I spoke at a rally/ press conference yesterday in rural Brooklyn, Pennsylvania. The event was held on a beautiful old horse farm, near the beginning of the “proposed” Constitutional Pipeline. We were forced to compete with the sites and sounds of construction on the Williams Midstream Central Station (WMCS).
Curiously, the WMCS is being built, even before a FERC permit has been issued. That combination of government and corporate power has no greater example of arrogance, than the destruction of this large plot of land — somewhere around 56 acres — without the proper permit. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, it would have been impossible to understand just how damaging this monstrosity actually is.
Before the event began, a couple of brave souls stopped one of the large trucks driving on this narrow dirt road, and asked to see their permit. Of course, there is not one. And so the pair continued to “block” the road for a brief period, willing to face arrest for attempting to prevent a criminal act that is part of a criminal conspiracy. (Police did begin patrolling the road, but there were no confrontations.)
Part of the outline I had prepared included my paraphrasing Minister Malcolm X, who said that people needed to be prepare to be arrested for social justice. He further noted that the time had come when folks needed to be prepared to go to jail, to the Emergency Room, or to the cemetery. In the context of the struggle to protect the environment and all living things from hydrofracking, I believe that we are to that point now.
In my opinion, we are not fully prepared for this need. Let me explain. For example, I had not ridden to PA planning to get arrested yesterday. It’s not that I am too cowardly to subject myself to that process. But I had not prepared. To have been prepared, I would have discussed it with my wife and children. I would have taken the time to investigate what type of charges I preferred, if possible, to face. And I would surely have had contact with the local police force, and informed them well ahead of time of my plan. “The police” are not my enemy: many are either opposed to fracking, or would be if they knew much about it.
I would not behave in a manner that would make “the police” think that I am trying to be their enemy. This does not mean that all, or even most, would approve of non-violent civil disobedience. Certainly not at first. But I am confident that, once arrested, I willingly either accepted being sent to jail, or choosing to — rather than pay a fine or bail — they might at least think about it. And if I politely opted to not further burden the municipal or county jail by consuming food, I believe that enough local police officers would at least respect that I had the courage of my “convictions,” that it would be worth my while.
It would be “worth my while” for two reasons. First, because both “the police” and people participating in civil disobedience frequently view one-another through suspicious eyes, it could serve as a hint at the transforming power of non-violence in action. Second, that might make the pro-environment, anti-fracking people to consider the very real possibility that nothing less than a coordinated, wide-spread non-violent action is needed — as soon as possible.
The primary reason that I do not think that we, as a community, are quite ready to do this today, is as a result of my observations at recent public and private meetings. Last week, for example, I attended a Sidney Town Board meeting. Sidney is a curious town of about 5,000 people, which has all of the very good and very bad found in the United States. Bob McCarthy, the Town Supervisor that made Sidney a national sick joke in 2010, has been accurate described as “Otis, the town drunk of Mayberry, with a severe case of tea party-rabies.”
Now, Bob can be frustrating to talk to, if one intends a meaningful communication. But too often, some of the good people who are faithfully attending the board’s meetings lose their temper, and react angrily to McCarthy’s rudeness. Thus, in a public meeting of twenty to thirty human beings, the focus becomes the bitter fruit of McCarthy.
I do not need to provide examples of short tempers et al found within parts of the anti-fracking community: anyone who has been active over the past year are already aware of too many examples. Even yesterday, several old and new friends talked about this dynamic. And so in my speech, I used a Rubin “Hurricane” Carter quote:
“Hate can only produce hate. That’s why all these wars are going on, all this insanity. There’s too much anger in the United States. People are too afraid, too numbed out. We need to wipe out this hatred, fear, distrust, and bitterness. We need to understand, to forgive, and to love.”
In order to really understand hydrofracking, I try to view it in the context that Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman taught me when I was young. Time and time again, there were ugly cases of corporations desecrating “Sacred Ground” with toxic destruction. In Sidney in the early 1990s, the local political-corporate machine destroying a mound the traditional Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy recognized as Sacred Ground — to cover a toxic industrial waste dump site. I told how the construction company began destroying the Sacred Ground, in between scheduled hearings in the New York Supreme Court.
Or a Pennsylvania example in the 1930s, Iroquois Clan Mothers and Chiefs brought professors from Cornell University down the Susquehanna River, to the island where the historic figure, and Iroquois prophet, Hiawatha was born. That site is known today as Three Mile Island.
In order to be fully prepared to engage in the absolutely-necessary tactics to stop fracking, we need to fully understand the nature of the beast we are fighting. And in order to fully understand that beast, we have to wipe out the negative energies that are found within us, as individuals, and as a community. I’m not saying that Bob McCarthy is your friend, but do not allow the Bob McCarthy-ites to control the conversations. Bitterness contaminates the vessel which contains it. We need to be vessels of cool, pure spring water.
By no coincidence, it was when my good friend Rubin rose above the anger and hostilities associated with his being wrongfully incarcerated for twenty long years, that he rose above the corruption parts of the legal system that had placed him behind bars.He found that true freedom only existed upon Higher Ground.
When we get started towards that mound, I am convinced that we will see that engaging in a major, well-coordinated campaign of civil disobedience is necessary. And that means exercising our Amendment 1 rights along the length of the proposed Constitutional Pipeline.