Saturday, April 19, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

From Cynthia McKinney

Hello all! I was invited to deliver an Earth Day
message to the students at Cal State Northridge.
I hope you enjoy my remarks:

Cynthia McKinney

Earth Day Celebration
California State University, Northridge
April 15, 2008

I would like to thank the students at Cal State
University, Northridge for inviting me to speak
on campus today. I have just returned from an
exciting trip to Mexico City and I'd like to
share some of my observations with you this

First of all, it is important to note and ask the
question why is it that the corporate press are
not even touching the events playing out right
now in the capital city of our neighbor to the
south and their importance to us? Had I not
actually been there myself, I would be hard
pressed to convince any audience that events of
this magnitude were actually taking place
anywhere in the world, let alone in a country as
important and close to us as Mexico.

A quick review of today's press shows us that we
are currently being titillated by news of sex
tapes featuring Marilyn Monroe and another such
tape featuring an unnamed British Royal. The top
of the news hour greets us with information of an
intemperate statement made by a former television
executive about a current Presidential candidate;
video is plentiful of the contorted Presidential
theatrics around the Olympic Games Opening
Ceremony in Beijing. We were treated today to
the visual of the Pope descending from the
Alitalia jet. But, while we have more television
stations that feed us 24-hour news, we are less
informed. We have more and more political
pundits feeding us, what Fred Hampton described
as "explanations that don't explain, answers that
don't answer, and conclusions that don't

CNN even tells us in a feature story who suffers
as a result of a choice made by our policy makers
to emphasize ethanol as a preferred method of
weaning a hulking, overfed economy off its
petroleum-based consumption habit. But they
forgot the other half of that equation: who's
winning? And it's the "who's winning" part that
is just about always the key piece of
information, that could guide us, especially when
the choices of our elected leadership diverge
from the core values of the voters who elected

And yet, as we speak, the Mexican Senate Chamber
has been occupied. The massive rally held today
has probably just ended, and some of the
opposition Members of the Mexican Congress are
inside the building on the dais and have
announced a hunger strike. Days ago, one of the
leading papers in Mexico City had a photo of the
Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress with
an unfurled banner covering the Speaker's
Rostrum, proclaiming the Chamber "Closed." The
banner was hung by elected Members of the Mexican
Congress who constitute the Frente Amplio
Progresista that has dared to draw a line in the
sand against U.S.-inspired legislation just
introduced to allow foreign corporate ownership
of PEMEX, Mexico's state-owned oil company.

Mexican women are energized around the idea of
nation. The idea of patria. I wrote my Master's
Thesis on the "Idea of Nation." And to see the
women, in their t-shirts and kerchiefs, so
committed to their country, their nation, their
identity. To them, that's Mexico's oil, natural
gas, electricity, land, and water and it ought to
be used by the Mexican people first and foremost
for their own national development. But sadly,
it's the public policy emanating from Washington,
D.C. that threatens that.

But to tell that story accurately, would also
require that the U.S. corporate press expose why
this citizen outrage exists in the first place.
And to tell that story, they would have to expose
the fact of a stolen Presidential election, where
a private U.S., Georgia, corporation, possibly
played a role in stripping citizens of their
right to vote and have their votes counted.
Well, while that might sound like what happened
in the United States, centering in Florida, in
the U.S. 2000 Presidential election, I'm really
talking about the 2006 Mexican Presidential
election in which the popular candidate didn't
win because all the votes weren't counted.

According to Greg Palast, the U.S. corporation
involved in the Mexican move was none other than
that now infamous Georgia-based company:
Choicepoint. We know that in Florida,
Choicepoint, then doing business as DataBase
Technologies, constructed an illegal convicted
felons list of some 94,000 names, many of whom
were neither convicted nor felons. But if your
name appeared on that list, you were stopped from
voting. Greg Palast tells us that for most of
the names on that list, their only crime was
"Voting While Black."

Under a special "counter-terrorism" contract, the
U.S. FBI obtained Mexican and Venezuelan voter
files. Palast learned later in his investigation
that the U.S. government had obtained, through
Choicepont, voter files of all the countries that
have progressive Presidents. Many Mexicans went
to the polls to vote for their President, only to
find that their names had been scrubbed from the
voter list, and they were not allowed to vote.
So now, not only in the United States, but in
Mexico, too, one can show up to vote and not be
sure that that vote was counted, or worse, one
can show up duly registered to vote, and not even
be allowed to vote.

I guess this is the way we allow our country to
now export democracy.

Unlike in the United States in 2000, Mexico City
was shut down for 5 months when Lopez Obrador,
Mexico's Al Gore, refused to concede and instead,
formed a shadow government.

The issue in the 2006 Mexican election was
privatization of Mexico's oil; it is the riveting
issue taking place in Mexican politics today.
Teachers on strike at the same time as the
Presidential elections in Oaxaca, one of the
poorest states in Mexico, began their political
movement as a call for increased teacher salaries
and against privatization of schools. Due to
heavy-handed tactics used by the government
against the teachers, tens of thousands of
citizens joined them and took over the central
city area of that state. Today, after Mexico has
added teachers and those who support teachers to
its growing ranks of "political prisoners,"
teachers are still protesting their conditions,
the reprisals taken against them for striking,
and now, the teachers' union is a committed part
of the national mobilization against
privatization of PEMEX.

