I’ve got a great idea. Let’s stop pretending that Obama isn’t going to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Let’s stop pretending that one more trenchant op-ed, one more Change.org petition, one more Sierra Club website, one more MoveOn mass email of the White House is going to sway anyone who has a stake in this project. Let’s stop pretending that some photo-op of famous progressives and Hollywood actors chaining themselves to the White House fence is going to make a difference. Let’s stop pretending that some group of Democrats are actually going to grow a spine, and move Congress to pass some environmental legislation that actually would get in the way of this monstrosity. Let’s just stop all that, and get real.
Obama going to approve it. I know, it’s horrible, it’s the worst, it’s the capstone in the Alberta Tar Sands project, the be-all, end-all environmental nightmare. You don’t want to believe it’s going to be approved. But it is. Why? Because there’s money to be made. Because it’s promoted by the fossil fuels industry. Because it runs through one of the most conservative parts of the country. Because they want to thumb their nose at Venezuela. Because…well, who cares? Because they can. So let’s stop kidding ourselves, and for once, practice being proactive.
You see, here’s their strategy: They want you to play the game you’re playing now. They want you absorbed in writing letters, and signing petitions, and donating on line, and all that nonsense. Because they know damn well they don’t have to pay any attention to it. Detroit’s got a three-story tall mountain of petroleum coke tar sand waste rising on land owned by the Koch family. That’s real. Your email? Sorry, not real. But valuable to them, as it keeps you from organizing for a real battle. Which is what this is going to have to be if we stand a chance to really stop this thing.
Here’s what it’s really going to take:
- A lot of people are going to have to get arrested. Most on misdemeanors, some on trumped-up felony charges. Note I said “a lot.” A few marquee arrests aren’t going to cut it. We’re talking mass civil disobedience, occupation-style actions. Not as a one-time event, but over and over and over, at one location after another.
- National resistance specifically NOT headed by Big Green organizations. ‘Cause, let’s face it, it’s nice to have the occasional numbers they can generate, but they don’t have the stomach for this kind of thing. Here’s what they’re going to call for after it’s approved and they mount some large, symbolic (read: non-threatening) actions – “environmental safeguards.” Yep, that’s what they’ll want; a kinder, gentler pipeline. Which they will justify on the whiny pretext of “being realistic.” No, this kind of national organization is going to be run by activists who have serious experience in confronting private industry and the state.
- Local organizing right down to the neighborhood level. This is going to have to made real to ordinary people as the catastrophe it actually is. That means knocking on doors, setting up tables on street corners, holding town meetings. Turning off your TV, shutting down the computer, leaving your house, and having actual human-to-human interaction. Think of the anti-Monsanto marches that just happened in over 150 cities worldwide, and you begin to get the picture.
- Staging media events that are impossible to ignore. No more marching around in circles hoping the press release you sent gets picked up by the mainstream press. We need imagination, lots of it. That means letting youth run the show. ‘Cause it’s their energy that always makes for interesting street theater than anything the 60’s generation is able to come up with at this point.
- Getting comfortable with people you are uncomfortable with. That means First Peoples and their leadership style. That means anarchists. It means red-state rebels, who don’t like snotty urban liberals much more than they like pipelines, and who are on the front lines of this battle through a simple accident of geography.
- Kissing, goodbye finally, once and for all, to the myth of the Democratic Party as an ally. They’re not, the national leadership is not, and never has been. Are there good people among the local Dem precincts? You bet. But the Pelosi-Obama-Biden-Clinton leadership, and their Big Labor allies who just approved at their convention the building of unnamed “pipelines,” well, sorry, but they’ve been bought like the sheep they are. So let’s move on, OK?
I could probably name a few other features of what’s coming, but you get the idea. A real struggle, nothing “symbolic” about it. Either that, or let’s just admit we’re licked before we start, and skip going through the motions. Not another letter, not another petition, not another email. A fight, finally, even if we go down swinging. Win or lose, let’s make it the kind of fight that they’ll remember for a long, long time.