Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Show Goes On...

"A future generation of left leaders is being silenced. Gunned down in Norway. Beaten bloody in Cairo+Madrid. Locked up in Utah"

-Naomi Klein

The above quote was motivated by world events as well as a recent turn of events in Salt Lake City, where Tim DeChristopher, aka Bidder 70 was sentenced yesterday to 2 years in prison, beginning immediately, for his actions as a whistleblower who disrupted an oil and gas auction of BLM lands in 2008 that itself was later invalidated by the Department of the Interior. Here is his statement. It is worth reading. How many pallid lies and halfheartedness have you endured upon your ears to date about the failure of anyone in charge to do anything about climate change? It was high time to find something better to do with yourself anyways.

I recall, at times like this the many CEOs, stockbrokers, speculators and board of directors members I never met or knew or heard about whose consciously reckless actions had by 2008 resulted in my and your own unemployment. I think about how 99.999% of these people will never serve a fraction of the time in jail that Tim will. Most, it seems, have never even been shown the inside of a court room. But the dangerous precedent of Tim's economic monkey wrenching (which was later in essence agreed with and vindicated by the Federal Government) was too much to let off with a slap on the wrist!

Direct action against climate change? Indeed. What a principle that sets! A principle dangerous radicals like me have been arguing for for years- that the people of the world have other options besides either a) installing private solar panels they can't afford on the sides of homes they don't own, or b) doing nothing while private energy interests continue to amass fortunes on the basis of ecological catastrophe.

Impossible. Dangerous. Stomp it out. Crush it. Lock it up. Throw away the key.

Repression, yes. And thank you Namoi Klein for your quote, acknowledgment, and framing of this moment in its historical context. For rescuing me from my despair. For you see, I stopped to eat at the Wendy's restaurant in Vernal. And at the Wendy's restaurant in Vernal not one but two large flat screened TVs are required to keep the patrons supplied with the necessary input of FOX news coverage. This is, after all, the Uinta Basin: heart of Utah's oil and gas boom. And Mr. O'Reilly himself was up there, releasing into the atmosphere his trademarked exhaust of lies and bigotry. It seemed a Christian Fundamentalist Terrorist in Norway had decided to bomb and shoot several young Social-Democratic activists at a summer retreat.

Clearly, this was inconvenient to O'Reilly's most orthodox interpretation of religion and violence, and after approximately 2 minutes of discussing this shocking global event, the image on the screen changed to one of a crescent moon with a star on a red back ground and those menacing words: Muslim Terrorism. Or was it Muslim Extremism? Perhaps. But it did remain for the rest of the segment, and animate those beady eyes with a passion we'd otherwise have been all so much more the worse for missing out on. For clearly, convincing me that Muslim Terrorists are much greater of a threat to my existence that are Christian Terrorists is a much more important, and far nobler, undertaking than the actual reporting of the most violent and unfortunate political event to have occurred in perhaps the most peaceful and harmonious European country since the Second World War.

Yes, Mr. O'Reilly, you are a tricky fish.

So I have been, at the boat house here, discussing these matters. With my kind. And political ideas and thoughts have appeared and grown and become relevant with an intensity they do not, on average, possess in Green River, Utah, population 900. It was at this exact moment in time that a friend, via email, demanded I explain myself, for why, with such ideas, did I spend time in DC, and why, on earth, did I leave?

Much longer space, than this internet is capable of hosting, would be required for me to fully answer any such questioning comprehensively. But I did come up with a response, and not having written or discussed anything much political lately, we can go ahead and share it. For we do live in an age, of Future Left Leaders. And they are being silenced, gunned down, beaten bloody, and locked up. If being a Future Left Leader is such a hazardous occupation, and one apparently still necessary, it might be worth it to remind ourselves of why such things are necessary.

What ever happened to the Past Left Leaders? Why do we need new ones anyway?

Well friend... I will tell you about what I saw in Washington, DC. And why today I will have nothing to do with it. I'll share a few reminisces, as I'm taking a break from history writing and feeling fairly literary anyway...

I went to Washington, DC to study and learn about "Political Science." Largely, I was greatly frustrated, as over and over again I found the best "scientific" principles out there were ignored. Out of favor, completely, they were in those days of the Bush Administration. More carnal passions of greed, war, fear, and bigotry, the taking advantage of the weak by the strong, the meek by the boorish, were dominant. I was in the front lines then, of course, of the radical ferment. And lead I did as best I could my armies of radicalized students (and anyone else!) against that juggernaut of corruption and oppression. Time and again, it seemed, such energies would lapse into despair, as the first movements did not secure any quick victories. My peers at such time would retreat to their academics, and were more and more difficult to extract from the comfort of the dormitories.

And particularly so during an election year! Ah yes... how hard then were the straws of inevitable, liberal betrayal and failure so desperately clenched! And I saw it all with my own eyes, from my front row seat at the heart of movements... how the country's largest gay rights organization unleashed its armies of minimum wage staffers, volunteers, and other convinced do gooders to dismantle an incipient gay marriage movement in 2004- one that so arrogantly threatened to embarrass John Kerry for his inability to say the "M" word, and admit the voters he was taking for granted might themselves strongly feel their own civil rights were worth having today- rather than in some distant, post-election future.

