Earth Day and the know-nothings

This year, we’re celebrating Earth Day with a march to support the very existence of science. How did we get to the point where know-nothingism is winning?

It’s easy to forget that first Earth Day, in 1970, wasn’t a basket of roses. It was the culmination of a bitter fight for clean air and water that was just beginning to gain traction. Environmentalists were commonly called “Communists,” and calls for clean air were considered an attack on American workers. From the beginning, we were swimming upstream.

Now the stakes are higher – despite 47 Earth Days, the planet is overheating and the future is in doubt. And a cadre of greedy idiots have seized power.

But just as a broken clock is right twice a day, the Trump forces are right about one important thing: There are people being hurt by the transition from a carbon-intensive economy to a clean-energy world. The problem is that Trump is more concerned with the owners of the coal companies than with coal miners. Did you see the photo of him with the “miners”? They were coal executives. The miners were behind them, out of the picture. That’s Trump’s energy policy in a nutshell.

Coal miners deserve better. They could be building wind farms on top of the mountains that the coal companies have flattened. The miners could be making electric vehicles. Instead, we’re going to subsidize more coal production.

The miners are, well, the canary in the coal mine. We need to work with them, not against them. They are not attacking science – they’re being lied to about the role of science by Fox “news” and craven politicians like our new Energy Secretary.

Earth Day is about ecology – the interrelationship of living things and their environment. That means all living things, including miners and other victims of the carbon economy. The best hope for those most at risk from a changing economy and deteriorating environment lies with…science.

So let’s march today. Let’s show the know-nothings that we outnumber them – bigly – and we’ll sweep them away if they persist. In the name of science.


In 1970, I began Earth Day in a courtroom, and finished it in a school encounter that opened some minds – including my own. Read about it in Some Way Outa Here.

The Women’s March opens a new era of resistance

San Francisco Women's March

Yesterday millions of people marched to declare “we’re not gonna take it!” It was an outpouring rarely seen in the US and across the world. Led by women outraged by the new president’s misogyny, racism and habitual dishonesty, huge crowds filled streets in cities and towns to say “no” to Trump. It was the birth of resistance to his administration.

There was an air of disbelief that, the day before, Donald Trump had become President. His blustery inaugural address, a dark statement of a country rotting and beset by “carnage,” was nightmarish. But it was a nightmare from which there was no awakening: the next day, he was bragging and lying at the headquarters of the CIA, a dark cartoonish thug who won’t go away.

Against this backdrop, I took to the streets in San Francisco, along with tens of thousands of my closest friends. Under threatening skies, our Women’s March filled United Nations Plaza – the birthplace of an organization that Trump derided as “a club for people to get together and have a good time.” It was a fitting spot. The crowd displayed a sense of unity and optimism that was rare for any demonstration, much less one under such grim circumstances.

The march was filled with women of all ages and colors, many wearing pink knitted pussy hats in defiance of the pussy-grabbing president. The signs and speeches proclaimed that all issues – health care, immigrant rights, climate change, racism and especially economic justice – are women’s issues, and that women’s issues are everyone’s issues.

Perhaps a quarter of the crowd were men, supporting the women while expressing their own determination to resist. The ease with which the men supported their female friends and relatives was remarkable, the fulfillment of a dream of early feminists: Now, we are all feminists.

The march in Washington was possibly the largest ever held. I attended the previous record holder – the November 1969 march for peace in Vietnam. It was a central, formative event in my life (you can read about my experience there in Some Way Outa Here), but yesterday’s events were very different is some important ways.

In 1969, the grotesque Vietnam war had been raging for four years. We went to Washington full of fury and desperation. On that frigid day, 600,000 people filled the streets chanting, shouting, jeering at a president and congress who were oblivious. The huge crowd showed that the antiwar movement was real and a force to be reckoned with, even as Nixon declared that a “silent majority” supported him. We were mostly peaceful, but the unifying theme was anger.

