Sunday, December 21, 2008

How about a little uncivil peace?

Anyone who’s been there can testify to the fact that there is no place like these lands. These lands are not Cheney’s and Bush’s. The lands are ours. They’re ours, because they’re a part of our legacy, they’re part of the human American legacy. ~Robert Redford

I've always mused at the entendre of the term "civil war." It sounds so polite that I'm surprised at people's reactions when I suggest maybe that's what this country needs. So to calm folks instead of negatively exciting them, I've decided to rephrase for clarity. From now on I'll opt for "uncivil peace" instead. I've not yet floated it publicly so can't say if it's any less objectionable, but it shouldn't resonate with the unpleasant imagery a ("polite") civil war does.

After almost six years of warring on Iraq, I sometimes get hints among some who demonstrate faithfully against it that it's time to "step it up a notch." To voice their opposition employing acts of greater disruption, i.e., to commit civil disobedience. But that sounds a little negative too. (Maybe a little uncivil obedience would make it more tolerable?)

The conversation then inevitably turns to ways one might manifest their civil disobedience. I don't know, but it seems difficult to break out of that go-downtown-turn-cars-over-light-them-on-fire-and-break-windows-out-of-McDonald's-and-Bank-of-America type stuff.

We've all seen what lying across railroad tracks or in front of a bulldozer can get you - the loss of a limb or, worse, a head and your life. So coming up with something creative, like calling a person a dog while hurling your shoes at them or the Native American custom of throwing dung water on tribal members returning from an unsuccessful hunting trip, can be very challenging.

"About 100 people, many from conservation and environmental groups, protest outside the
BLM office in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday." (Al Hartmann/ The Salt Lake Tribune)

Ah, but this past Friday enters one University of Utah student, Tim DeChristopher, 27. He had gone to join other demonstrators in front of the Bureau of Land Management which was about to auction off leases of the public's land to oil and mining interests in southern and eastern Utah.

But remembering the frustration of "the times he has marched, fired off letters to his congressmen, signed petitions and supported environmental organizations -- all to no avail," DeChristopher suddenly got an inspiration. And then he got creative.

Tim DeChristopher, successful "energy bidder" for public land leases,
talks with members of the media.. (Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune)

"I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience." So instead of joining other protesters outside in front of the BLM, he went inside and registered with BLM to bid for the right to win leases on the our public lands. And, as it turned out, he was very, very good at it!

Salt Lake Tribune story makes for an interesting read. But for those who haven't the time, I'll just highlight a couple of results from his "uncivil obedience":
  • DeChristopher, wielding only his bidder's paddle, successfully won $1.8 million of lease rights on 10 parcels of land around the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks that he has "neither the intention nor the money to buy." He also upped bids on other parcels by about $500,000 he didn't win, making them more costly for energy company representatives who did.
  • He faces possible federal charges, but he's "not sorry."
  • Most importantly, president Bush's last passing of rights to these lands to energy companies for pennies on the dollar was stopped and won't be conducted until February at the earliest after the Obama administration has been installed. All because DeChristopher got creative to commit a little "uncivil obedience" inside the system.

"What the environmental movement has been doing for the past 20 years hasn't worked," DeChristopher said. "It's time for a conflict. There's a lot at stake."

So Friday, Tim DeChristopher became inspired to step it up. And he did his bidding. Dada extends kudos to Tim DeChristopher!

(Dada note: Special thanks to "Shug" of Utah for connecting me to the link of this story.)



Border Explorer said...

That is really inspiring. Thanks for sharing this story.

Anonymous said...

I wish I knew how to contact him to express my thanks for his courage.

eProf2 said...

Good for Tim DeChristopher! That is using one's imagination in the face of overwhelming odds (remember the cartoon with the field mouse giving the finger to the hawk as he was about to be eaten alive?) DeChristopher's action are on a scale to the cartoon.

I'm still thinking about your new semantics on uncivil peace, et cetera. I hope they get put into the mainstream of history. "During the uncivil peace from 1861 to 1865..."

Leave it to Dada to think of these Orwellian constructions. Well done!

Fran said...

Hey! Where did my post go???

I wrote that was a very creative action & leave it to Bush to have a yard sale of natural resources and lands before he drags his sorry ass out of office.

Fran said...

Doh! My first post went on the following blog piece.
I could have sworn it posted......

feeling exonerated....

Dada said...

Hi all. Yes, this is such an inspiring story, I knew when I heard it I just had to blog it.

Sometimes I have this big 'cynical clock' just ticking away and it's 1 minute to midnight (much like the old nuclear annihilation clock the Bush administration has done their best to reignite).

And while I needn't delineate my reasons for being so pessimistic (the list is far, far too familiar and extensive to everyone anyway), I often feel I'm thrashing around desperately trying not to drown in the cynicism.

This story of what one person with a little initiative and a lot of creativity can do was very inspiring. He's push the hands of that doomsday clock back a bit for me.

Anon: Yes, I'd like to know how to express my gratitude also. (Thanks for dropping by, commenting, BTW.)

eProf: Welcome back! "Orwellian constructions"? Oh my, I had no such idea at the time of writing this, but thank you. I wonder what I could list it under in the Yellow Pages if I decide to go into such building trades business?

Fran: Talk about cynicism. Here's Bush supposedly concerned for his legacy (if we're to believe MSM) while he runs around the whole damn country torching the flammables he's spread to burn the whole thing down as some sort of reward to his cronies corruption club. Legacy indeed!

Anonymous said...

Hey there anonymous --- this blog has lots of info about DeChristopher.

Dada said...

Thanks Anonymous "Shug" for this link to more info on DeChristopher.
And thanks for the heads-up on this story which Dada was able to scoop Amy Goodman on (only because she doesn't broadcast on the weekend).

But I enjoyed gleaning add'l info on this most important story -- even if it did include a couple of my favorite people, i.e., Amy Goodman and Robert Redford.

I particularly enjoyed Redford's words, to wit: It's not their fucking land to auction off. These lands don't belong to fuckin' Bush and Cheney, they belong to us!"

(So, OK, sue me, those weren't exactly Bob Redford's words; they were just what I heard.)