Archive for February, 2013
March 10 is an anniversary, along with those of the wars the U.S. has launched on the world, that I find sickening to have to remember. But I do. Every year since 1993, I think of Dr. David Gunn, who was shot in the back and killed while walking to a clinic he had just opened in Pensacola, FL, to provide abortions. Only two days after International Women’s Day; twenty years after abortion began legal in the U.S. because of the struggle of women to control our bodies, the murderous violence began.
Dr. Gunn’s death, on March 10, 1993, outside his clinic, after threats and stalking, at the hands of a fundamentalist Christian vigilante named Michael Griffin, was the first murder in a series of murders, attempted murders and bombings of people providing abortion care in the U.S. and Canada. His son, David Gunn Jr. wrote:
Dr. Gunn was a skilled, dedicated physician. Dr. Gunn traveled over 1000 miles a week providing an unpopular service in communities that lacked reliable abortion providers. He practiced medicine in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, seeing patients in Mobile, Fort Walton, Columbus, Pensacola, Montgomery, Birmingham, Tallahassee, Savannah, and Orlando. He drove all of these miles in great physical pain. You see, Dr. Gunn suffered the effects of a childhood bout with polio, which resulted in the limited use of his left leg; however, he did not let his physical pain obstruct his duty as a doctor. Furthermore, Dr. Gunn endured daily picketing, protesters, stalkings, and death threats; all of which caused severe mental stress. In light of all of these obstacles, Dr. Gunn stayed strong and continued to provide women with all of their health care needs.
Soon after the murder, the New York Times did a sympathetic portrait of Dr. Gunn, describing his transformation from a member of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist group against abortion, to a trained OB/GYN doctor who chose to work in a county with the highest infant morality, in order to change that. His pain from polio, and the constant harassment he suffered – “wanted” posters, being followed on back roads – didn’t make him back down. Colleagues reported that on January 22, 1903, on the anniversary of Roe v Wade, he played the song “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty on loudspeakers aimed at antiabortion protesters in Montgomery AL.
In the next several years, more doctors and clinic staff were killed in the U.S. In 1996, the anti-repression organization Refuse & Resist! named March 10 as the National Day to Appreciate Abortion Providers, calling on other organizations and thousands of individuals to participate public programs, volunteer efforts, and letter-writing campaigns to show appreciation for those who put their lives on the line to help women. “Without providers, there is no choice.”
This year, March 10 falls on a Sunday. Find ways to mark it.
It’s a good thing that tens of thousands of people, many young, braved the cold Sunday and marched around the White House demanding that Barack Obama turn against the Keystone Pipeline. The pipeline is already a disaster for Canada, and for the ultimate recipients of the oil, whether that’s the U.S. or China, because of the price to the global environment. A concise description of the damage already done, and that could be launched was run by Revolution Newspaper last week in Resisting the Keystone XL Pipeline—and Fighting for Humanity and the Planet:
Canada’s tar sands, the second largest oil reserve in the world (behind Saudi Arabia), already produce 155,000 barrels of oil per day. The tar sands are sticky deposits of bitumen (solid or semi-solid petroleum), trapped beneath 54,000 sq. miles of Canada’s boreal forests and wetlands. Extracting oil from the tar sands produces three times more greenhouse gases (which cause global warming) than extraction of conventional oil.
It seems on Sunday, many were marching to encourage Obama, in the belief that he only needs support to keep the “backbone” to resist the relentless profit-drive of the global imperialist system to use up fossil fuel resources as quickly as they can. But it’s one thing for people to hope, and another thing altogether for leaders to sell hope in the hope-less enterprise of getting the Democrats to do what people wish they would.
My friend Elizabeth Cook, an activist in New Orleans for peoples’ right to live in the face of hurricanes and manufactured oil disasters, wrote:
What many activists don’t realize, or perhaps it doesn’t matter, is that essentially when 350.org, the Sierra Club and NRDC more or less delivered endorsements for Obama for re-election, they served to undermine the very efforts they are able to encourage out of concerned individuals.