I was invited to participate in the Second
Continental Workers Conference. The first
meeting was held in La Paz, Bolivia. And so,
people from all over Mexico and eight different
countries told of their struggles, their hopes,
their ideals, their values, their patriotism,
their desire for peace—no more war.

Representatives from Chiapas, another one of
Mexico's poorest states, told us of the
indigenous struggle for land and
self-determination, the low-intensity warfare
waged against them, and how now they, too, count
themselves a part of the national mobilization
against PEMEX privatization.

While I was there, mine workers had taken over
the mines, and so, could only send a handful of
inspiring representatives. They are pressing for
the right to unionize, denied to them by the
Government. And the mine workers are a part of
the solid front forming in Mexico to protect this
powerful idea of nation.

I participated in one of the many rallies
organized by opponents of the government's plan
to offer up Mexico's patrimony to the insatiable
multiple U.S. addictions. One woman removed her
brigadista t-shirt and gave it to me—proud that a
citizen of the United States came to stand with

Today's front page of La Jornada says that the
women, who marched 10,000 strong on the day that
I was there, have renewed their protests and
civil disobedience. The threat of violence and
bloodshed is very real.

Now, why should this massive social, political,
and economic upheaval in Mexico, aside from its
human rights implications, be important to us up
here in the United States?

Because the sad truth of the matter is that, in
many respects, it is our military and economic
policies that are causing it. Of course, I
recognize that all the way back to the practice
of Manifest Destiny and the declaration of the
Monroe Doctrine, U.S. policy decisions have at
times sent shock waves to places outside our
borders. You could say that the modern version
of that is NAFTA.

In 1993, the Democratic majority in the United
States Congress supported then-President Bill
Clinton's push for passage of the North American
Free Trade Agreement. The stated purpose of the
legislation was to remove barriers to trade and
investment that existed in North America. The
propaganda had it that the objective was to lift
all boats, in Canada, the United States, and
Mexico through trade and investment. The result
is the stripping away and transfer of Mexico's
patrimony in terms of their natural and human
resources. And the Mexican people are taking a
stand against it. They are taking the same stand
that the little people in Haiti, Venezuela,
Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and
Argentina have taken. With the power of the
vote, the people of these countries dared to
believe that they could peacefully defeat the
colossus to the north. And they did.

And so, in a way, now, I guess I understand why
the corporate press can't tell you and me the
truth about the valiant stand for dignity that's
going on in Mexico, because to truly cover the
story, they'd have to uncover and point out some
inconvenient truths.

One of those inconvenient truths particularly
meaningful to me: There comes a time when
silence is betrayal.

We, the little--and yet so powerful--people in
this country have been way too silent for way too
long on all the issues that mean so much.

Dr. King also said that our lives begin to end
the day we become silent about the things that

On one of my early days in Congress, I was late
for a vote. I looked up on the board and only
saw green votes; I presumed that the vote was a
non-controversial item on the calendar. Since I
was among the last to vote, there was no time to
inquire. I pressed my green button. Afterwards,
I learned that the vote might have been what
others would have called an "easy" yes vote, but
for my conscience it was a no vote. Later that
night, my heart sank as I watched the news. One
man of 78 years was so angered by that vote that
he threw stones. Only thing, he had a heart
attack throwing stones, and died.

My heart sank. I felt personally responsible for
that man's death and vowed that I would never
cast what they call easy votes, again. My one
vote would not have changed the outcome of the
tally on the resolution. But my one vote would
have been true to my values and my ideals that
everyone is entitled to human rights that are to
be respected.

I got into trouble often after that, because I
recognized my responsibility to read the
legislation, think analytically, question
critically, and vote independently.

That was while I was in Congress. But now that
I'm not, does that mean that the responsibility
is gone? No.

I happened to vote against NAFTA, and I'm glad
for that. But imagine if the all the voters in
the entire United States understood that
something as simple as a vote in a federal
election might determine who lives and who dies
in another country. Imagine, if we in the United
States were as certain of the possibility of
peaceful change through the vote as were the
people of Haiti, Mexico—despite having their
election stolen from them, Venezuela, and the
rest. Then we would vote Members of Congress out
of office who support Plan Colombia. We would
vote Members of Congress out of office who
support Plan Mexico—which like its Colombian
counterpart, is the military answer to the cry of
the people for dignity, self-determination, and
that idea of patria. We would not vote for any
political party that did not have as its agenda
extending the same respect and love of life to
all others as we reserve for ourselves.

And so I come to the additional meaning of Earth
Day, today. I met people in Mexico City who are
willing to die in this struggle—But they
shouldn't have to because the United States wants
their oil. Let us express our respect for the
planet that sustains us by first showing love to
our brothers and sisters beside us. We voters in
the United States do have as much power as the
voters in all those other countries. All we have
to do is believe in ourselves and use it.

Finally, I'd like to recognize the role of
student activists in promoting change. Of
course, it was high school students who faced the
water hoses and the dogs in the civil rights
movement. It was the university students who
faced the riot gear and the bullets in the
anti-war movement. The current
anti-globalization, pro-peace rallies are all
organized and led by young people. Keep it up
and don't ever give in.

Remember that Bobby Kennedy always said "Some men
dreams of things that are and say why, I dream of
things that never were and say why not."

Thank you.

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