe that was the problem. People love bringing legends to their knees—or, in this case, to the ground. Makes them feel powerful, I guess. If they can wield control over something that "large," then they must be powerful indeed. In their minds, anyway.
Little do they realize how pathetic they are. Instead of making a name for themselves by being especially kind, or generous, or a really hard worker, or a good friend, or any of those things people value, they choose to make a name for themselves by destroying something others love. I have to wonder what kind of shriveled heart and warped mind they have.
What this person or persons did, under cover of dark, in secret, was mean and cowardly. They may have walked off thinking they'd managed to thumb their noses at the whole community.
That's why I think, if they're caught, that they should have to face the whole community. They need to be forced to come into the light of scrutiny.
So, I propose that the guilty party be sentenced to stand on the stage in Thomas Owens Park, with a sign around his neck saying, "I cut down the Honking Tree." Then I propose that the entire community be invited to line up and walk past, simply to take a good look. No ugly words said, no rotten tomatoes thrown—just a look.
"Oh, you believe in an eye for an eye," someone said when I told them my suggestion. Not at all. I just think the punishment should fit the crime. The guilty person evidently wanted to make some sort of public statement with his act; then he should get credit publicly, too.