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After New York: Rally for Peace and Climate in DC

8:35 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

An interactive townhall discussion of how we get to peace

Speakers: Andy Shallal, Barbara Wien, David Swanson, and YOU

When: Monday, September 22, 11:30-1:30

Where: SIS Founders Room, American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016

Food and drink provided!

War, Whistleblowing, and Independent Journalism

Join us for the powerful documentary Body of War (co-produced and co-directed by Phil Donahue), followed by a discussion with whistleblowers and journalists.
When: Monday, September 22
6:30 pm: Body of War film screening8 pm: Q&A with Phil Donahue

8:15 pm: Panel
*  William Binney, NSA whistleblower
*  Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, EPA whistleblower
*  Phil Donahue, journalist
*  Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower
*  Peter Kuznick, professor of history
*  Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistleblower
*  Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower
Moderator: Norman Solomon

Where: American University — Butler Board Room (located on the 6th floor above the Bender arena sports complex)Optional: You can sign up on FaceBook here.

This event is sponsored by RootsAction.org and the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, and co-sponsored by ExposeFacts.org.

For more information on the speakers, click here
.

Nonviolent civil resistance for peace and climate at the White House

When: Tuesday, September 23, 10 a.m.

Where: Pennsylvania Ave. in front of White House.

More information.

Peace Ecology

11:11 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

With serendipitous timing, as a big march for the climate, and various related events, are planned on and around the International Day of Peace, Randall Amster has just published an important book called Peace Ecology.

This book bridges divides that very much need to be bridged between peace activism and peace academia, and between peace advocacy and environmentalism.  This is, in fact, a peace book for deep environmentalists and an environmental book for deep peace advocates.

Typically, I think, peace activists appear to the peace academic as a bit uninformed, ahistorical, reactive, and negative in the sense of being “against something rather than for something.”

Peace academics, I’m afraid, often appear to the peace activist as uninterested in ending wars, uncurious about the evils of wars, unimpressed by the military industrial complex as a cause of wars, and altogether too concerned with the personal virtues of people who are in no way responsible for the scourge of war. It is the rare political studies academic who occasionally can be spotted opposing war or documenting the superiority of nonviolent struggle, whereas the peace studies scholars are essentially advocates of environmentalism and democracy who — unlike other environmentalists and democrats — happen to recognize the ginormous roadblock that militarism presents for their agenda. Or so it appears to the activist, who searches in vain for any large academic contingent giving war and war propaganda the full critique they so richly deserve.

The environmentalist, meanwhile, as represented by the larger environmentalist groups and their spokespeople, appears to the peace activist as a dupe or a war-monger, someone who wants to save the earth while cheering on the institution that constitutes its single biggest destroyer.

The peace activist, when spotted by the otherwise occupied environmentalist, must appear something of a fool, a traitor, or a Vladimir-Putin-lover.

Amster is an academic for peace and the environment with a strong inclination toward activism. Parts of his book could have been written by an environmentalist enamored with war, but most of it could not have been. What Amster is after is a worldview within which we avert the dangers of both war and environmental destruction, including by recognizing their interaction.

War advocates would tell those developing organic communal gardens and gift economies and natural sanctuaries, and other projects that Amster writes about, that “our brave troops” are providing the safe space in which to pursue such luxuries.  Amster would, I think, tell the war advocates that their project is in fact rapidly reducing that space, that these “luxury” efforts are in fact necessary for survival, and that understanding them requires a state of mind that also condemns war as an unmitigated disaster.

“This may seem idealistic,” Amster writes of the prospect of a society dedicated to peace, “but consider that it is no more so than continuing on our present course and hoping for a happy ending.” Read the rest of this entry →

Want to Do More Than March for the Climate? Here’s How.

10:19 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

This is from National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance:

Dear Friends,

As part of Campaign Nonviolence  (which has over 150 actions scheduled across the country the week of September 21-27) NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance at the White House on Tuesday September 23.  

On September 23 we will gather on Pennsylvania Ave. mid-morning (exact time to be announced) for a short program before crossing to the White House to deliver the letter below and demand changes in policy that will bring about profound transformations in the areas of war, poverty, and the climate crisis.

Please email joyfirst5@gmail.com by Sept. 8 to sign onto the below letter.  The letter will be mailed to the White House so that Obama knows we are coming and what we are demanding.