Yesterday’s march was utterly different. Instead of a long-simmering movement finding itself, as in 1969, this was a new one being born. Young people were discovering that they had much in common with older demonstrators, many of whom were veterans of previous movements. There was a sense that the many issues of the day were urgent and inseparable – this was no one-issue movement. There was a newfound outrage that our country has been seized by an unstable man who was foisted on us by a foreign autocrat, and who lost the popular vote to an unfairly vilified woman. Most of all, there was a fierce sense of commitment to resisting whatever atrocities lie ahead.

The 1969 march was a response to atrocities past, still being committed daily. The Women’s March was a statement that there is a vast movement ready to take on a president who seems hell-bent on committing new atrocities. All were agreed: grim events lie ahead, but we are ready to resist, and to someday sweep these people from power.


The 1969 March on Washington was a pivotal moment in American history. The peace movement went mainstream, no longer a fringe. It changed the lives of millions of Americans, myself included. You can read about the personal drama of that weekend in Some Way Outa Here.

Want to join the Resistance?

Ivanka Trump has inspired Darcie and me to design a bracelet, in the spirit of her 60 Minutes bauble. It’s a solid-silicone statement of how we intend to resist her daddy’s administration:

Wrist Rebel Resistance bracelet

Long ago, when our government was terrorizing Southeast Asia and drafting young men as cannon fodder, I joined an organization called the Philadelphia Resistance. We did whatever we could to throw a wrench in the works, to stop the madness.

Since then I have disagreed with many of my government’s policies, I’ve demonstrated in the streets and spilled much ink (and many electrons) to protest new military adventures, a stolen election in 2000, and racism in its many forms. But only now am I ready to say again:

As loyal Americans, it’s time to resist the extremists who have taken control of our country. They will stop at nothing to impose an order that threatens our safety, health and freedom. I won’t cooperate.

Resistance to the Nixon administration may (or may not) have shortened the Vietnam war – it certainly drove the president into deep paranoia that ultimately drove him from office. And resistance ended the military draft.

Our actions then took many forms. Virtually all were peaceful, but many were militant…blocking access to draft boards, blocking streets (a tactic I came to regret), attempting to close down a military base, political street theater, destroying files, and, most of all, refusing to cooperate with the bureaucracy. Two of these tactics landed me in jail, and a third led to a year-long entanglement with the FBI. (You can read about these in Some Way Outa Here.)

The symbol of the Resistance was the omega: Ω  It’s the symbol for electrical resistance. We’ve proudly incorporated it into the bracelet.

Wrist Rebel Resistance bracelet

OK, so other than looking good, what is this “resistance” thing about in the 21st century?

For starters, resistance means that the proceeds from the bracelet go to the Natural Resources Defence Council, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. (Yes, the same ACLU that defended me in court 1970.) These organizations are dedicated to serving Americans as the Trump administration tries to attack (not too strong a word) the environment, take away women’s health services, and silence those who point out what’s happening. Providing these services is resisting.

Resistance means defending law-abiding, hardworking immigrants from discrimination, detention, or deportation (in many cases, to countries they have never lived in). These are people who have cared for our children and our parents, who write the software that underpins our economy, who pick our food and who are our friends and neighbors. Protecting them is resisting.

Resistance means standing up for Muslim Americans.  It means, if a Muslim registry is implemented, being the first one in line to say “I am a Muslim.” It means, when Muslims are attacked, wearing a head scarf. When Muslims are under attack, we are all Muslims. Standing together is resisting.

Resistance means preserving our right to health care and a secure retirement. When our health insurance is taken away, it means insisting that until everyone is guaranteed health care, no one is safe. (Especially the middle/working class Trump supporters who will be devastated by the destruction of the Affordable Care Act.) It means refusing to cooperate with private insurance companies if they refuse to serve all Americans. Fighting for universal health care is resisting.

