Mojo on Tree-Gate
Last Perfect Human, epitaph


We axed Counselor Mojo how he would mediate the John Olerud Tree-Gate Scandal - not just in terms of the letter of the law, but in terms of what's fair and what's Do Unto Others.  His brilliant analysis runs,


Olerud has a few things working against him in the tree dispute:

1. The tree was there when he built the house. Whatever arrangements he made for his view should have been made before he built the house or bought the lot.

2. Trees, though common, are priceless. If you chop one down that you particularly like, you will never get another one exactly like it. You are dealing with a unique creature; A man can chop down a tree but only God can create one.

3. By account this tree was particularly rare. The article says it was a Chinese Pine and that it was old.

4. Further, a pine tree is particularly inoffensive. It doesn't pollute the neighbor's yard with leaves or seedlings or poop, it doesn't yap like a dog, it doesn't run along the ground and sprout in wierd areas like a Red Aldar or a bamboo, it doesn't eat the neighbor's wild birds from their bird feeder, like a cat, it doesn't abut any property line so that it is intrusive, the roots are not breaking or unsettling any concrete or foundation, it is not dangerous to little children, it does not carry any loathsome disease, and it does not grow at an alarming rate. Further, the objection to the tree is purely aesthetic, rather than causing any real economic harm. The tree is not costing Olerud his livelihood.

These factors combine to create a situation that money cannot fix. It is impossible for Olerud to pay for repairs, to make both parties happy. So, while this tree might be a small thing to some owners, who could then come to a reasonable agreement for its removal, if an owner likes the tree for its individuality, then an agreement will be unreachable.

I don't view this as a small or minor situation blown up by the media. To want the tree removed is one thing, but to sue for its removal is quite another. There are many things that people desire that they should not sue over. Further, Olerud does damage to the Christian faith by telling the zoning board that his neighbor is not a good Christian because he does not cut down the tree as asked. The Bible states that Christians should have the Church arbitrate disputes between them so as not to bring the faith into discredit. 1 Cor. 6:7. Olerud, whether he likes it or not, is a particularly influental person, so when he says these things, it reaches a larger audience than he probably intended. He should leave his private obsessions out of the public eye.



... I hadn't known anything about the situation other than the headline.  Had figured that Olerud and the other homeowner had sharp words, and then the other guy ran off to the media to create a sensation.  If it developed out of Olerud himself trying to bring leverage to bear, then ... yowch.

Olerud sued for removal of the tree?  Didn't his attorney tell him how groundless that would be... ah well.  No use blowing off a retainer :- )  I guess a followup question to Mojo would be, what theoretical basis could there be for this suit?


Going around casting accusations because the homeowner preferred not to remove his own tree is also damaging to Olerud's influence, no doubt.  If those two things be true then it's weirdly dissonant against what we all thought of Olerud.  It's a violation of true spirituality to use laws, creeds, sacred writings, etc. as a club to leverage others into acting to your advantage.  To use "Do Unto Others" cynically as a leverage bar is itself a gross violation of "Do Unto Others."  There's hardly anything that's more damaging to the faithful, as it were, than to have other "faithful" manipulating them through the system.


This is America.  It's your yard, your tree, and not our place to tell you what to do with your yard.  A big part of legal process is to weigh the rights of society against the rights of the individual.  Supposing it were a Homeowners' Association, much less one neighbor, telling a guy to cut down his own tree, 'cause we don't like it, isn't anywhere near a gray area, in my view.

Not a proud moment for Olerud, agreed.  Ah well.  The powers that be will tell him where to get off, and we the public will suddenly realize that he's not a 2-D cartoon cutout of a perfect human being, and that will be an appropriate consequence to fit the circumstance.



The article states that Olerud petitioned a zoning board in his city of Clyde Hill to condemn his neighbor's tree under a rarely used local ordinance that allows trees to be forcefully removed for aesthetic reasons.  Glad I don't live there.
The article also states that the neighbor had already removed one tree on his property for Olerud, and that Olerud quoted the Bible to the zoning board about the Golden Rule, and how that meant the neighbor should capitulate and cut down his other tree.
In Olerud's defense, it sounds like he lives in a hyper regulated city that might be akin to a gated community.  In that sort of situation, maybe a person gives up his ordinary property rights to community aesthetic regulation and control to a much greater degree than an ordinary urbanites would be comfortable with.  Maybe in Clyde Hill, ugly trees are outlawed, and Olerud is just doing his civic responsibility in bringing the offending pine to trial.  Ultra-rich gated community commune squabbles just register as absurd to ordinary people who live in houses that they paint whatever color they want, ignore their neighbors and don't like the government.  But, the people that live in gated communities seem to really like them, and maybe feel a duty to police one another.

Is all this a big deal?  I don't know.  But Olerud's quote from the Bible is particularly cringe worthy.  He should have left God out of this one.


Is one I hate, in which you "voluntarily"sign away aesthetic control of your property when you decide to buy a house.  (What if 80% of houses are under this quasi-totalitarian system?)
yeah, if it's a community where the de facto laws are Homeowners Association (HOA) style, and that's what the community wants, then the conversation changes a little.


the Lead Pipe rule. A rule designed to govern oneself in one's actions towards others was turned on its head and used as if it governed another's actions towards oneself. It's a shame, for doing this brings undeserved disrepute to Jesus Christ, who issued the Golden Rule. That disrepute was definitely a concern of Paul in the context you quote from First Corinthians. At one point, vehemently objecting to Christians pursuing lawsuits againtst other Christians before judges' whose standard of conduct is purely secular and legal, and noting the disrepute it brings, he says, "Why not wrather be wronged?!" In other words, for the Christian it is better to suffer personal loss with regard to the disputed matter than to bring disrepute to the Lord and His church. The Lord himself made it clear both in his teachings and his actions that the essence of the Christian life is a life of self-sacrificing love. Alas, all of us too often fail to live up to the standard that our Lord himself lived out perfectly every moment of his life. That's why we need the grace of God through Christ. But our calling in this life is to pursue living up to it.
Lest we become arrogant ourselves (and this is not pointed at anyone in particular), all Christians struggle in this life to live out their faith rightly, not just John Olerud. I know I do. Still, it is important to point out publicly the error of his public ways so people don't think Christians in general find this an appropriate use of the words of Jesus.


People of all faiths, I think, value the "classy" individual who tries to put peace and harmony above his own point of view.  When one athlete gives up a jersey number to an incoming veteran we all bask in the donor's class.

Kate's picture

Whoever wrote this article keeps referring to the tree in the past tense. Is the tree still amongst us? Lost all respect for Mr. Olerud over this. Hey, John! I'll trade ya your neighbor's beautiful old $18k Chinese pine tree for my drug house neighbor's dead RV with blue and gray tarps all over it, parked in the yard as to hide the pit bull cage....Deal?

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