April 23, 2009

The Ghost of Earth Day’s Past

Though I am seemingly the only post-adolescent Straight Edge person in America today, every Earth Day my mind is hit with a rather amusing flashback whose absurdity rivals that of the most acid-drenched Deadheads.  To be specific I’m taken back to Earth Day 2002, when I was an expectant father living in Chattanooga and totally immersed in the tiresome protest culture of the American Left. 

On that rather warm day, I had elected to waste my time at a rally held outside of the Tennessee Valley Authority building in the heart of the downtown business district.  Flanked on all sides by a ragtag assortment of smelly hippies, New Age weirdos, and punk rock squatters, I spent my afternoon engaged in a bunch of meaningless conversations about awful jam bands, while the more “militant” members of the group waded in and out of traffic berating random civilians with a bullhorn.  The group primarily responsible for “organizing” the event was the local chapter of the radical environmentalist group, Earth First! Having always had an admiration for the Anarcho-Patriotism represented in the origins of the organization, I had become a nominal member a few weeks prior.

By the end of the day my interest had waned dramatically, in large part because I had come face to face with the sort of identity politics-obsessed thinking that would ultimately drive me away from the American Left at large. For those who have forgotten, there was a time when environmentalists were concerned with things other than Global Warming and the dangers of smoking on private property.  Overpopulation, resource scarcity, urban sprawl, and hyper-development were issues at the forefront of the movement for years.

Not surprisingly—since the movement’s roots were in the American Southwest—many of its most radical exponents were also major critics of mass immigration. For example, the infamous eco-libertarian and ideological godfather of environmental radicalism—Edward Abbey—had this to say about widespread immigration:

“It might be wise for us, as American citizens, to consider calling a halt to the mass influx of even more millions of hungry, ignorant, unskilled, and culturally-morally-genetically, impoverished people…Why not [support immigration]? Because we prefer democratic government, for one thing; because we still hope for an open, spacious, uncrowded, and beautiful—yes beautiful!—society, for another. The alternative, in the squalor, cruelty and corruption of Latin America, is plain for all to see.”

Not to be outdone, one of the literal founders of Earth First!, Dave Foreman, echoed Pat Buchanan in calling for a total moratorium on immigration into the United States. 

But by the time I had joined the ranks, former Goldwaterites like Foreman were as non-existent as deodorant at a vegan potluck. I found this out the hard way.  Despite being a relative newcomer, I was interested in expanding the groups base.  The obvious futility of the day’s “action” compelled me to ask one of the lead organizers what he thought about reaching out to “rednecks” via the issue of immigration.  Though I was not the critic of mass immigration than that I am now, I wasn’t an open borders advocate either and had assumed that a self described acolyte of Dave Foreman would at least listen to the idea.  I was wrong.  “Why would we do that?” he asked with a befuddled look on his face.  For a few moments we stood in an awkward silence facing each other.  Then he made his position clear, “That is not going to happen under any circumstances.” 

Twenty years old, hot, annoyed, and dejected I retreated and hid behind my placard.  Shortly thereafter another protester walked up to me and eyeing my hat asked “What is that supposed to mean?”  “Nothing” I said puzzled as to why a truck stop hat would merit such intensive questioning.  “I try to avoid any clothing that doesn’t reflect my political point of view” he replied.  And so it went for hours and hours.

By the time the sun had gone down, I’d heard people compare the plight of circus animals to slaves, and watched grown men threaten the lives of tourists for the offense of snapping photographs of a public park.  Criticism of immigration—even for purely tactical reasons—was totally off limits.  Not much else was.  That night this non-driver walked home, as he always does.  Meanwhile the professional antagonists piled into their mini-vans and SUVs, to continue their jihad on behalf of a Mother Earth, whose rape was an issue off the table for discussion.  On the Left it’s one thing to tackle a tyrannical symbol of New Deal social control like the TVA, but it’s another to even think twice about the National Question.  And on Earth day, Earth First!—in defiance of their forefathers—will always put multiculturalism first, second and third.

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