Resistance means stopping new coal and oil power plants, and working with states and private companies to promote the use of low-carbon fuels. And it means helping dislocated coal and oil workers transition to new careers, especially in wind and solar energy. Saving the planet for ourselves and our grandchildren is resisting.

Resistance means standing up for women’s’ rights to control their bodies – especially when those rights are being taken away, one state at a time, and providing safe, affordable alternatives even when they are outlawed. This is resisting.

Resistance means doing the hard work to reduce violence by police against minorities, and to fight the vilification or scapegoating of minorities. Refusing to accept racism is resisting.

Resistance means thinking about what is happening, every day, and not accepting that greed and stupidity is the new normal. The billionaires who have seized power are about to begin looting our country on a scale never before imagined. Standing up for our economic rights – decent wages and a fair share of our prosperity – is a way of saying, “we, and our parents,  built this country, and you’re not going to take it away from us.” Providing services, even when illegal, is resisting.

If we decide it’s just too hard and look the other way, they win. If we just wait till the next election, there may not be another election. If we keep our heads down and do our jobs, we may not have jobs.

It’s time to actively, peacefully, and passionately resist the madness.


Get your Resistance bracelet at WristRebel.com!

How I Ended 2016 in the Twilight Zone

On the morning New Year’s Eve, 2016, I sat on my bed and opened Facebook. The first post I encountered was a picture of the Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling in the Oval Office. Behind him sat Donald Trump at the President’s desk.

What a strange, outlandish idea, I thought. Frightening. I showed it to Darcie.

“I posted that picture,” she said. Sure enough, she had. “I thought it was funny.”

“That’s just too weird,” I said. She looked at me funny. I switched to the Times front page, and there was an article about “President-elect Trump.”

I looked up at Darcie. “Is this a joke? What’s going on? That’s a crazy idea…Trump is a lunatic…”

“Uh, Mark, who won the election?”

I thought hard. “Obama, but that was a few years ago.” Trump hadn’t won an election. That wasn’t possible.

Darcie looked scared now. “Do you remember who lost the election?”

I remembered that Hillary Clinton was running…then…”Oh my god, she lost? She lost! Trump won the election? Oh damn, we’re screwed!” I was shouting now.

This is a true story.

I was recovering from a weeks-long fight with bronchitis, and I had been having trouble breathing. On New Year’s Eve, I decided to exercise. I needed it. And then I was sitting on my bed.

There’s a medical condition called Transient Global Amnesia. (Look it up.) It can happen after intense exercise, especially if the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. You forget everything that’s happened  for the previous months – in my case, a whole year.

“Where do you work?” asked Darcie.

I told her I worked at the company I left a year ago. Now she was really freaked out.

I wasn’t. Because this happened to me once before, years ago. Then, it was terrifying. But I knew the feeling. And I knew that it was transient – I was certain it was the same thing and that it would all come back. I explained this to Darcie, and she looked it up on Wikipedia. “Yikes, that’s it! That’s just what you’re…doing.” She said “doing” as if I was standing on my head and singing in Hungarian.

I went back to the Facebook picture. “This Twilight Zone picture, it’s real?” I felt very much like I had entered The Twilight Zone.

Darcie looked a little flummoxed. “It’s not real…but…it’s a thing. It’s kind of real…sort of. I guess this whole election could have been on the Twilight Zone.

I was hearing this for the first time, it seemed. All of it. Darcie explained, almost apologetically, about the election, Hillary’s electoral college collapse, about the tweets, the cabinet appointments, the Russian hacks. I learned it all at once. I looked at the Times again, which confirmed it all. I still didn’t remember any of it.

I went through denial, anger, pleading, depression and acceptance in a few minutes. Actually, the acceptance took a while, and I only accepted that it was all true, not OK.

That was the most remarkable feeling: Hearing all this at once for the first time…how can this be OK?  How can anybody be OK with this? It’s preposterous!