If you are willing to risk arrest at the action on Sept. 23 or if you have questions, please email malachykilbride@yahoo.comor joyfirst5@gmail.com .

Please sign onto the letter by September 8 and join us at the White House on September 23.  And please share this letter with all your networks.

For more information on Campaign Nonviolence, go to campaignnonviolence.org

In hope for a better world,

Joy
Malachy
Max

 

NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE

9635 Overland Rd.  Mount Horeb, WI 53572

 

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

August 21, 2014

Dear Mr. President,

We write to you as people committed to nonviolent social change with a deep concern for a variety of issues that are all interrelated. As representatives of organizations that normally do not have a voice and have little influence in the places of power in Washington, DC, we are organizing under Campaign Nonviolence, a campaign that is pulling people together across the country to nonviolently bring about change in the areas of poverty, war, and climate crisis.  These issues are too urgent to delay and not attend to immediately and so we would like to meet with you or a senior representative at the White House and discuss our concerns on September 23.  During the week of September 21, we will be joined in solidarity with hundreds of actions around the country focusing on war, poverty, and the climate crisis organized under Campaign Nonviolence..

Poverty is adversely affecting the quality of life for too many Americans.  The people are suffering from lack of food, health care, education, a living wage, adequate housing, and the list goes on.  For example, tens of millions of Americans represent just part of the 842 million hungry people in the world according to the United Nations World Food Programme. According to recent statistics from the US Department of Agriculture almost 15 percent of US households are food insecure.  It is unconscionable that we have children in the United States going to bed hungry.  These numbers do not reflect the recent cuts in food stamps that is now wreaking havoc across the country.  Just a portion of the bloated Pentagon budget redirected towards human need could alleviate this suffering.

Unending war and imperialism is destroying both our country and the world.  Within the last 13 years we have experienced how the United States has responded to international crisis with violence.  Our government has waged wars in violation of international law with a failed Middle East policy that leaves a whole region mired in violence and instability, launched an illegal drone war, tortured and illegally detained individuals, and refused to get rid of nuclear weapons capable of annihilation of all life on the planet.

Our disregard for the causes of climate chaos is leading to the destruction of the planet.  Being controlled, in part, by the fossil fuel industry our government has not been willing to sign onto international treaties to end climate chaos or to stand up against the Keystone Pipeline.  In the article Greenwashing the Pentagon, Joseph Nevins states, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.”

We believe that another way is possible and that there are alternatives to the life threatening policies that our government has promoted and that have been so destructive to the people of the world.

When you were elected president, people had such hope for a change.  Yet what we got was a government that continued the policies of the Bush administration.  You are NOT the people’s president, and the voices of the people are not being heard.

We demand that you change course with the present policies and listen to the people and not the corporations.  Here are three policy changes that we want to see implemented before you leave office.  These changes would make the world a better place for all of our children and grandchildren, including yours.  These changes would only be a beginning, but would provide a good start.

1.      End all drone warfare.  It is illegal and immoral.
2.      Establish a living wage for all workers.
3.      Initiate and work for an international treaty for swift verifiable action to reverse climate change.  Listen to the scientific community and not the fossil fuel industry.

We have not had access to the decision-making process like the oil lobby, the financial and corporate sector, and the arms industry have over the years.  If people and groups such as ours had this same kind of access we very well may not have rushed to war and occupation on false pretense, “tortured folks”, continued to operate the criminally complicit Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, had the devastating and destructive oil spills in addition to still considering the Keystone Pipeline, or had civil unrest caused by American society’s structural violence, unresolved racism, and failed economic policies.

A new approach to leadership is required to address the problems and crises we all face.  We have the audacity to hope that you or a senior representative will meet with us on Tuesday September 23, 2014.  This is the day we will come to the White House from all around the country to meet with you.  Thank you President Obama.

Sincerely,

Ken Butigan, Pace e Bene Executive Director
John Dear, Pace e Bene Outreach Director
Joy First, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Malachy Kilbride, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Max Obuszewski, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

 

 

Peacenvironmentalism

6:55 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Remarks at North Carolina Peace Action Event in Raleigh, N.C., August 23, 2014.

Thank you for inviting me, and thank you to North Carolina Peace Action, and to John Heuer whom I consider a tireless selfless and inspired peacemaker himself.  Can we thank John?

