Edwin Shank wrote:
Give Me Truth
Hello Family Cow Friends,
I'm sad as I write this, so my mood may come through a bit. Sorry, but I just feel a lingering heaviness of heart ever since last Friday when Dawn and I held court step vigil in Lexington KY with Sam Girod's family.
I have read a lot of commentary on the case and most writers are sympathetic as they try to understand Sam. But as a fellow plain person, I feel that an important detail is missed by non-plain folks trying to understand. Our family is Mennonite not Amish, so even we may not understand the Amish mind totally. But we do have a lot of similarities in how we face life and see issues in life. And I do work with and know the Amish community very well... so at least hear me out.
What follows is my best understanding of the clash of values that lies at the root of Sam Girod's tragic tangle with the Government. As background for my opinion, I've talked with Sam's sons and his close friends over the last six months. On Friday, Dawn and I got to meet and speak with his wife Elizabeth and their four daughters too. After the sentencing we were invited to sit in on the tearful family discussion circle back at the farm. These discussions with Sam's family and Amish friends and neighbors verified my plain person's intuition of what was going on in the minds of Sam and his family that led to this.
All Sam wanted is to tell the TRUTH.
Sam is a simple, no-nonsense, black and white, straight-forward Amish thinker. Stuff is either right or it is wrong. No middle ground. In his straightforward way of thinking it would be a lie to print the FDA required disclaimer on his labels: You know, the one that says, "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease." The truth of the matter is, his salves were intended to treat skin ailments and disease. Of course they were! That's 100% why he selected those particular herbs for his salve.
So Sam refused to print a lie for a disclaimer on his salve.
And in turn, the FDA declared his salves drugs. Unbelievable to Sam and indeed to most of us, the FDA officially stands firmly on their statement that "any product that treats, cures, prevent disease" are drugs. So since Sam's 'drugs' were NOT approved by the FDA... presto! ...they are illegal drugs.
The missing disclaimer is what allowed the FDA to charge him as an illegal drug dealer. And since he was also making the drugs he's charged #2 as an illegal drug producer and since some of these illegal drugs are sold out of state he's charged #3 as an interstate illegal drug dealer. All of these charges are federal crimes against the United States of America because the FDA is a federal agency. As you know, the case ridiculously escalated from there until the Government had 13 Federal crimes stacked against him and 68 years in prison hanging over his head. All of these false charges hanging over a peaceful, simple, Amish farmer, father of 12 and grandfather to 28 who has no prior criminal record whatsoever and who had never harmed anyone! All he wanted was to tell the truth.
Sam did hire a lawyer at first.
The Amish are very slow to hire lawyers. They really don't trust them. (Imagine that!) They feel that, too often, all a lawyer wants is your money and often will push you to do something shady or wrong in violation of their Christian moral principles. So when, true to form, Sam's lawyer tried repeatedly to persuade him to "just plead guilty"...even though the lawyer knew Sam was not guilty and Sam knew he was not guilty, Sam told the lawyer to go home. He was not going to violate the TRUTH by "pleading guilty" even if, as his lawyer said, it would be his best chance at winning his LIBERTY. The lawyer was smart in the ways of the world, of course. He thought that the best way he could help was to free Sam no matter what. What he did not realize is that Sam's code of life is "TRUTH no matter what," not "LIBERTY no matter what."
Sam decided to represent himself at his trial with TRUTH as his only defense. In his common sense thinking, if he'd tell the truth and nothing but the truth... he'd be exonerated. Why should he need a lawyer and a lawyer's slippery weasel words to win him his freedom? So at his trial Sam did tell the truth and nothing but the truth. His trial defense could be summarized almost entirely like this: "The herbs in my salves are not drugs, I am not a drug dealer or drug maker and my salves have not hurt anyone."
And he was cut to shreds by truth-twisting Federal prosecuting attorneys, a totally non-Amish jury that could not understand where he was coming from and a haughty judge that openly despised his simple TRUTH tactic.
Was this foolish? Yes, in the eyes of those wise in the ways of the world and the world's court system, it was foolish. To Sam though, it made a lot of common sense. His downfall was that he actually had a little faith in Justice in America. He had faith that the justice system in America was at least a little committed to TRUTH. As near as I can tell, I think he and all his friends and family have lost that little faith now.
Sam's simple moral stand on "Truth No Matter What" is misunderstood as stubborn and obstinate. The Federal judge actually called him obstinate to his face at the sentencing on Friday. Right up to a few hours before the sentencing, the Federal prosecutors were trying to get Sam to sign a plea deal which may have allowed him to go home that day. But always connected to the plea deal was the bargain that he'd have to plead guilty. And Sam was having none of it. Sam absolutely refused to sign his name to even a white lie, or "normal court technicality" as some would call it, to obtain his freedom. He was willing to lose liberty to keep TRUTH. He was not about to sell his soul to the Father of Lies.
Understandably, this is a pretty hard concept for a lawyer or most government officials to grasp. In fact it's even hard for most Americans to grasp. To most Americans (especially over July 4th weekend) the highest pinnacle of being an American is Patrick Henry's revolutionary battle cry of "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!"
Sam's cry of "Truth no Matter What" just sounds like something from another world... from another Kingdom.
And maybe it is... just maybe it is.
NOTE: This above explanation is not a full defense of all that Sam has done or all of the decisions that he has made. He is human and so is his family. There are definitely mistakes that he has made. I'm sure he would say so too. But none of them are anywhere close to mistakes that should put a man in federal prison for 6 years. For example, I'm pretty sure Sam wishes that he would have just stopped making salve altogether years ago. That is something that he could have done. He was under no moral compulsion to be a salve maker.
He might even wish he'd have hired a different lawyer rather than trying to explain his own case in court with no lawyer. He could have hired a more understanding lawyer that could truly represent him including his "Truth No Matter What" convictions. If he would have done so, I feel the FDA would have been forced to retreat... Their case against Sam was flimsy and full of holes.
I do feel strongly that Sam must absolutely distance himself from those who recently have begun taking advantage of his lack of knowledge and are advising him to use the "Sovereign Citizen" argument. If Sam naively follows that siren call... it will be an even bigger disaster and put him and his family in entirely the wrong camp. This was neither Sam's original position nor his position at his trial. He must not get dragged into that now or he'll lose all credibility.
Let's keep praying for this poor man and his family... That they would all make wise, God-honoring decisions that they will never regret in the days that are ahead.
Also remember that, by God's word, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God..." Romans 8:28
God may have a special reason for Sam in prison that is completely beyond our knowledge. In fact, God has already used Sam to help another inmate who came to him and asked how he could find Jesus. Dawn and I shared some happy tears with the family Friday afternoon at the farm. Elizabeth and the girls especially were touched that God was using their father this way.
God is good all of the time! All of the time God is good. He's in control. Never be afraid.
Blessings and Prayers,
Your farmers - Edwin and Dawn Shank