And gradually my memory returned. All of it. Nothing is missing, so far as I know. But the feeling of rediscovering the events of the last few months haven’t left me. It’s raw. It’s very, very upsetting.

As one friend told me, “You, of all people! I don’t know anyone who would be more tortured by having to go through all this again, all at once. This is cruel!”

But I challenge him, and you, dear reader, what if this happened to you?  Would you see the madness of the campaign, of Brexit, of the FBI director’s intervention (I really had trouble believing that happened), of the cabinet of right wing billionaires and generals…what would you think if you found your world transformed like this?

Remember the boiling frog? Put a frog in a pot of water and turn up the heat, and the frog will stay there as the water gradually boils. I had become the frog who is tossed into the pot of boiling water, and felt the heat. I wanted to jump out.

If you can’t arrange an attack of Transient Global Amnesia for yourself, begin the new year with an imagination attack. Force yourself to consider what your year-ago self would have thought about what’s happening to us. We’re slowly boiling, my friends.

It’s not OK.


During the Nixon years, young people struggled to find creative ways to stop an out-of-control president. Read about it in Some Way Outa Here.

 

It’s Time for a Main Street Movement

My pal Darcie Lamond just published a call to beat Trump at his own game, with a message and a movement. It’s a call for the majority – yes, a clear majority voted against him – to band together around our shared values.

A Main Street Movement to Challenge Trump’s Brand

by Darcie Lamondmain-street

Post election divisions continue to grow deeper and more pronounced, yet this trend does not seem to be motivating our president-elect to broaden his appeal and heal the wounds. With each passing day and each announcement, the battle lines are being drawn and we are being asked to choose sides. The Trump team is either determined to inflame or is just tone deaf with picks like Steve Bannon as strategic advisor. Forget Lincoln’s Band of Rivals favored by Obama, the Trump team is willing to float the likes of Sarah Palin as Secretary of the Interior. While these lighting rod characters keep the Trump team in the news, now that the election is over, the shock-jock tactics that helped elect him only fuel resistance and serve to remind us that we are bitterly divided.

Without a candidate to rally behind and without a majority in congress, there are few paths left open to the opposition. For many, the stakes seem extremely high with policies that will result in irreversible damage to the environment, women’s reproductive rights, universal healthcare and immigration reform. Such core principles do motivate people to action. Joining a resistance takes tremendous energy, drive, and deeply held commitments. Election campaigns have funding to maintain key staff and to run effective communication efforts that are required to brand and define a movement. Still, movements do come out of moments like this. The Tea Party is an extremely successful example of a movement that managed to brand itself and amass tremendous political power.

An anti-Trump movement could be quite successful, if it were to align with positions that actually enjoy majority support – abortion rights, responsible gun control, reasonable immigration, sensible environmental protection and tax cuts for the middle class. The movement could brand itself as The Main Street movement and lay claim to the mainstream values that it supported.

Read the whole article…

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Mr. Trump

Let it bleed Donald Trump

Let it bleed Donald Trump
When Donald Trump finished his blustery acceptance speech at the Republican conventions, rock and roll from 1969-70 filled the convention hall. Among millions of other Americans, I was perplexed by the choice of tracks. But now I think I get it.

There’s a long history of weird and often inappropriate songs being used as campaign theme songs.

For years, the Democrats used Franklin Roosevelt’s theme song, “Happy Days are Here Again,” regardless of the fit with the occasion. The last time it was featured was the catastrophic 1968 convention in Chicago, as antiwar protesters were gassed and beaten in the streets by police.

Ronald Reagan used Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” in 1984, seemingly unaware of the song’s grim lyric. The Boss told him to cease and desist, though it might have been better to let him keep playing it through the campaign.

Four years later, George Bush the First appropriated Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at the convention. Woody was spinning in his grave. The Republicans omitted the verse…

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

When Pete Seeger sang it at Barack Obama’s inauguration, the verse was restored.