It’s an honor for me to have a role in honoring the 2014 Student Peacemaker, iMatter Youth North Carolina. I’ve followed what iMatter has been doing around the country for years, I’ve sat in on a court case they brought in Washington, D.C., I’ve shared a stage with them at a public event, I’ve organized an online petition with them at RootsAction.org, I’ve written about them and watched them inspire writers like Jeremy Brecher whom I recommend reading.  Here is an organization acting in the interests of all future generations of all species and being led — and led well — by human kids.  Can we give them some applause?

But, perhaps revealing the short-sightedness and self-centeredness of myself as a member of a species that didn’t evolve to manage a whole planet, I’m especially happy to be recognizing iMatter Youth North Carolina because my own niece Hallie Turner and my nephew Travis Turner are part of it.  They deserve LOTS of applause.

And the full iMatter planning team, I’m told, is represented tonight as well by Zack Kingery, Nora White, and Ari Nicholson. They should have even more applause.

I take complete credit for Hallie and Travis’s work, because although I didn’t really teach them anything, I did, before they were born, tell my sister she should go to our high school reunion, at which she met the man who became my brother in law.  Without that, no Hallie and no Travis.

However, it was my parents — who I suppose by the same logic (although in this case I of course reject it) get complete credit for anything I do — it was they who took Hallie to her first rally, at the White House protesting a tar sands pipeline.  I’m told that Hallie didn’t know what it was all about at first or why the good people were being arrested, instead of the people committing the offenses against our loved ones and our earth being arrested. But by the end of the rally Hallie was right in the thick of it, wouldn’t leave until the last person had gone off to jail for justice, and she pronounced the occasion the most important day of her life thus far, or words to that effect.

Perhaps, as it turns out, that was an important day, not just for Hallie but also for iMatter Youth North Carolina, and, who knows, just maybe — like the day Gandhi was thrown off a train, or the day Bayard Rustin talked Martin Luther King Jr. into giving up his guns, or the day a teacher assigned Thomas Clarkson to write an essay on whether slavery was acceptable — it will eventually turn out to have been an important day for more of us.

I’m a bit ashamed of two things though, despite all my pride.

One is that we adults leave kids to discover moral action and serious political engagement by accident rather than teaching it to them systematically and universally, as if we don’t really think they want meaningful lives, as if we imagine comfortable lives is the complete human ideal.  We are asking kids to lead the way on the environment, because we — I’m speaking collectively of everyone over 30, the people Bob Dylan said not to trust until he was over 30 — we are not doing it, and the kids are taking us to court, and our government is allowing its fellow leading destroyers of the environment to become voluntary co-defendants (can you imagine volunteering to be sued along with someone else who’s facing a law suit? No, wait, sue me too!), and the voluntary co-defendants, including the National Association of Manufacturers, are providing teams of lawyers that probably cost more than the schools Hallie and Travis attend, and the courts are ruling that it is an individual right of non-human entities called corporations to destroy the inhabitability of the planet for everyone, despite the evident logic that says the corporations will cease to exist as well.

Should our kids do as we say or as we do?  Neither!  They should run in the opposite direction from anything we’ve touched.  There are exceptions, of course. Some of us try a little.  But it is an uphill effort to undo the cultural indoctrination that has us saying phrases like “throw this away” as if there really were an away, or labeling the destruction of a forest “economic growth,” or worrying about so-called peak oil and how we’ll live when the oil runs out, even though we’ve already found five times what we can safely burn and still be able to live on this beautiful rock.

But kids are different.  The need to protect the earth and use clean energy even if it means a few inconveniences or even some serious personal risk, is no more unusual or strange to a kid than half the other stuff they are presented with for the first time, like algebra, or swim meets, or uncles.  They haven’t spent as many years being told that renewable energy doesn’t work.  They haven’t developed the fine-tuned sense of patriotism that allows us to keep believing renewable energy cannot work even as we hear about it working in other countries. (That’s German physics!)

Our young leaders have fewer years of indoctrination into what Martin Luther King Jr. called extreme materialism, militarism, and racism.  Adults block the way in the courts, so kids take to the streets, they organize and agitate and educate.  And so they must, but they are up against an educational system and an employment system and an entertainment system that often tells them they are powerless, that serious change is impossible, and that the most important thing you can do is vote.

