Irony can also be a powerful tool when used by activists in their actions. We love this action against the Keystone XL pipeline. Farmers, ranchers, clean energy and climate activists came together in Nebraska to construct a wind turbine and solar-powered barn immediately in the path of the proposed pipeline. They created a dilemma; if President Obama approves Keystone XL, he'll then have to tear down clean and locally-produced energy to make way for dirty energy from foreign tar sands.
And, in Boulder, CO activists have been working for nearly a decade to get their utility to switch from coal to green energy. The company, Xcel Energy, refused so they have been working to create a municipal utility instead. They've won three votes by city residents, but XCel keeps fighting them. The failure of a private corporation to be responsive to what their customers, the people of Boulder, want is resulting in the company being turned into a public utility. (By the way, the Boulder activists will help other cities do this.)
And, there is a sad ironic situation in the Southwest which has been suffering from drought. Farmers don't have enough water to grow their crops, so out of desperation they are selling their water, including from the underground aquifers, to hydro-fracking companies. This not only adds to their drought problems and shrinks the aquifer but also creates risk of water, air and land pollution. One town in Texas has run out of water and 30 are at risk. This is a lose, lose, lose irony. People should have resisted rather than sell-out to the dirty energy corporations.
Here's an irony we enjoyed. There was a lot of attention to Indiana's former Governor Mitch Daniels' efforts to remove Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States" from schools. The result has been a big increase in requests for the book. One Indiana library increased its numbers of copies of the book from 1 to 19 and they are all checked out with a waiting list. That is one example of many showing a surge of interest in Zinn's "People's History" thanks to Daniels' censorship effort. Imagine if our nation actually learned its history rather than living in myths.
And in Russia, laws that make it illegal to discuss homosexuality in front of children are resulting in some of the most visible Russians demonstrating support for homosexuality. Two Russian gold medalist runners showed their opposition by kissing on the gold medal stand after they received their awards. Another dedicated his medal to his gay friends back home and another painted her nails rainbow colors. Many times in history sports have opened the door to transformation (remember, Jackie Robinson and the raised Black Power fists at the Olympics). And it looks like once again, the irony of a clampdown is going to be the reverse of its intent.
Sometimes irony shows itself after a movement begins to have success. For 22 years Seattle has hosted the Hempfest. Hundreds of thousands attend the multi-day gathering celebrating marijuana. In the past, the police would go undercover and make arrests of people smoking in the crowd. This year, now that Washington has voted for legalization, the police decided to pass out Doritos with friendly messages to hempfesters; and the police spoke form the main stage. The police are now truly protecting and serving the people.
Let's finish our summary this week, where we began with Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning. Manning is submitting a request for a pardon which includes a patriotic statement explaining why she leaked the documents. Manning's acts are put into historical context:
"Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy -- the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps -- to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light. As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.'"
Manning knows that she may not be granted a pardon and is prepared to pay the price of a 35 year sentence, writing: "I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal." Manning told her tearful lawyers not to worry saying, "This is just a stage in my life. I am moving forward. I will recover from this."
Manning's actions were obviously moral and patriotic, but will President Barack Obama do the moral and just thing and pardon Manning ? History will pardon Manning , and when it does, what will that do to the reputation of Obama? There is another potential irony of history, the law breaker, convicted felon will be the moral actor in this drama, while the president, a constitutional lawyer, so far, has not.