In 2012, we did some good things. It was an election year and we succeeded in keeping Mitt Romney and the Republicans out of the White House for another four-year term. And on the state level, too, it was a milestone year. Maryland, Maine, and Washington passed laws for marriage equality. In the Congressional races, a record number of openly gay House and Senate members were elected, including Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, the first openly gay Senator and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, the first openly bisexual member of Congress. For women, too, it was a record-breaking year. The 113th Congress will have 20 female Senators, the most ever in the history of the U.S. Maryland passed the DREAM Act, allowing eligible undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities. And for marijuana users and libertarians alike 2012 marked a momentous year as Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana.
From outside of the voting booths there were also some great achievements. We managed to (temporarily) halt the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline in Eastern Texas following a law suit by a landowner charging that TransCanada did not make clear the difference between crude oil and tar sands oil. The oil giant BP was finally forced to pay up for the horrific 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that caused untold damages to the ecosystem. They pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties. Even more impressive, another Big Oil company, Shell, announced that it would halt its offshore drilling in the Arctic.
Make no mistake, these actions did not happen because the people at the top decided that it was right to do so. They didn’t happen because those in charge finally found their moral ground and made a decree. These changes happened because we made it that way. When Shell decided to put off offshore drilling in the highly sensitive Arctic ecosystem for the next year, it was not because the fat cats in the Shell corporation decided to put environmental sustainability before profits. They didn’t suddenly see the imperative situation we are in on this planet and the fast track we are all on toward complete environmental destruction and irreversible climate change. They did not develop a conscience and a worldview that puts the planet above making another buck. The Arctic drilling was stopped because of the tireless efforts of environmental activists and groups like Greenpeace who fought without regard for their own personal safety or comfort in order to put a stop to such destructive practices.
This is how history is made. This is how society finds progress. Civil rights, women’s suffrage, the end of slavery, the labor movement; each of these started because the people found it in themselves to rise up against the immoral governments and corrupt corporations in power. The oppressed, the weak, the lowest members of society found that their great strength was in their unity and their resolve.
We cannot be content with the results of the 2012 election. We may have elected a president who calls himself a progressive, yet we cannot expect that this will be enough. Republican or Democrat, Obama or Romney, our President bows to the same corporate cronies as ever. Big Banks and Big Oil still control the White House. The Keystone XL Pipeline will still be pushed through – bringing us one step closer to an ecological “game over.” Our civil liberties will still be stripped further and further down, as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes the U.S. government to carry-out domestic “counter-terrorism” efforts and allows U.S. citizens to be detained indefinitely and without trial. Our military industrial complex will remain out of control as we continue our war in Afghanistan, our drone wars in Pakistan and Somalia and Guatemala, and our special troops in the Philippines, Central Africa, and Mexico. U.S. special operations will continue in 120 countries around the world, over 60% of the world’s nations, according to Tom Dispatch. While our defense budget remains at astronomically high rates, at home we will be forced to take austerity measures as we cut entitlements, attack our teachers, strip our education system, and cut programs that help the poor, the sick, the elderly, and our veterans.
All of this will happen in 2013 and beyond unless we make a decided effort to fight it. Voting for your representative is the bare minimum of political involvement. Movements like Occupy and the blockade of the Keystone XL pipeline are powerful movements for change. Organizations like Greenpeace, the ACLU, and Amnesty International fight every day for our planet, our civil rights, and our human rights. It is imperative that we involve ourselves in these movements and not be content to let others fight for us.
I challenge you this 2013 to find something you care about and fight for it. What will you fight for this year?