Similar prostrations reverberated throughout the antiwar movement, as the leaders of those crumbling, factious organizations lifted as high as they could this candidate who was doing everything he could to repudiate his relevant past as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I was there with a small crowd outside the "Iraqi" embassy that November when the assault on Fallujah- postponed for just after the election- was underway. Quite a few Iraqi mothers, fathers, and children then- not wise enough to flee their homes on the eve of their liberation by our advancing armies- had their skin burned off those nights by the dumping of white prosperous onto civilian neighborhoods turned battle zones. Only a stunning, echoing silence was heard, from the shadows of the Kerry Campaign. The same timbre I might have heard more recently, as Israel killed a few thousand more civilians with 2009's bombing campaign in the Gaza strip, and Obama's vacant, stalling inertia, refused to intervene- much less take a stand- and put a stop to that madness. No. The shipments of bombs continue to this day- painfully unopposed.

That same year I do remember seeing at least one pretty inspiring sight. It was on the faces of over a million women who turned out on the mall in April for a rally to protect women's rights. Quite a few, young, attractive, militant proto-subversives were there, desperate to re-invigorate a real fight against sexism, abortion restrictions, discrimination in health care, and the like...

We had all the crowd we needed, for such a fight. Yes. But again, it was pacified, misled, and betrayed from the front. Madeline Albright was there, waving her feminist credentials, as the woman who said on 60 Minutes the murder of half a million Iraqi children by the slow strangulation of sanctions on that country was "worth it" to "contain" Saddam Hussein. Hillary Clinton made her appearance as well. Clearly, she never had much control over her husband- though I never recalled hearing any protests from her when he signed the "Defense of Marriage" Act, or came up with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to officiate discrimination throughout the nation's largest workforce.

Maybe I'm getting too side tracked on different issues? Oh yes, here's one more relevant, abortion! Thank you Hillary, for leading this rally, after all your hard work to promote abortion as being ever more "safe, legal, and rare". Yes, rarer indeed it gets all the time, as states pass restrictions requiring teenage girls' conservative, religious, and/or incestuous parents to officiate their consent prior to their daughters' own exercise of control over their own bodies. Rare indeed, are abortions today, as few private health insurance plans will ever pay for them (though convenient indeed are their subsidies for viagra!). And difficult, yes... As over 80% of counties in the nation have no abortion provider, and the ones that do can be hard to get to past the crowds of exterior religious fanatics.

How eager I was for some sort of rejuvenation of the fight for this very basic human right, which I myself have with partners exercised twice in my life. Alas, it was not to be. No call for marches, community organizations, or clinic defense. No inspiring introduction of legislation. Nothing. Just vote John Kerry. Yes, thank you large pro-choice organization, for the "vote John Kerry" sign- I have so much to thank you for! Particularly for your careful documentation of legislative votes, which for 2003 showed that John Kerry only showed up to vote on 3 out of 11 abortion related bills that came up for consideration that year. To his everlasting credit, he did manage to vote the "correct" way all 27% of the time it mattered while he was a Senator!

Understand now, though, I am a kind of utopian, out of touch radical, dreamer, and idealist. My wishes and my vision of course is incompatible with the broader human nature- of ever being lead by anyone who will stand up to fight for you greater than 27% of the time!

I left... that place. The cesspool of corruption is very well spinning away on its own without me there to endure the vagueries of its own daily nuances and disappointments. I have little love lost, for the politicians, NGOs, or even the drug dealers who used to hang out on my stoop and sexually harass my girlfriends. I'll take my chances with the canyons, the rivers, white water, grizzly bears, and dehydration. Much safer here, in the heart of America. Escaping the horror, as I am, by burying myself in it!

Clearly, I still have a lot of opinions about all that. Politics. Yes. Is it frustrating that I am politically irrelevant here in rural Utah, with all these great ideas busting out of my head? Of course! But far less frustrating that actually living in a place like Washington, DC!

Then you may surprised to hear that I do have hope, still, for the country. Hope in the faces, words, and actions, of my kindred souls across America. The witty comments on facebook. The rides I got hitchhiking... largely from undocumented immigrants. The couch and five months of the backyard campsite when I was homeless. The volunteers at the food bank. The small protest. The radical students. The nutty professor. The guest lecturer, and the crowd that came to see him. Wind and Solar. Melon farmers. River guides. Amy Goodman. Lupe Fiasco.

Change comes to Washington, not from Washington. And usually, it stops, mired in the mud of legislative inertia, slime, and general bureaucratic gobbledygook, before it ever gets very far, or deep. We will see change come to Washington, one day, though only long after it has been accomplished most everywhere else. In the wake of a victorious, advancing, revolutionary army... or perhaps brought down by the wrath of Good God himself, peeling back the very flesh of the earth to swallow, bury, and efface that abomination, albeit in a grossly belated manner. I am not sure which is more likely to occur, or happen first... But I am sure, that tunneling in my own patient way across the heartland, I'll find a way to contribute, one way or another.

Like many, I suppose, my frustrations, passions, and desires build up privately, and release themselves through more discreet and acceptable channels, than the general strike or insurrection, for which I am finding it is required for the whole society to be in touch with its own energies and frustrations on a far more intimate and conscious way than any few radicals can, by their own energies, convince it to attain, by the simple day to day routines of low level attrition.

But that ought to be rather the point, isn't it?

Who wants to live in a world where everyone is a bystander? Resigned, marginalized, and silent! Where politics is left only to distant elections, money, and treacherous "experts" to screw up on our behalf? My fancy political credentials, I am sure, will one day rise, as Eugene Debs put it, "with the masses, not from the masses."

That then, I hope, is enough to answer your questioning about Washington, DC!

So let's hear it for Tim DeChristopher, those kids in Norway, Cairo, or anywhere else they're needed and stepping up. The world, desperately, is going to require more future left leaders than it presently has. Or had. As the case may be.

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