Now, adults telling each other that the most important thing they can do is vote is bad enough, but saying that to kids who aren’t old enough to vote is like telling them to do nothing.  We need a few percent of our population doing the opposite of nothing, living and breathing dedicated activism.  We need creative nonviolent resistance, re-education, redirection of our resources, boycotts, divestments, the creation of sustainable practices as models for others, and the impeding of an established order that is politely and smilingly steering us over a cliff.  Rallies organized by iMatter Youth North Carolina look like moves in the right direction to me.  So, let’s thank them again.

The second thing I’m a little ashamed of is that it is not at all uncommon for a peace organization to arrive at an environmental activist when choosing someone to honor, whereas I have never once heard of the reverse. Hallie and Travis have an uncle who works largely on peace, but they live in a culture where the activism that receives funding and attention and mainstream acceptance, to the limited extent that any does and of course trailing far behind 5Ks against breast cancer and the sort of activism that lacks real opponents, is activism for the environment.  But I think there’s a problem with what I’ve just done and what we usually tend to do, that is, with categorizing people as peace activists or environmental activists or clean elections activists or media reform activists or anti-racism activists.  As we came to realize a few years back, we all add up to 99% of the population, but those who are really active are divided, in reality as well as in people’s perceptions.

Peace and environmentalism should, I think, be combined into the single word peacenvironmentalism, because neither movement is likely to succeed without the other.  iMatter wants to live as if our future matters.  You can’t do that with militarism, with the resources it takes, with the destruction it causes, with the risk that grows greater with each passing day that nuclear weapons will be intentionally or accidentally detonated.  If you could really figure out how to nuke another nation while shooting its missiles out of the sky, which of course nobody has figured out, the impact on the atmosphere and climate would severely impact your own nation as well.  But that’s a fantasy.  In a real world scenario, a nuclear weapon is launched on purpose or by mistake, and many more are quickly launched in every direction.  This has in fact nearly happened numerous times, and the fact that we pay almost no attention to it anymore makes it more rather than less likely.  I imagine you know what happened 50 miles southeast of here on January 24, 1961?  That’s right, the U.S. military accidentally dropped two nuclear bombs and got very lucky they didn’t explode.  Nothing to worry about, says comedy news anchor John Oliver, that’s why we have TWO Carolinas.

iMatter advocates for an economic shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and for sustainable jobs.  If only there were a couple of trillion dollars a year being wasted on something useless or destructive!  And of course there is, worldwide, that unfathomable sum is being spent on preparations for war, half of it by the United States, three quarters of it by the United States and its allies — and much of that last bit on U.S. weapons.  For a fraction of it, starvation and disease could be seriously dealt with, and so could climate change.  War kills primarily through taking spending away from where it’s needed.  For a small fraction of war preparations spending, college could be free here and provided free in some other parts of the world too.  Imagine how many more environmental activists we could have if college graduates didn’t owe tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the human right of an education!  How do you pay that back without going to work for the destroyers of the earth?

79% of weapons in the Middle East come from the United States, not counting those belonging to the U.S. military.  U.S. weapons were on both sides in Libya three years ago and are on both sides in Syria and Iraq.  Weapons making is an unsustainable job if ever I saw one.  It drains the economy.  The same dollars spent on clean energy or infrastructure or education or even tax cuts for non-billionaires produces more jobs than military spending.  Militarism fuels more violence, rather than protecting us.  The weapons have to be used up, destroyed, or given to local police who will begin to see local people as enemies, so that new weapons can be made. And this process is, by some measures, the biggest destroyer of the environment we have.

The U.S. military burned through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day, as measured in 2006. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption. If you removed the Pentagon from the total oil consumption by the United States, then the United States would still rank first with nobody else anywhere close. But you would have spared the atmosphere the burning of more oil than most countries consume, and would have spared the planet all the mischief the U.S. military manages to fuel with it. No other institution in the United States consumes remotely as much oil as the military.

Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought and on bases maintained to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each.

Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War “rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality,” according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School.  Leaning divides war’s environmental impact into four areas: “production and testing of nuclear weapons, aerial and naval bombardment of terrain, dispersal and persistence of land mines and buried ordnance, and use or storage of military despoliants, toxins, and waste.”  A 1993 U.S. State Department report called land mines “the most toxic and widespread pollution facing mankind.” Millions of hectares in Europe, North Africa, and Asia are under interdiction. One-third of the land in Libya conceals land mines and unexploded World War II munitions.

The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.

