Chris Hedges on Climate Activist Tim DeChristopher

Chris Hedges bio pic from TruthdigPulitzer Prize–winner Chris Hedges, who worked for the New York Times as a foreign correspondent for 15 years, now writes a weekly column for Truthdig – and an occasional article for Adbusters. His Truthdig bio states that he “left the Times after being issued a formal reprimand for denouncing the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.” (See bio.) In his most recent Truthdig column, “This Hero Didn’t Stand a Chance,” he quotes extensively from convicted climate activist Tim DeChristopher:

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DeChristopher, who attends a Unitarian church in Salt Lake City, comes out of the religious left. This left, defined by Christian anarchists such as Dorothy Day, Philip Berrigan and his brother Father Daniel Berrigan, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, takes a moral stance not because it is always effective but because it is right, because to live the moral life means that there is no alternative. This life demands a commitment to justice no matter how bleak the future appears. And what sustains DeChristopher is what sustained the religious radicals who went before him—faith. 

“The connection to a religious community for me is a big part of the empowerment,” he said. “From talking with a lot of the old Freedom Riders and other folks in the civil rights movement, it was in the church community that people found the strength and the faith that, no matter what happened to them when they sat at that lunch counter or got on that bus, there would be another wave of people coming behind them to take their place and another wave behind that and behind that. And that is part of what is missing from the progressive community today. Part of my belief system is an appreciation of our connectedness to the natural world, the interconnected web of life of which I am a part. I am not an isolated individual, and this understanding is what empowers me, but also in a more direct way in that I am connected to the church community who I knew would support me. Sitting in that auction when I was deciding to do this I was thinking about whether anyone would support me. The people I knew would have my back were in the church. That helped drive me to action.”

And because of that he understands that any resistance can never succumb to the temptation of violence.

“Violence is the realm our current power structure is really good at,” he said. “They are eager to play that game. Any opportunity we give them [to use violence], they will win. That is the game they win at. The history of social movements in this country shows that we are far more powerful with nonviolent civil disobedience than we are with what our audience considers to be violence.”

“Once our actions are deemed to be violent then that justifies repressive tactics on the part of the government,” he said. “With a nonviolent movement we are still inviting a strong reaction from the government or ruling authorities. We are inviting a powerful reaction against ourselves. But it undermines the moral legitimacy of our current government. That is the path we need to pursue. Rather than reinforcing their legitimacy we need to undermine their legitimacy.”

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