I am from this place. Grew up with feet stained orange from walking barefoot through red mud, have snuck up on armadillos to watch them jump, laid on my back in a bed of needles to watch the tallest tops of pine trees sway. I am from this place.
I have heard Texas called the belly of the beast. The pine trees, well pads, the curving snake of the KXL pipeline, the refineries along the gulf, freedom fries, Bar-B-Q. I have heard it called the belly of the beast. At times it seems to house, to hold many of things that need to change. There have been times that I have felt this way. Times I have been proud of my ability to meld the traces of my Texas accent with the speech of the locale around me, glad to tell stories of trips to far away places with exotic languages and juicy fruit, relieved that, although I am from the buckle of the bible belt, my parents raised me in a way that I never felt I fully ‘fit in’ with steak dinners, 4-wheelers, or pasture parties. I intentionally went away for college, found work in northern states, settled my feet in places that felt far away–I intentionally did not look back.
Today 48 activists were arrested in Washington DC for protesting the KXL pipeline and Tar Sands it will carry and I am looking back. And I am proud to be from Texas. Among those arrested were prominent members of the Sierra Club–individuals who today chose to participate in direct action as members of the Sierra Club for the first time in the organizations 120 year history. They were arrested alongside members of groups such as 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Tar Sands Blockade, and others. They were also joined farmers, concerned citizens, students, people of faith, educators, conservationists, and Texans–all are visionaries.
I am looking back and I am proud to be from Texas because almost nine months ago a group of people came to Texas. They came ready to fight, to lock themselves to machines, climb trees, raise and reach out hands and voices–they came to say ‘no, no actually oil cannot flow through this pipeline.’ They came to Texas and this has made all the difference. They have shown that a group of people who are sometimes disorganized, always passionate, frequently in need a shower, and constantly willing to step out into the fray with hands raised to speak their piece can inspire action, discussion, and change. They came to Texas and that has made all the difference. Because when they came to Texas, Tar Sands Blockade shook their hands, stomped the feet, and when their voices were raised they began to wake the beast. I am proud to be from Texas because the stirring that have happened here over the last nine months are of significance.
I have heard Texas called the belly of the beast but I think this is wrong. I think that we are the beast. Each one of us that finds a voice, reaches out a hand, rises to our feet ready to walk and climb and dance–we are the beast. Raised on fairy tales, Tolkien, and my own imagination I know that at some point every beast wakes and that when it does everything changes. We are taught by the powers that be to fear the beast. Those who hold privilege know that beasts are unknown, that they spout fire, anger, and change the world and so we are taught to fear them. It seems foolish, however, to fear yourself–especially since it seems that waking the beast in each of us is necessary.
On Sunday the beast will storm the White House, demanding audience, requesting voice, shaking the ground in what promises to be a major mass action. Watch out. We’re awake.
I no longer think that Texas is the belly of the beast. I do think, however, that this is one important place where the beast began to stir. I am from that place. I was asked last week why the soles of my feet are orange. I replied it is from years of walking barefoot through red mud, from dodging snakes, and slapping mosquitoes. I said that my feet are orange because I am from a place where pine trees scrape the sky and rivers crawl through thickets. I am from this place. I am part of the beast and I am awake.
For more information on the 48 activists arrested in DC today (Feb 13th, 2013) please visit http://www.tarsandsaction.org/participants/. For more information or to join the Forward on Climate Rally go to http://action.sierraclub.org/site/PageServer?pagename=forwardonclimate. And finally–as ever–to learn more about the work of Tar Sands Blockade visit http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/