The same year, Michael Dukakis featured Neil Diamond’s cumbersome epic ballad “Coming to America.” His campaign was equally cumbersome, and people tuned out for the later verses.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” echoed from Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech through to election night. For those of us who watched that campaign, the song is forever linked to Bill and Hillary.

But when we come to 2016, Trump’s song selection puts all of these to shame.

As the balloons dropped in Cleveland, the opening strains of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” rang out. Really? TV commentators immediately began commenting on the “odd choice of music” (Judy Woodruff). At first, I was annoyed that he would dare appropriate a classic Stones song for his angry, bigoted campaign. Then I started thinking about the message.

“You can’t always get what you want.” Right. “You’ll find, you get what you need…” OK, so you’re saying that neither you nor Hillary are what we want, but we’ll have to settle for what we need. Thanks for telling us, Donald, but I’m not sure that really helps you. Because, honestly, you are not what we need.

It was weird watching the balloons drop as Mick sang about standing in line behind Mr. Jimi, who said one word to him, and that was “dead.” And then thinking about the central place the song had at the disastrous Altamont festival, which wasn’t much worse in tone than the Republican convention. (Read about it in my pal Joel Selvin’s new book, “Altamont.”)

But then a second song filled the air, louder and more insistent: Free’s “All Right Now.”
The song was a minor hit in the summer of 1970, thanks mostly to a catchy, thrashing guitar hook. I used to play it, loud, driving around my mom’s car with friends, windows rolled down, hoping people would look askance at our slightly rowdy selves. It sometimes worked.

The lyrics of “All Right Now” are something else entirely. It’s a song about a really bad date. A guy pursues an attractive girl, talks her into going home with him, and he proclaims his love for her, to which she pretty much says “are you kidding me?” and leaves. This is what Trump wants us to think about as he leaves the stage in Cleveland?

In retrospect, I suspect that some clever convention planner who didn’t particularly like Trump told him “Hey, Mr. Trump, these are two great old songs that everybody loves, let’s use them!” And Donald said “Great idea!” and the planner is still laughing about it.

The two songs are perfect.


Read about our music and our lives in 1969-70 in Some Way Outa Here.

The Unforgettable Image

Ieshia Evans
I can’t get this picture out of my mind.

It was in Baton Rouge, after the death of Alton Sterling at the hands of police, and the killing of five officers in Dallas.

The woman is Ieshia Evans, a nurse from Pennsylvania who traveled to Louisiana to stand up – literally, it turns out – against police attacks on black people. (The photographer is Jonathan Bachman.) The image is surreal, a frozen moment. Evans has been characterized as a superhero, as the statue of liberty, and the small crack in the street between her and the police has been likened to the opening chasm that divides us.

Such is the power of an image.

Images have made Black Lives Matter possible. Shamefully, they didn’t seem to matter so much until cell phones began recording the deaths of people like Sterling. Finally, the deniability that protected racist police evaporated. The world could see and remember the images of people dying…and of people standing against injustice.

Pictures have the power to reframe the world. It happens all the time.

In the 1960s, the onslaught of gripping images, published by news magazines and newspapers, helped drive the Civil Rghts movement, with images of Southern lynchings, demonstrators being attacked with water cannons and dogs, and the iconic March on Washington in 1963. The pictures of brutality shocked us, but the images of courage, like that of Ieshia Evans, gripped us and wouldn’t let go.

Consider one of the iconic images from the 1968: Olympics – the award ceremony for John Carlos and Tommie Smith:
Smith Carlos 1968

The Civil Rights movement was transitioning to the Black Power movement. The demand for “power,” not just “rights,” made a lot of white people uncomfortable. Carlos and Smith had the gall to bring the movement to the Olympic podium, and the nation was shocked. This photo had an impact that is hard to imagine now – horrifying many, inspiring others. It captured the fears and hopes of the country in a single frame.