You may not care about politics, the saying goes, but politics cares about you.  That goes for war.  John Wayne avoided going off to World War II by making movies to glorify other people going.  And do you know what happened to him? He made a movie in Utah near a nuclear testing area.  Of the 220 people who worked on the film, 91, rather than the 30 that would have been the norm, developed cancer including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell.

We need a different direction.  In Connecticut, Peace Action and many other groups have been involved in successfully persuading the state government to set up a commission to work on converting from weapons to peaceful industries.  Labor unions and management support it.  Environmental and peace groups are part of it.  It’s very much a work in progress.  It was likely stimulated by false stories that the military was being slashed.  But whether we can make that a reality or not, the environmental need to shift our resources to green energy is going to grow, and there is no reason North Carolina shouldn’t be the second state in the country to do this.  You have moral Mondays here. Why not have moral every days of the year?

Major changes look larger before they happen than after.  Environmentalism has come on very quickly.  The U.S. already had nuclear submarines back when whales were still being used as a source of raw materials, lubricants, and fuels, including in nuclear submarines.  Now whales are, almost suddenly, seen as marvelous intelligent creatures to be protected, and the nuclear submarines have begun to look a bit archaic, and the deadly sound pollution that the Navy imposes on the world’s oceans looks a bit barbaric.

iMatter’s lawsuits seek to protect the public trust for future generations.  The ability to care about future generations is, in terms of the imagination required, almost identical to the ability to care about foreign people at a distance in space rather than time.  If we can think of our community as including those not yet born, who of course we hope far outnumber the rest of us, we can probably think of it as including the 95% of those alive today who don’t happen to be in the United States of America, and vice versa.

But even if environmentalism and peace activism were not a single movement, we’d have to join them and several others together in order to have the sort of Occupy 2.0 coalition we need to effect change.  A big chance to do that is coming up around September 21st which is the International Day of Peace and the time when a rally and all sorts of events for the climate will be happening in New York City.

At WorldBeyondWar.org you’ll find all sorts of resources for holding your own event for peace and the environment.  You’ll also find a short two-sentence statement in favor of ending all war, a statement that has been signed in the past few months by people in 81 nations and rising.  You can sign it on paper here this evening.  We need your help, young and old.  But we should be especially glad that time and numbers are on the side of the young around the world, to whom I say along with Shelley:

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few
.

Why We Allow the Destruction of Our Earth

6:46 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Justice Seekers Storm Unconventional Fuels Conference at the University of Utah #FearlessSummer from Steve Liptay on Vimeo.

It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas.  Of course it is.  And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy.  But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.

Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there’s just no money for new ideas, sorry).  Of course.  But when the planet’s climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.

Why don’t we?

Misinformation is a surface-level explanation.  Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?

Here’s one reason: They’ve already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception.  The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute.  But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.

According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist.  And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle — so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime.  This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds.  In fact, a recent study found that belief in the “second coming” reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.

Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.

Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican from a gerrymandered monstrosity in southeastern Illinois says the planet is in fine shape and guaranteed to stay that way because God promised that to Noah.

Read the rest of this entry →

Pseudo-Protests and Serious Climate Crisis

6:24 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Van Jones

Van Jones

Van Jones“You elected this president. You reelected this president. . . . Stop being chumps!” –Van Jones

Going in, I was of mixed views regarding Sunday’s rally in Washington, D.C., to save the earth’s climate from the tar sands pipeline.  I still am.

Why on a Sunday when there’s no government around to protest, shut down, or interfere with?

And why all the pro-Obama rhetoric?  Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical.  Obama won’t allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has “a strong moral core” and doesn’t do really evil things.

As a belief, that’s of course delusional.  This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it.  This is the guy who’s derailed international climate protection efforts for years.  This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year’s election.  If he had been compelled to take a stand as a candidate there would be no need for this effort to bring him around as a lame duck.

As a tactic, rather than a belief, the approach of the organizers of Sunday’s rally is at least worth questioning.  For one thing, people are going to hear such comments and take them for beliefs.  People are going to believe that the president would never do anything really evil.  In which case, why bother to turn out and rally in protest of what he’s doing?  Or if we do turn out, why communicate any serious threat of inconvenience to the president?  On the contrary, why not make the protest into a campaign rally for the president through which we try, post-election, to alter the platform on which the actual candidate campaigned?

