Three years ago, I spent a number of weekends going door to door in Virginia urging people to vote for our President. In that campaign I found a sense of pride, a sense of excitement, a sense of energizing virtue.
This weekend, I spent a good chunk of time training to do civil disobedience at President Obama’s door in the desperate hope that he’ll fulfill the promise that drove me onto the streets for him in 2008. And in so doing I’ve found the same sense of pride, the same excitement, and the same energizing sense of virtue that I did three years back.
And just like in 2008, when I hit the streets today to fight for a brighter future, I was wearing an “Obama 08” button on my shirt. I didn’t wear it out of a sense of irony. I wore it for the same reason I wore it before: out of a sense of hope. Out of a sense of hope that this intelligent, idealistic man might actually take the reins of public power and stand up for the true national interest, stand up for a tomorrow that isn’t ruined and ravaged by the greed of fossil fuel companies.
Today I asked President Obama to give me a reason to knock on doors for him again next year. Today I asked him to use the authority of his office to save the future from the massive, climate obliterating carbon bomb that’s bound to go off if the oil industry gets the go ahead to build the Keystone XL pipeline – the massive, 1700 mile fuse linking U.S. oil refineries to the catastrophic power of the Canadian oil sands. The power is in his hands. He doesn’t need Congress and he doesn’t need the courts; he just needs the courage to stand behind his convictions.
It’s a crying shame that it had to come to this. It’s a shame that we’ve reached a situation where every-day political activists like myself and thousands of others like me have found it necessary to break the law and face arrest in order to push this president to do what he promised to do, what he must do, what he knows is the right thing, the only thing to do. How is is possible that we should have to go to such dramatic lengths to stop this President from making the stupidest and most destructive decision for the climate that any president could ever make – much less one who promised to “roll back the specter of a warming planet”?
The answer is simple: bad political calculus. A calculus that ignores some very important variables like me and the hordes of committed grassroots activists who are ready to lay it on the line in the name of climate justice. A calculus he’s been relying on for the past several years that tells him its better move to the right than to do what’s right, and consequently alienate the hardcore base of idealistic, energetic people who were so vital in propelling him to office.
Nothing speaks to the flaws of that calculus better than the tar sands protests. If the president’s got half the brains I think he has, he should be able to realize that. And if it’s not clear to him by now, after the next dozen days and hundreds more arrests at his doorstep one could only hope that it would be crystal clear that the only political equation that will result in the best solution for him, for his reelection hopes, for our economy and for our global future is an equation where the variables X and L are firmly cancelled out.
Get Grist in your inbox