Time to Hit the Streets

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On the Congressionally Mandated US Climate Report, 23 November 2018

There is a disturbing parallel between the blindness of Congress to the facts about Vietnam in the 1970’s and the facts about climate change today. After Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, which detailed the “saturation bombing” of Cambodia and Laos without the knowledge of our Senators and Representatives, there remained in the public mind the delusion that we could somehow win the war in Vietnam and save all of Southeast Asia from the greedy clutches of Communism. The “domino effect,” as Senators called it. We went on to elect Richard Nixon, who had a “secret plan” to win the war, and we continued in a tragic, losing effort for three more years until the fall of Saigon in 1975.

During those three years, an enormous groundswell of public protest brought hundreds of thousands of citizens, mostly young people, into the streets, chanting, screaming, and demanding an end to the hopeless cause that was the Vietnam War. Priests threw blood on Selective Service files. Buddhist monks set themselves on fire. Protestors blocked highways to stop military convoys. Young people mailed their draft cards back to their Selective Service offices. Statisticians tell us that what finally created a majority was that by 1973, about 75% of the country had direct or indirect connections with fallen soldiers in Vietnam.

The protests worked. Congressmen desperately railed against the persistent harassment to shore up their income streams from the military-industrial lobbies, but eventually realized that they couldn’t get the votes regardless of the money spent, and they finally knuckled under and supported the vast majority of the populace. Rather than a “domino effect,” the Soviet Union eventually fell, and we can visit Laos and Vietnam any time we want. The U.S. lost the war, but won the peace.

Yesterday the congressionally mandated U. S. Climate Change Report was issued, and I felt the same outrage that I felt in 1972, when Nixon won the election and promised further bloodshed in a losing cause. The jury is in, the facts on the ground are clear, the effects are already seen in many places worldwide, and there are clear alternatives to our current lifestyles that could be helpful. All that is missing today is the enormous groundswell of commitment to the solution by the young people of America.

This should be the start of the protests. We can sit by and allow our deeply compromised President to blunder along, denying the obvious effects of climate change, or we can hit the streets, call Congressional representatives, and demand a serious, coordinated effort to identify and support alternative energy sources and less wasteful lifestyles. The current administration’s ignorance and defiance of scientific information will ensure that the U.S. will bring up the tail in the world’s effort to address climate change. But sensible action now can blunt the worst effects of this mess. It’s time to demand the attention of Congress. Time to shout, chant, and get on the phone.

One last thought. When I call my Senator (Cory Gardner) I rarely leave a message. I call and call and call until I get an aide. Then I make a calm, sensible case and possibly change the thinking of one small potato at a time. We didn’t have to convince the generals in Vietnam. We just had to help the average GI to see reality.

 

Author: Samuel A. Johnson

This blog is about hiking, thinking, and writing.

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