Legendary Texas journalist Molly Ivins once joked about rebel-rouser-activist Jim Hightower: "If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that child - mad as hell, with a sense of humor." Well, Hightower has a protest soul sister, the inventive, congenial, yet fierce "eco-outlaw" named Diane Wilson. Unlike armchair activists and witty journalists, this champion takes risks, gets bloodied, arrested, and endures jail -- then turns her adventures into good-hearted, epic tales reminiscent of Mark Twain.
And what progressive battles need, more than ever, are inspiring protest leaders -- and crowds in the street. Otherwise, we fail to learn from the insipid, conspiracy-ridden, if effective escapades of the Tea Party. One hard-won lesson I take from this hell-raising muckraker from Seadrift, TX is that petitions, donations, columns and news interviews are nice but don't save lives, jobs, America or mother earth.
Which explains why Diane Wilson isn't on Rachel Maddow, yet. Diane was featured in a terrific PBS documentary called Texas Gold, was interviewed on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! and performs daring Codepink disruptions. She produced one hilarious satire voiced by Peter Coyote about bottled Gulf water you get to drink once.
Diane has also penned two inspiring protest memoirs -- real-life, laugh-out-loud, unflinching stories reliving what happens when a terrific activist puts her liberty on the line. This woman walks the line, until she gets forcibly removed. Her two full titles alone justify the price of admission:
- An Unreasonable Woman, the True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas.
- Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth
Her tactics are "unreasonable," of course, only to cancer-inducing, worker-killing resource predators (well shielded by official protection) whom she ambushes with inventive schemes. Eco-activism here is downright fun, mostly, like anti-war '60's agitation (though absent crowds). She invites all of us to do local agitation.
Where she's best known as Corporate Criminal Enemy No. 1 is Calhoun County, Texas which -- alas, B.D. (Before Diane) -- was a remote, Gulf coast pushover ripe for chemical dumpers, and by 1989 had won the EPA's dubious prize as America's most polluted place. That shocker woke Diane up, and she's been confronting polluters (and now related war-mongers) ever since.
Teaching by Bold Example
I found out about Diane because my wife is writing a young adult novel and needed to check background about the Gulf, shrimping, and endangered sea turtles. So, who better to learn from than the liveliest, most notorious, ex-professional Gulf shrimper living between Galveston and Corpus Christi? Naturally we jumped in the van and drove eight hours when hearing Diane was to keynote a women's literary celebration in Santa Barbara. Her simple, if hard to execute message: trust your heart, assess the damage, disregard most well-intentioned warnings and, above all, don't sweat outcomes impossible to know in advance.