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Make me

May 26, 2011

Recently I watched a PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders who, in 1961, shamed the U.S. government into banning segregation on public transportation. These non-violent, young, black and white students endured beatings and imprisonment while the Kennedys decided whether they could risk the political consequences of taking a stand for integration. Years earlier, President Franklin Roosevelt, when confronted about his lackluster support for civil rights, said that he agreed with the cause but that the people involved needed to make him act.

President Obama says he is in favor of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, but his policies toward that goal have been weak and vacillating. Unfortunately, he will not abandon traditional political collusion with Big Oil, Gas and Nuclear unless someone makes him.

Climate change caused by dependence on carbon-based fossil energy is the existential threat of our time. Our human rights to clean air, water and health are being denied. The planet’s ability to sustain its inhabitants is in question. The status quo is not an option. The young of today are the most threatened. Where are their voices demanding an immediate change of policy?

I was too young to join the Freedom Riders, but I participated in activism against the Vietnam War, partly because my life was at stake. Similarly, I protested against nuclear power and weapons and, later, against the insanity of the Iraq War, the New York Regional Interconnect power line and industrial gas drilling, with mixed results overall. I witnessed my heroes’ assassinations and my causes being co-opted. Perhaps my most effective effort has been to maintain a lifestyle that conserves energy and is not overly materialistic, but that is no longer enough. But I am weary. I want to pass the torch to a younger generation. Your future is on the line. Speak.

Allan Rubin
Cochecton, NY