David Swanson asks, in Pseudo-Protests and Serious Climate Crisis:
Why all the pro-Obama rhetoric? Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical. Obama won’t allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has “a strong moral core” and doesn’t do really evil things. As a belief, that’s of course delusional. This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it. This is the guy who’s derailed international climate protection efforts for years. This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year’s election.
Revolution points out:
In his second inaugural address last month, Obama promised to elevate climate change to the “top tier” of his second-term priorities. Suddenly the focus of the Keystone XL protest shifted to a rally to “help the president start his second term with strong climate action” (350.org website). Say what? One promise made in an inaugural speech, and we’re supposed to rally to “help” this president who has done so much to politically demobilize people while this system grinds on carrying out intolerable crimes—not just in relation to the environment, but with the expanded war by drones, continuing mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth, record number of deportations of immigrants, etc., etc.?
I concur that we should not look “up” to those in office to save the planet. But where to look?
Elizabeth points to direct action:
The messaging itself is extremely problematic: tar sands are already coming into this country via other pipeline routes, and by rail and soon by barge. The southern portion of the Keystone pipeline is already being built, with Obama’s stamp of approval, although there is a brave and small group of activists that have been engaging in civil disobedience on that southern leg of the pipeline connected with the Tar Sands Blockade Coalition
David says to keep independent of the Democratic Party:
What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate? We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family. But would we really lose that many? If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same buses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday’s unimpressive rally have really been?
World Can’t Wait held a conference on Saturday in Chicago where people knitted their heads together over where to look for the answers, how to unite, and even what to learn on the subject. We are not going to let this destruction go on without a political fight from the people. See Reportback on Climate Crisis Conference.
Sunday evening I was part of a conversation with participants from many groups (including but not limited to Code Pink, KnowDrones.com, National Coalition of Nonviolent Resistance, NoDronesNetwork, UNAC, Upstate Coalition to End Wars & Ground the Drones, Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait) and individuals working on opposing drones from around the country.
The inspiration for the call was the increased attention – and protest against – the U.S. drone war and targeted killing, brought on by the release of the White Paper just before the Brennan hearings, and the successful protest by Code Pink at the hearings, causing it to be closed to the public. Broadcasts on PBS Nova and Bill Moyers, a cover story in TIME, and thousands of news stories about the Obama administrations’ justification of targeted killing, expansion of executive power, and secrecy on the program have brought the question to light.
Editorial cartoons in the LA Times and New York Times lampooned Obama as a drone warrior, NPR featured a debate, Forbes ran a piece by James Zogby, and the NY Times ran front page analysis on how Obama is treading a similar path to Bush, including this: “By emphasizing drone strikes, Mr. Obama need not bother with the tricky issues of detention and interrogation because terrorists tracked down on his watch are generally incinerated from the sky, not captured and questioned.”
On the call, much appreciation was expressed for the eight people who disrupted the Brennan hearing February 7, including Ann Wright. They were arrested and have a court appearance in March for disrupting Congress. Code Pink is following up with lobbying efforts, after visiting the offices of Senators Feinstein and Chambliss from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which continues secret hearings this week on Brennan.
David Swanson reported that after the resolution against drones passed by Charlottesville VA City Council, he’s hearing from other cities preparing resolutions against drones. Nick Mottern of KnowDrones.com reported that more than a dozen locations have replica drones, and more on order, prompting him to raise funds to buy a mold so that they can be produced more easily and quickly. Joe Scarry reported on a series of regional conference calls planning actions at NoDronesNetwork. Seattle is sending its two surveillance drones back to the manufacturer, an action which may have prompted Portland, OR, to cancel plans to acquire drones.
Actions in April as part of the month of coordinated protest at manufacturers, research institutions, and bases are being planned in Chicago, New York City, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston, the Pacific Northwest, San Diego, Wisconsin, and monthly protests at the CIA may extend to week-days. Find more here and get involved.
Please communicate with Nick Mottern via email@example.com with follow up comments.