Jewish World Review July 1, 1999 /17 Tamuz, 5759
Free Sara Jane Olson?
THE STORIES HAVE TENDED to focus on her quiet suburban life. Here's how Marcia Clark described her on "Rivera Live":
"For nearly a quarter century, she was a respected member of her Minnesota community, a good mom who jogged,
gardened and acted in local theater, and made casseroles for her neighborhood block parties. But the woman known to all as
Sara Jane Olson was really a fugitive named Kathleen Soliah, a former member of the notorious Symbionese Liberation
Soliah was wanted by police in California for participating in a number of criminal acts. She is accused of placing pipe
bombs under police squad cars (the bombs were discovered and disarmed before anyone could be hurt) and possibly
participating in other crimes. She fled to Africa following her indictment in 1975 and has been a fugitive from justice since.
The chorus of those willing, even eager, to forgive and forget is large and noisy. Ironically, one of them is the son of Myrna
Opsahl, who, like Soliah, was a suburban mom and wife of a doctor. On April 21, 1975, Mrs. Opsahl was making a deposit
at the Crocker Bank in Carmichael, Calif. Several masked members of the Symbionese Liberation Army burst into the bank
and shouted at everyone to get down on the floor. Opsahl apparently didn't comply quickly enough and paid for it with her
life. She was shot in the abdomen and bled to death. She was 42 -- the mother of four children.
One of her children, Dr. Roy Opsahl, says the past should be past. "I look at it as a total waste of money," he told the
Associated Press. "Nothing's going to come of it. What's justice now? You're going to ruin the lives of her three children?"
Opsahl should be something of an expert on the subject of having one's childhood destroyed by the loss of a mother.
But still, his response is strange. After all, Soliah, at least indirectly, contributed to his mother's murder. He asks, "What's
justice?" -- but his question seems to imply that justice is unobtainable.
The defense attorneys who crowd cable TV and excuse every criminal they discuss took much the same tack on Rivera
and other shows. When Marcia Clark asked whether they weren't in fact rewarding Soliah for fleeing justice (she had been
indicted in California in 1975), one, attorney Michael Sherman, was blase. "You've got to weigh in the crime here too. She
didn't kill anybody. She made some bad mistakes. ... Are you the same person you were 25 years ago? Forget about it."
Actually, while Soliah is likely to argue "youthful indiscretion" as she fights extradition to California from Minnesota
(though Gov. Jesse Ventura takes a dim view of her case), she was not a baby when she joined the SLA. She was a
28-year-old college graduate who moved to Berkeley to get involved in radical politics. By the time she joined the SLA, the
group had already kidnapped and converted (or brainwashed, take your pick) Patty Hearst, extorted money from William
Randolph Hearst and engaged in a deadly shoot-
out with Los Angeles police.
Hearst gave herself up and offered evidence against other SLA members, but Soliah fled the country, moving to
Zimbabwe for seven years and then returning with her husband to Minnesota.
"We send people to prison to rehabilitate them so they can become the kind of person Sara is today," a neighbor told
Time magazine. "It would serve no purpose to incarcerate her."
Well, perhaps prison is not the ideal punishment for this particular defendant. But there are other punishments. The
strange thing is the willingness shown by so many to disregard her crimes entirely. Is it because so-called '60s activism is still
shrouded in a romantic haze? Suppose, instead of trying to kill police officers (who usually have families, by the way), she
had tried to blow up black churches in her 20s? Would the same people be saying "Forget about it"?
It is only an accident that Soliah's bombs didn't kill anyone. The crime remains attempted murder. A large fine would be
the beginning of justice. But so would some creative community service --- perhaps spending every weekend for the next
several years cleaning the bathrooms at the local police
JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.
