Tumbleweeds & Terrorists

Look, I don't know what to do about terrorists called "Palestinian Militants" any more than a distant "expert" would understand what to do with my pile of Russian Thistles called "tumbleweed." But I will trust that those who deal with the problem on an every-day basis, those closest to it, understand best what must be done.

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Michelle Nevada

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Sunday, I was blessed. I had the opportunity, for the first time this season, to get outside and eradicate the tumbleweed on my acre. The reason I was so blessed is that I almost missed out completely. This season has been so dry and so windy that the fire department was reluctant to allow open burning at all. Now, I know most of you are not from the rural western United States, so you may not understand why I would want to openly burn my tumbleweed. So, before you start screaming about air quality and environment, please give me some time to explain the context of my situation.

First of all, tumbleweed, even though it has been present in every movie about the Old West for the last 50 years, is a non-native species. It's real name is "Russian Thistle," and it doesn't belong here. Tumbleweed is opportunistic and aggressive, and, once established, will crowd out the native species ? destroying both plant and animal habitat. It is especially prolific. Tumbleweeds can grow to giant size, topping five or six feet in height and sometimes as much as eight feet across. They grow in communities, protecting one another from the elements. When they are mature, they turn from a bright and vibrant green to woody beige, break off at the root, and go tumbling across acres of land, blown by the wind, dropping seeds everywhere.

These seeds are not innocuous little discs, they are thorny burrs with brittle, needle-sharp spines. These burrs grow by the thousands up and down every branch of the tumbleweed. There are very few things as terrible as stepping on a branch of tumbleweed with bare feet, as you can't see the tiny and exceedingly painful thorns. They break off and embed themselves in your skin, sometimes for days or weeks, before you can get them out.

Okay, so you have some context. Now you know why I can't just leave them alone. If left alone, they will just make more tumbleweed to destroy the land. They might look romantic, and they may operate in the minds of writers as a "symbol" for the free and open desert landscape, but they are really no more than a horrible thornbush that crowds out the native species.

As I stand in the acre behind my house and prepare to burn tumbleweed, the scene crystallizes into metaphor: "Palestinian Militants" are like "tumbleweeds." They have been given a name by those who want to romanticize their murder into some sort of fight for freedom, but it isn't their real name. They might be made to look romantic, and they may operate in the minds of liberal journalists as a "symbol" for some sort of fight for freedom, but they are just terrorists who want to destroy the native species. Like the tumbleweeds in the American west that have spread so successfully across the land, terrorists have spread across the land of Israel. These terrorists, prolific and opportunistic, have tried to claim the land of Israel for their own. They argue they are "fighting for their land", that they belong there: but they are not native to the land. They are an invasive species. They are nothing more than Arabs who want to destroy Israel and replace it with another Arab autocracy.

I stand in my acre and I think about the Russian Thistle called "Tumbleweed" and the terrorists called "Palestinian Militants" while I listen to a news report of smoke over Jenin. I think of how similar my situation is to that of the Israelis when I hear the pundits on the news say there are other ways to take care of the terrorist infrastructure in Israel.

?Those are just like the so-called environmental experts who have never dealt with tumbleweed,? I mutter to myself, ?They say there are other ways to take care of the mounds of thorns in my yard, but I know there aren't.?

I can't compost them, because they will reproduce in the compost (and they are covered with sharp barbs). I can't take them to the dump, because they will drop seeds all the way there and, once at the dump, spread by tumbling around. You see, I am here. I know what tumbleweed are like, how nasty they are, and the danger they pose. But these "experts" across the country, in a different context, can't possibly know, without me explaining, why I choose to burn something that you might consider part of the "romantic image" of the West: the beloved tumbleweed. Although you might make environmental arguments against my practice, I know I am doing what is best to protect the native species of both plants and animals from the incursion and destruction of a non-native species. Standing where they are, the "experts" don't know that tumbleweed are ?stickery?. They don't know that they are one of the main causes of damage to the land, and they might assume that I was doing something really terrible.

If they came here, and they saw me burning, they might become frightened by the wall of flame that shoots up, and they might think that I was being reckless. They might even think to call the fire department and declare the whole thing an emergency, or they might want take the hose in their hand and "calm down" the fire before, in their opinion, I also harmed a lot of the native species around. However, if they did, I would have to stop burning while the fire department investigated to make sure I was following all the requirements on my permit. If they had taken the hose in hand, I would have to wait for those tumbleweeds to completely dry before I could burn again. Then my burning permit would expire. And while I waited for another time that was good for eradicating tumbleweed, more would grow, the problem would worsen, and a few would even escape to tumble across my neighbor's acres and cause great damage ? not only this season, but in many seasons to come. And those who thought they were doing what was right would, instead, have caused more damage.

Look, I don't know what to do about terrorists called "Palestinian Militants" any more than a distant "expert" would understand what to do with my pile of Russian Thistles called "tumbleweed." But I will trust that those who deal with the problem on an every-day basis, those closest to it, understand best what must be done.

I know what to do with tumbleweed. I must eliminate them, every last one.
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Michelle Nevada is a religious Jew who has a doctorate in English and lives in a small town in rural Nevada.


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