The advantage to the expect-the-best-and-the-facts-be-damned approach is clear.  Lots of people like it.  You can’t have a mass rally without lots of people.  The organizers of this event are not primarily to blame for how the U.S. public thinks and behaves.  But, then again, if you’re trying to maximize your crowd at all costs, hadn’t you better really truly maximize it?  Sunday’s rally probably suffered from being held on a bitterly cold day, but I suspect that most people who planned to come did come; and I’ve seen more people on the Mall in the summer for no reason at all, and many times more people on the Mall in the winter for an inauguration (which, in terms of policy based activism, is also nothing at all).

What if the celebrities generating the news with arrests at the White House were to speak the truth?  What if they committed to nonviolently interfering with the operations of a government destroying the climate?  What if they committed to opposing the Democratic and Republican parties as long as this is their agenda?  What if they said honestly and accurately that the personality of a president matters less than the pressures applied to him, that this president can do good or evil, and that it is our job to compel him to do good?

Sunday’s rally, MC’d by former anti-Republican-war activist Lennox Yearwood, looked like an Obama rally.  The posters and banners displayed a modified Obama campaign logo, modified to read “Forward on Climate.”  One of the speakers on the stage, Van Jones, declared, “I had the honor of working for this president.”  He addressed his remarks to the president and appealed to his morality and supposed good works: “President Obama, all the good that you have done . . . will be wiped out” if you allow the tar sands pipeline.

The pretense in these speeches, including one by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, was consistently that Obama has not already approved part of the pipeline, that he is guilty of inaction, that the government is failing to act, that what’s needed is action — as if our government were not actively promoting the use of, and using vast quantities of fossil fuels, not to mention fighting wars to control the stuff.

Van Jones ended his remarks by addressing himself to “the next generation.”  And this is what he had to say: “Stop being chumps! You elected this president. You reelected this president.  You gave him the chance to make history. He needs to give you the chance to have a future. Stop being chumps!  Stop being chumps and fight for your future, thank you very much.”

Reading these words, one would imagine that the obvious meaning they carry is “Stop electing people like this who work for parties like this and serve financial interests like these.”  What could be a more obvious interpretation?  You elected this guy twice.  He’s a lame duck now.  You’ve lost your leverage.  Stop being such chumps!

Nothing could be further, I think, from what Van Jones meant or what that crowd on Sunday believed he meant.  This was a speaker who had, just moments before, expressed his pride in having worked in Obama’s White House.  The fact that this crowd of Obama-branded “activists” had elected him twice was not mentioned in relation to their chumpiness but as grounds for establishing their right to insist that he not destroy the planet’s atmosphere.  They would be chumps if they didn’t hold more rallies like this one.

Wait, you might ask, doesn’t everyone have the right to insist that powerful governments not destroy the earth’s atmosphere?

Well, maybe, but in Van Jones’ thinking, those who committed to voting for Obama twice, no matter what he did, and who have committed to voting for another Democrat no matter what he or she will do, deserve particular attention when they make demands.  Paradoxically, those who can be counted on regardless, who demand nothing and therefore offer nothing, should be the ones who especially get to make demands and have them heard and honored.

Needless to say, it doesn’t actually work that way.

Our celebrity emperors attract a great deal of personal affection or hatred, so when I suggest an alternative to packaging a rally for the climate as a belated campaign event, it may be heard as a suggestion to burn Obama in effigy.  What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate?

We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family.  But would we really lose that many?  If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same busses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday’s unimpressive rally have really been?

(And couldn’t such a crowd be enlarged enough to more than compensate for any loss, by the simple tactic of promising ahead of time to keep the speeches to a half-hour total and to begin the march on time?  I’d pay money to go to that rally.)

The problem, of course, is that the celebrities and organizers themselves tend to think like Obama campaign workers.  It’s not an act.  It’s not a tactic aimed at maximizing turnout.  And it’s not their fault that they, and so many others, think that way.

But imagine a realistic, policy-based approach that began to build an independent movement around principled demands.  It would have the potential to grow.  It would have the potential to threaten massive non-cooperation with evil.  It would have the energy of Occupy.  It would have the potential to make a glorious declaration out of what now appears to be self-mockery when oversmall crowds of hungover campaign workers shout “This is what democracy looks like!” as they plod along a permitted parade route.

No.  It really isn’t.

Photo by Earthworm under Creative Commons license