This past year was a year of protest in the U.S. There were civil disobedience protests during “Democracy Spring” on the steps of the Capitol Building to voice outrage at the big money in politics, asking for a repeal of the Citizens United ruling.
There were the “Fight for $15” protests for raising the minimum wage. There were protests against fracking and oil pipelines fouling our water supply. There were protests against police brutality and the deaths of innocent African Americans at the hands of police. There were protests at the Democratic National Convention to voice voters’ frustration at the rigged primary system. There were protests against discriminatory laws prohibiting transgender individuals from using public restrooms. There were protests against endless wars for oil and the drone killings of innocents, most recently in Yemen. Every week, there was some kind of a protest.
There are promises of more of the same in 2017–a lot more. With an individual exhibiting an apparent narcissistic personality disorder as president, it’s guaranteed there will be protests from day one.
And this is a good thing. It demonstrates that more Americans are awake and aware of what is going on in their government and their society. It demonstrates people care passionately about causes and they are willing to sacrifice their time, energy, and safety (and possibly their lives) to make a better world for all. It exemplifies the old adage: “When the going gets tough–the tough get going.”
But how do people continue to fight the good fight when day after day the forces of darkness seem to win? That question was posed to our speaker at a recent Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio meeting. Terry Lodge has been an environmental lawyer for forty years. He’s fought against the oligarchs at the local, state, and national level. He’s worked to close down nuclear power facilities and, most recently, he’s worked with groups fighting the Nexus pipeline in Ohio and Michigan. Looking at his track record, one might think he would have given up by now, since Big Oil and the nuclear industry are still with us. (However, Terry points out nuclear power is fading away, with no new plants under construction and many older ones being phased out.)
Because of big money in politics, Terry understands how government regulatory agencies (such as the EPA and the state utilities commission) and elected officials are more than likely to side with corporate interests rather than protect the public’s safety. To deal with this travesty of justice, he has adopted an attitude of, “Hope is irrelevant.” That is, if the only thing that kept Terry going was hope in government officials coming to the conclusion that fracking and nuclear energy aren’t in the people’s best interests, he wouldn’t wake up each day and work hard to make the world a better place. He just wouldn’t, since he’d quickly lose hope.
So, Terry doesn’t hope. He works.
“Hope is a dangerous addiction,” Terry admits. He says it’s best to put it aside and get to the task at hand. Change what little you can, where you are. An excellent example he gave is the story of Tish O’Dell. Tish lives in a nice suburb of Cleveland. Broadview Heights is a small community fortunate enough to have 90 fracking wells and their accompanying fracking wastewater ponds full of toxic chemicals. (Yes, that’s 90 fracking wells and not 9!) Residents reported many illnesses and earthquakes after fracking began, but no one in government took their side against the frackers. Tish didn’t give up. She organized her fellow citizens and they protested and worked hard to place an initiative on the ballot to ban fracking within the city limits. They succeeded with their initiative and the charter amendment to ban fracking passed.
Remember the influence of big money? Of course, a higher court later struck the amendment down, but its legacy remains. There have been no new fracking wells drilled in Broadview Heights since their charter was amended. The fracking industry knows the people of Broadview Heights won’t take another invasion of their community lying down. Other Ohio cities have followed their example to ban fracking. The spread of fracking has been slowed and possibly suspended in areas of Ohio. While it may not be seen as a total victory, it’s a significant battle won in the opening salvo of a war to protect the people’s health and safety.
In this coming year of protests, keep Terry’s motto and Tish’s example in mind. Give up hoping–and start doing. To quote Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party: “We are the change we’ve been looking for.”
Get out there and protest. Change things for the better. Hoping things will change won’t cut it alone. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get working. See you on the front lines.
Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of Our Revolution Continues blog: http://bernie2016.blogspot.com