Thomas Paine Would Have Loved Van Jones
Monday 14 September 2009
by: Kelpie Wilson, t r u t h o u t | Perspective
It's been a nail-biting time for liberals, wondering if President Obama would have the strength to take on the right-wing bullies who ran amok in our public life throughout August's Congressional recess. It was a relief to hear the president in his health care address confront the lies directly and to hear him stand behind his preference for a public health care option. But Obama's failure to defend Van Jones, his green jobs adviser, is still a big disappointment and we need to understand why it happened.
Why was Glenn Beck able to drive Van Jones out of office? Jones did nothing that was illegal or immoral. Some of his views and opinions, now or in the past, are not popular with some people, but that doesn't make them "fringe" or "crazy" or "reprehensible," all epithets used to describe them. "Crazy" is more applicable to Beck, who seems to believe he is channeling the American revolutionary Thomas Paine: Beck titled his own book "Common Sense"; Beck produced a series of nutty videos where an actor portraying Tom Paine spouts angrily about taxes and illegal immigrants; Beck has Tea Party protest signs that say, "Tom Paine Rocks."
Let's take a look at the charges against Jones and try to understand why the president couldn't just ignore Glenn Beck. Then let's look at how we can reclaim the spirit of this country and make progress toward a more just, free and secure life, in accordance with the ideals of Thomas Paine.
Here's some more background on the logging protest from 1987 that resulted in a SLAPP suit:
A Stand for a Stand
by Kelpie Wilson
One July morning in 1987, I found myself with five new friends at a logging site in Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest. Valerie Wade, a college student, fifth generation Oregonian, and daughter of a logger, had climbed to the top of a ninety-foot yarder spar pole to hang a banner. Chained to the bottom of the yarder, which drags felled trees up steep slopes to waiting log trucks, were Karen Wood, a Eugene computer scientist; Michele Miller, an elementary school teacher from Chico, California; Kamala Redd, a college student from New York City; James Jackson, a surveyor from Texas, and myself, a new graduate with a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Chico State, about to head off to a career in alternative energy.
I have this very weird connection with Shelley Shannon, the woman who tried to kill Dr. Tiller back in 1993. Now one of her comrades has succeeded in killing this brave man. Shannon is a member of the American Taliban, aka the Army of God.
Blockading Logging Companies and Abortion Clinics: What Shelley Shannon and I Have in Common
by Kelpie Wilson
The Portland Alliance
Even though I am a a pro-choice environmentalist, I have a few things in common with Shelley Shannon. She’s the woman accused of shooting abortion doctor George Tiller in Kansas last August. Only a few things—still more that I would expect to share with someone whose values are 180 degrees apart from mine.
Shannon and I are the same age and we have homes about 35 miles apart in southern Oregon We both have brown hair and wear glasses. She has been sued for Operation Rescue protests while I have been sued for an Earth First! protest. The abortion clinic suing Shannon filed an amicus brief on behalf of the logging company suing me because they wanted to apply the precedent set by my case.
My case was decided last summer when the Oregon Supreme Court determined that to allow a logging company to sue me and five others for hanging a banner on their equipment would not violate the First Amendment. Both my lawyer and Shannon’s have argued that allowing punitive damage in cases of civil disobedience would let a jury determine the degree of punishment based on the content of protester’s beliefs—an infringement of First Amendment rights.
In Memorium: Dr. George Tiller.
Domestic fundamentalist terrorism has cut down another friend of women, Dr. George Tiller. I can't express the sadness that I feel about this. But I will say this: Dr. Tiller was pro-life. I am pro-life, and I believe that pro-life means being pro-choice, because the purpose of life is not to maximize our numbers but to live in balance and harmony with all the other life forms that support and sustain us.
Life only survives by being part of a community of life forms known collectively as "the environment." For a human embryo, its first environment is its mother. Mother makes up both the environment and the first human relationship for all of us. It is in her role as "environment" that a woman may sometimes have to end the relationship to her embryo or fetus. She may not have the capacity to welcome a child into the world.
This may seem harsh, but this is often Nature's way. Every year, millions of human neonates die from natural causes. Most abortions are natural miscarriages of genetically malformed embryos. Ironically, the abortion services that Dr. Tiller provided were mostly concerned with those rare cases where a malformed embryo has survived past the initial stages of pregnancy, not cases where a woman "chose" to end a pregnancy because she did not want a child. In most cases, Nature would have aborted such a fetus. Dr. Tiller was able to help those women who were subject to the cruel fate of bearing a deformed child. Dr. Tiller's work was less about "choice" as we have come to think of it, than about completing work that Nature had left undone.