06/23/99: Behind the George W. frenzy
06/23/99: How to avoid Mediscare
06/21/99: Taking back our streets
06/16/99: Hide and seek
06/14/99: Impervious to the evidence
06/09/99: Unsung heroes
06/01/99: For $ale
05/26/99: Best friend these girls ever had
05/24/99: Baby Hope continued
05/20/99: Say no to the Gore tax
05/17/99: Baby Hope
05/13/99: Other high crimes
05/10/99:Three cheers for uniforms
05/05/99: Voucher opponents' worst nightmare
05/03/99: Lessons of Columbine High
04/28/99: Kevorkian is stopped
04/26/99: "Senseless tragedy"?
04/22/99: Hey, hey, ... Bubba
04/19/99: Why we are in Kosovo
04/15/99: Hooray for the NYPD
04/09/99: How to do something about taxes
04/06/99:Can the private sector handle foster care?
03/31/99: The Flower Child goes to war
03/29/99: Foreign-policy meltdown
03/25/99: 'Just doin' it'
03/22/99: Return of pay equity?
03/16/99: St. Hillary
03/10/99: Rodney King in perspective
03/08/99: Monica's story: No morals
03/04/99: Not home but library alone:
3/02/99: Tuning our racial sensitivities
2/27/99: Cease-fire in war between sexes?
2/23/99: Where were the religious voices?
2/19/99: Depends what you mean by "acting"
2/17/99: As Minn., goes so goes the nation?
2/09/99: Prepare for post-impeachment spin
2/03/99: Teaching morality
2/01/99: What did he say?
1/26/99: The truth about the Peace Process
1/22/99: The vulgar decade
1/19/99: Was Jefferson libeled by DNA?
1/13/99: The backlash picks up speed
1/11/99: Who invented politics of personal destruction?
1/07/99: Shall we dance?
1/05/99: Try him!
12/30/98: The price of virtue
12/28/98: The gift of giving
12/22/98: Party of shame, party of shamelessness
12/18/98: Wag the country
12/16/98: Is this impeachment constitutional?
12/14/98: Republicans find courage
12/09/98: Nappy Hair and other racial slurs
12/07/98: Stranger in a strange land
12/02/98: Dangerous ground
11/30/98: Involuntary fatherhood?
11/24/98: Lies, damned lies, and sex lies
11/18/98: Another victory for cowardice
11/16/98: Separatism plus welfarism equals a dead end
11/10/98: Did conservatism lose campaign '98?
11/06/98: Democrat venality, Republican timidity
11/04/98: Are girls being shortchanged?
11/02/98: Believe the children?
10/28/98: What 'Measure 58' would do
10/26/98: The officers are bailing out
10/20/98: Using Matthew Shepard's murder
10/19/98: The school voucher that saved a family
10/14/98: Are powerful women different?
10/09/98: Can just sex be impeachable?
10/07/98: Repeal Miranda
10/02/98: Understanding the polls
10/01/98: What school texts teach about marriage
9/28/98: Fear of choice
9/23/98: A fork in the road: Bubba's fate and ours
9/18/98: Christianity and the Holocaust
9/16/98: The national dirty joke
9/11/98: Are we in crisis?
9/09/98: Does Burton's sin let Clinton off the hook?
9/07/98: Liar's Poker
9/01/98: One, two, three
8/28/98: Fat and folly
8/25/98: When homework is a dirty word
8/21/98: The unravelling
8/18/98: The wages of dishonesty
8/17/98: Sex, honor and the presidency
8/12/98: Pro-choice extremist
8/10/98: Switch illuminates biology's role
8/05/98: The presumption of innocence and the American way
8/03/98: An American hero
7/29/98: Lock up those who need psychiatric care
7/24/98: Making the military more like us
7/22/98: The 'Net sex hoax... and us
7/20/98: Disappointed by Cosbys
7/15/98: Feelings, not morality, rule
7/10/98: Guns as the solution?
7/8/98: Teacher preacher
7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
6/26/98: The Republican city
6/24/98: Poison pen
6/22/98: Clinton: inventing his own reality?
6/16/98: Senator mom?
6/12/98: Wisconsin: a trail blazer?
6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
6/2/98: English? Si; Republican? No!
5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
5/8/98: Where's daddy?
5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?
©1999, Creators Syndicate