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.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I'm thinking - Kurt Nelson

August 25, 2011
The 3rd in my series of end of vacation reflections on civil disobedience (#1 and #2).

I will continue to be frank here in my political opinions, not assuming that all will agree. If it’s helpful, I work from a couple of basic assumptions: First, that our politics ought to reflect our ethical sensibilities. And second, that government does, in fact, have a role to play in helping provide the best possible quality of life for the most possible people for the longest possible time.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am happy with the demonstration, proud to have taken part, thankful for all those still to come, and hopeful about the future of this movement.

In the course of my daily life, I will continue to pressure elected officials through more traditional channels. And I would encourage others to do the same. Write letters, write articles, pray, educate. This continues to feel like an important moment. And a real opportunity to take a step toward a more just and sustainable future.

In this moment, though, I find myself reflecting on the nature of non-violent direct action. Was the action of getting arrested worthwhile?

The classic moments of non-violent direct action - Gandhi's march to the sea, sit ins though out the American Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat – are forever burned into my consciousness. In such cases object of protest was an unjust law. The act of being arrested is, thus, more than symbolic. It is directly related to injustice at hand. (The takeover of the Madison capitol recently would fall into a similar vein).

In the case of our protest, however, the action was not so direct.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Happened There - Kurt Nelson

What Happened...(#2 of my end of vacation series, describing my participation in non-violent civil disobedience, #1 if you missed it.)

August 25, 2011

Yesterday I was, for the first time, arrested. Today, I'm riding a train back home. All in all, life isn't so different. Here's an account of the past couple of days. More reflections are forthcoming.

On Tuesday evening, the 23rd, a group of 60 or so gathered to be trained in an Episcopal Church in Northern Washington DC. We talked about why we were there. And we heard from Gulf Coast Residents suffering from the ill effects of oil spills. We heard from a recently-released Bill McKibben. We heard from members and organizers of First Nations communities in Alberta, who are being stricken with cancer in high numbers, and who are losing the ability to live as they have for generations.

But mostly, we talked about the details of what was to come. Every question was answered, every possibility seemingly discussed. We were well trained and well prepared to engage the next day.

At 11 AM Wednesday morning, the 24th, a group of 75 or so demonstrators sat along the White House fence, holding signs and silence. We sought to bear witness to the damage being done by the Tar Sands oil extraction, and by the proposed further damage of the Keystone XL pipeline.

About half an hour later, we were told we were violating a Park Service law intended to keep people moving as they take pictures in front of the White House. We were issued 3 warnings, and 52 of us elected to be arrested.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why I'm Going - Kurt Nelson

My summer vacation is coming to an end soon.  During my last free week, I'll be heading down to DC to participate in some civil disobedience.  I'll post a few reflections here when I can.  Feel free to find me on the Facebook if you want more consistent updates. 
 (You can read more about the movement here ) 
I've not done anything like this before.  And you may ask, "Why am I taking the train to DC to be arrested?"
I’m going because I hope I can help convince our President that building a transnational oil tube between Houston TX and the Alberta Tar Sands is a bad idea.  I’m going because I think we shouldn’t be mining one of the world’s largest carbon sinks by uprooting one of the world’s largest forests.  And I’m going because I don’t think we should make access to this particularly dirty oil sand cheaper, easier and faster.  And I’m going because lots of people still don’t know that this discussion is happening.
I’m going because I believe I’m called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.  And I’m going because I think that means not radically altering the chemistry of our atmosphere.