It's taken me awhile to get this up, but here's my latest published piece:
It's also at Energy Bulletin under my original title, Malthus and Vice.
Have We Hit the Limits of Human Population?
By Kelpie Wilson, AlterNet. Posted April 10, 2009.
Without growth, there would be no economy as we know it. But modern culture, by and large, doesn't see that it can exist only in the medium of ceaseless growth and expansion, because a fish doesn't see the water it swims in. Only today, in the recent, breathless moments of the greatest economic crash since the Great Depression, do we begin to perceive the waters around us.
Slowly, we are coming to realize that the last 200 years of economic growth have been based on a monumental Ponzi scheme that has pushed the final reckoning ever forward in time, until the future is now. Slowly, we are coming to realize that Thomas Malthus was right.
It was the warrior cry of the radical environmental movement in the 1980s: "Malthus Was Right!" But Malthus, a mumbling country parson with intellectual ambitions, had been transmogrified by capitalists and communists alike into a fearsome bogeyman possessed of "dangerous" ideas.
Environmentalists who invoked his name were invariably corrected by their progressive friends, who told them that excess consumption by the rich was the problem, not the reproductive profligacy of the poor.
Yet, as we drive deeper into the greenhouse world, with its crazy weather, water shortages and general degradation, more and more of us from across the political spectrum are wondering how on earth we will feed the 3 billion more people projected to arrive by 2050, or even the 6 billion or so we already have.
Here in Takilma, Oregon, we have an amazing event every year on International Women’s Day called Women’s Café. Women from all over the valley get together to applaud each other's efforts at everything from poetry and music to bellydance. Barbie dolls, bible stories and excerpts from The Vagina Monologues have all shared the stage. This year, my friend Deb Murphy, who is the indefatigable organizer of this event and its terribly amusing emcee, asked me to get up and talk. Some years I yak and some years I bellydance. This was a year to talk. Here are some excerpts from my riff on “Women and the Earth,” the theme of this year's International Women's Day:
I quoted from an article I wrote in 2006 about Hazel Henderson, the “housewife economist” who is famous for her quip: “economics is a form of brain damage.”
Then I told the story of the women in Iceland who are not concerned with "stimulating" their economy to “rise again,” but are focused on restructuring it to work better for society. I love their idea of doing “emotional due diligence” on the companies they invest in. Toxic corporate culture and greed have been our downfall. Let’s leave it to women to get us out the mess. I sure wish Obama would put a bunch of sharp women like that in charge of the US Treasury.
I closed with some words of encouragement from the deep ecologist Joanna Macy from our interview in Yoga Plus Joyful Living:
A fellow named Chuck Gregory contacted me with a link to his site where he says he exposes "the aborticentric nature of the 'pro-life' movement."
Chuck had some interesting insight into one of the comments posted to the Alternet article, Why Are Even Smart, Liberal Men Freaked Out by Abortion?, by Anonymous. Someone who calls himself Caleb Darkstar wrote:
Chuck Gregory's insight is this:
I think Chuck is on to something.
I found a really excellent response to an earlier Monbiot column dismissing population growth at a blog called Zone 5 - the edge between nature and culture. Here's a quote, but read the whole thing. It's really good:
Playing around with statistics to show that consumption is the real problem, not population, as Monbiot does, again fails to see that the two issues are inextricably linked. For example, it is often said, if we all become vegetarian, the world could support a bigger population. But what happens then if we achieve this and the population continues to grow?
Presumably, the response to those who try to raise the issue of population control will once again be:
“Ah, yes, but if we all just live on one bowl of rice a day and huddle round a single light bulb the world could support twice the current population! Let’s have 10 billion! Let’s have 20 billion!”
Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland
Contains my essay and interview with Texas wonder woman activist, Diane Wilson.
What Liberals Believe: Thousands of Quotes on Why America Needs to Be Rescued from Greedy Corporations, Homophobes, Racists, Imperialists, Xenophobes, and Religious Extremists
There's a quote in here from me on evolution.
Kelpie Wilson: Primal Tears
My novel about a bonobo-human hybrid girl named Sage.