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How to Start a Revolution

July 14, 2010
tags: ,

Press-Register/Ben Raines

The mainstream press seems to have given up trying to circumvent the media blackout by BP.  Thank goodness for blogs and journals like Mother Jones, The Huffington Post, BP Slick, The American Birding Association, and just plain folks with video cameras  like James C. Fox who secretly collected waters off Grand Isle and learned that levels of Corexit there were 150 times the toxic level for fish. From these citizen journalists, it is clear that the BP clean up is ineffective and the toll on wildlife is a hundred times greater than what BP is telling us.

Apparently, the mainstream press along with much of America has moved on to bigger news–’cause, like, you know, alcoholic actress Lindsay Lohan is going to jail and woman-beater singer Chris Brown wept during a Michael Jackson tribute.

But not all of us have moved on.

The BP oil apocalypse in the Gulf of Mexico is still, to me, a disaster which leaves me feeling as traumatized as I felt in the months following 9/11, after I stood in the middle of a sidewalk in downtown Manhattan and watched the 2nd tower collapse before my astonished eyes into a heap of rubble. If I close my eyes, I can still hear the people around me screaming.

In the days that followed the attack on the twin towers, I was brought to tears by the sight of the firemen leaving the site in their fire engines. They were covered in dust and sweat, too exhausted to hold their heads and acknowledge the crowds in the street cheering for them. They lost many coworkers who rushed in to save the lives of strangers.  To me, those men stood for all that was noble, brave, and strong about America.

In 2010 in the Gulf disaster, I face all that is ugly about our country: the enemy here is no far-away terrorist, but our own corporate greed and our addiction to oil. This crises has caused many people like myself to consider the fact that the U.S. government works for big corporations, and not for we the people at all.

Our government has decided that corporations have “personhood.” This means very large corporations (like BP) have a right to “free speech” in the form of giving huge sums of money to political candidates (in return for political favors. )  However, this same corporate “person” cannot be jailed or put to death for, say, killing 11 people or destroying an ecosystem.

Corporations can live for hundreds of years. They can merge or swallow other corporations.  Their sole reason for existing is to make large amounts of money. They have no soul, no conscience. Clearly, corporations should not be granted the same rights as living beings.  Why do we protect banks which hand out inflated loans then foreclose on people’s homes? Insurance companies which don’t pay out when we actually get sick? Oil companies which circumvent safety laws (and common sense)?  Because these corporations give huge sums of money to politicians to protect their own interests.

Now, imagine if instead of worrying about the rights of big corporations, we treated the seas (and the planet) with the respect due to a living entity, which they are.  Then imagine if we put the interests of average Americans before big money:  No more tax breaks for the super-wealthy, no more bail-outs for the big banks and car companies while the rest of drown in mortgage payments and student loans.  Would we not all be better off if  health care was priced fairly so we did not need insurance?

As things stand now, whenever big corporations come up against the working class, the working class will lose. Whenever there is money to made at the expense of the environment, the environment will lose.

Recently, I asked my father-in-law who was a revolutionary soldier in Vietnam:  “What makes people finally decide enough is enough?”

He answered, “First, you have to be starving.  Second, you have to be willing to die.”

Okay, he’s got me there. I am very well fed and healthy (luckily, what with inflated cost of health care in the U.S. so that big insurance and big pharm can get rich.)  I am also extremely thankful I don’t live in a country where I woman can be stoned to death for having sex outside of marriage or where I’m forced to follow a certain religion or where slavery is an everyday occurrence.

But sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) I wish we more like the French.  Not just because they drink hot chocolate for breakfast and wine with lunch (though these are both good ideas) but because they don’t take shit from their government. Millions of French citizens protest when their jobs get cut. They protest when the retirement age gets raised or their work week gets lengthened or whenever anything smacks of favoring big business over the working class.

Most Americans are like me: as long as our televisions work and we have food on our tables, we aren’t about to start setting the streets on fire.  Instead, we maybe turn out for elections and vote for who we think is the least grossly corrupt from our two polarized political parties.  We blog and we sign petitions on Facebook.

Why are Americans, the self-proclaimed “cowboys” of the planet, so quiet and well-behaved when it comes to doing exactly what our government tells us? I can already hear the cries of  “America! Love it or leave it!”  But when did it become “American” to just lay back and take it when we know we’re getting f****d?

One Comment
  1. Tanya VS permalink
    October 26, 2010 10:01 pm

    Very well said.

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