Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A week later - Kurt Nelson

For all those asking for a shorter piece, summing up my experience of civil disobedience...

A week ago today, after considerable prayer and preparation, I was arrested along with 51 others. Indeed, in this moment, last Wednesday, I was in handcuffs, waiting in line for my seat in the Police Truck. We were cited for “failure to obey a lawful order” in front of the White House fence, handcuffed, processed, fined, and released. All in an afternoon’s work.

2,000 in all are expected to be arrested over these weeks, and the movement is growing.

We were (and are) there because we oppose the construction of a vast oil pipeline between the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada, to the processing plants near Houston, Texas. We were there to send a message to our President - who ultimately must alone decide whether to allow this Keystone XL pipeline - that we are paying attention, and that we expect better. We were there because the construction of such a pipeline would be a dramatic step back for the people of Alberta and Houston, a danger to our lands and rivers and aquifers in every state between, and yet another blow to our fragile climate.

I was there, in particular, because I believe our call to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” means not radically altering the chemical composition of our atmosphere.

As I reflect on our collective life, I believe this means a sane national policy on greenhouse gases. And as I reflect on our political process, I believe this means that in addition to votes, and letters, and phone calls, we must occasionally commit peaceful, civil, loving acts of disobedience.

Sitting on the White House sidewalk, I’m not sure I felt intimately connected to Dr. King, and Gandhi, and Rosa Parks, and all the forebears of non-violent direct action. They were, after all, directly breaking unjust laws.

But I did feel I was taking an important stand amidst a political process which better represents the interests of corporations than the good of the people and planet. I did feel I was standing up for justice. And I do feel like we must all examine the collective challenge before us, to put our ethics and faith in action.

I’m glad I went. It continues to inspire in me deep reflection. I'm humbled and I’m ready to talk.

(Long form reflections and descriptions can be found here, here, here.)

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