Vietnam brought a deluge of unforgettable images. Three are so memorable that most people recognize them, even now: The photo of a young girl, naked, fleeing a napalm attack; bodies stacked at My Lai, massacred by American soldiers, and a young woman bending over a student at Kent State, blood streaming onto the pavement. Each told the story that had to be told. No words were needed.

Another heroic image gripped the world in 1989. The world was in turmoil as Communist countries began to collapse. It seemed that China would be next, as demonstrators converged on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. When the army responded, a single man challenged the Chinese army, stood his ground, and stopped a row of tanks in its tracks. One person, armed only with unfathomable courage.
1989-Tank-man

Images like this tell stories that can change how we see the world. They can change how we think and what we do. They make us question what we assumed to be true, and they can give us courage to act in ways we didn’t know we could act.

As a teenager, the act of John Carlos and Tommie Smith not only gave me new respect for the Black Power movement – they inspired me to similar actions (documented in Some Way Outa Here). Likewise, the photos from Vietnam and Kent State spoke to every American, and drove many of us to action, fueling the antiwar movement.

Of course, pictures never tell the whole story. How many people know what happened to Peter Norman, the Australian on the podium with Carlos and Smith? The silver medal winner, Norman wore a Black Power patch on his uniform in support of the Americans, for which the Australian sports federation banned him from competition for life. It’s easy to forget that the brief victory of Tank Man was followed by the massacre at Tiananmen Square that ended the reform movement. And a few days after Ieshia Evans confronted (and was arrested by) Baton Rouge police, several officers were killed by a gunman who sought to avenge Alton Sterling’s death.

History is never simple.

But now we all carry cameras with us. All the time. Everyone has the power to record events, to report (or even make) news, and to change how we see the world. To change our minds. And our hearts.

You have a powerful tool in your pocket. Use it well.

Mad as Hell

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!”

That’s a line from the movie Network, but it’s could be from the script of the Brexit referendum. Or the Trump campaign.

You know the feeling. Things aren’t going well, we desperately need a change, and we need to make a statement. Now.

So along comes a candidate or proposition that gives us a chance to tell the world how angry we are. Easy choice – I vote for it! That’ll show ’em! But then…oops, it passed, or we elected a bigmouthed know-nothing.

What have we done?

The people of Britain have some serious problems, beginning with a stagnant economy (especially outside London), and a massively uneven distribution of wealth. (Does this sound familiar, America?) The Brexit vote gave them a voice. But did they really want to leave the European Union, and risk an even greater economic dislocation? Unlikely.

Google UK has seen a huge jump in searches like “what happens if we leave the EU?” It’s a good bet that a lot of those who voted to leave didn’t know or care what would happen…they never expected to actually win.

For Americans, that’s the scary part. Few people actually want Donald Trump to be president, but voting for him is a great way to say you’re mad as hell. And a lot of Americans are mad as hell. It’s not just unemployed, old southern white guys, either. Many of us are furious about income inequality and guns (Trump used to be for gun control, right…?), and big banks – so why not send a message?

I once knew some people who were actually bomb-throwers. They were part of the Weather Underground (not the forecasting app), and they believed that blowing up (empty) buildings was a good way to get people to change things. Surely the Vietnam war would end if America started exploding!  They succeeded in damaging a few buildings, accidentally killed a guy and a couple of themselves, and did a lot of damage to the antiwar movement. There are always unintended consequences to blowing things up.

Trump voters are often quoted as wanting to “tear it down” or “blow it up.” I get it. So do a lot of Brits. We want to yell and make our voices heard. We want to scare the bastards so that they’ll fix things.

But we didn’t really mean it about tearing it all down, did we?

Oops.


One of the big questions of the Vietnam-era antiwar movement was how to make our voices heard. Sit-ins, marches, breaking windows, blowing things up? Writing? That’s what I was trying to figure out in the year of Some Way Outa Here

bomb