Friday, December 15, 2017
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
“You can’t fight City Hall.”
Well…turns out City Hall is a minor obstacle these days. Trump and his autocratic buds loom far larger. If you can’t fight City Hall you surely are foolish to try Trump.
Indeed, we routinely tell ourselves some version of the Reinhold Niebuhr axiomatic Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
We cannot possibly affect serenity these days without occupying a state of deep denial. This is an emergency on all fronts:
· Trump groped many women, a dozen of them came forward to describe it, and yet he keeps his job while the other power players topple.
· Trump praises foreign dictators—Putin, Erdogan, Duterte—and insults the leader of Europe’s strongest, prosperous, generous, peaceful democracy—Merkel.
· Trump is doing everything possible to put industry in charge of dismantling environmental regulations.
· Trump is appointing Supreme Court “Justices” who are shifting the decisions toward jingoism, xenophobia, and unconstitutional, anti-democratic nationalistic insularity.
· Trump is targeting Muslims, Mexicans, and others with his racist tweets, presidential orders, and auto-cannibalistic appointments.
· Trump and Kim Jong Un are doing the most demonic death dance ever, like little sociopaths who simply do not care about the annihilation of millions.
· Trump’s encouragement to the most brutal police has created a new level of racial fear felt first and familiarly in the African American communities but now in a toxic spreading reciprocity.
· Trump lies pretty much every time he discusses and denies the Russian roles in getting him elected and is now squirming to avoid the law as embodied in Mueller’s investigation.
And this is only the short list. We are losing public lands, gaining the ridicule and revulsion of citizens from around the world, and watching the shreds and loose threads of a social safety net for our most vulnerable blowing in this gale of bad policy.
What can we do?
Well, what did women do to finally get the vote? What did blacks do to finally end segregation? What did migrant workers do to form a union? What did Native Americans do to finally reaffirm long-abrogated treaty rights? What did British Gold Coast Africans do to end colonial rule? What did Filipinas and Filipinos do to depose Ferdinand Marcos? What did Serbs do to knock Slobodan Milosevic out of office? What did Tunisians do to overthrow dictator Ben Ali?
In all these cases and many more, people finally decided to take that latent power that is always there—nonviolent people power—organize it, recruit mass numbers to their movement, and use it strategically to earn victory. Yes, they worked at it. Yes, they sacrificed. And they won, with far far far fewer costs than if they would have either shrunk from engagement or engaged in violence.
Our power is in our hands if we take it off the table—and if we don’t, the greedy elite will take it all again. Our power, our choice.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
I spent the last few days traveling across the country to North Dakota to join others in supporting a gentle man who tried to help everyone. For that he was convicted of several crimes and will be heading to a North Dakota prison.
Michael Foster was born and raised in Texas, in an oil family. His crime in North Dakota was turning off the Keystone pipeline in a symbolic but real call to all of us to do what we can to stop global climate chaos.
That North Dakota valve turn was one of five similar actions last October--two women, three men, five valves on lines in Washington state, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all done in resonance with the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.
We see the buck-naked consequences of paying no attention to our oil consumption; Harvey drowns Houston, fires rip through the West, every hurricane is more intense than it otherwise would be, droughts last longer, lakes are drying up, the seas are rising and surging, and with fracking even earthquakes are no longer a pure act of God. Most previously natural disasters are now unnatural disasters, made worse by our hand more than the hand of God or Mother Nature.
The Trump regime is doing worse than nothing; they are exacerbating the problem by rolling back the tepid regulations the Obama administration brought to bear. Trump yanks the US out of a world agreement to fix this, the Paris Accords. He gets Rick "Never-met-an-oil-well-I-didn't-like" Perry as his Secretary of Energy and Scott "That-pollution-smells-like-money-to-me" Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency--into the ground. Trump promises to bring back dirty coal. It is Satanic, frankly, with zero regard for the children of the world, for the generations. He's old without any discernible conscience. Who will confront him?
I attended Michael's trial as much as possible, although I couldn't be in the room in the beginning because I was scheduled as an expert witness and we were sequestered until we testified--or until the judge disallowed us...which she did.
Michael was facing 23 years in prison on four charges. Three of us were there to provide expert testimony in three topic areas to help the judge and jury understand why Michael should be acquitted. Two of us were there to speak to different aspects of nonviolence and one was on hand to speak about the urgency of a rapid change in our general habits but a specific exam of the dirty tar sands oil that flows through the Keystone pipeline. Climatologist James Hansen is 76 years old and is the one who announced that "global warming has arrived" in 1988 when he worked as a scientist at the Goddard Space Center. Every single prediction he made then has come to pass. He is arguably the world's top scientist in that area--certainly the most famous. He’s Trump’s age, only with a long-view conscience and integrity.
The court could not be bothered to listen to this eminent scientist, someone who could have helped the judge and jury become at least familiar with the emergency that we see unfolding all over nowadays, made much worse by the dirtiest sort of fossil fuel--tar sands oil.
The contempt for anyone coming to North Dakota to "tell us how to live" (the prosecutor's attack on Michael, who is now from Seattle) was palpable. The judge allowed the prosecution's expert witness, demonstrating some spectacular inconsistency and hypocrisy. As one who woke up a few times this summer to unbreathable air and everything in my town covered in forest fire ash, I say to North Dakotans, you need to fix this. We will do our part but you need to do yours. Most of us know at least one or two people in Houston, or in the Santa Rosa area, or in Miami or Puerto Rico. Are we Americans who value all other Americans or are we not?
But the prosecutors were dismissive. Hell, Foster only faces 23 years, why give him a chance to reason with jury members? Let's not confuse them with the facts.
The trial in tiny Cavalier, North Dakota, in remote Pembina County, was heartbreaking.