Tim DeChristopher has just gotten out of prison, having served two years for attempting to disrupt the sale of oil leases of land in Utah. His civil disobedience, which began under the Bush administration and continued under the Obama administration, is welcome news, as is his being able to speak well about what he had done. Last night on Chris Hayes’ show on MSNBC, DeChristopher spoke about civil disobedience and its philosophical justifications. He had made a statement to the court before his sentencing two years before, and you can see a complete transcript of that statement here.
When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.
If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits [of corporate America]. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.
Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice. The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.
I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me.
This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this [i.e. my going to prison] is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today [in sentencing me] is what side are you on.
A documentary was recently made of these events called Bidder 70, which was the card number DeChristopher used when he was bidding in the oil lands auction. It is currently in release around the country and, while I have not seen it, reviewers say it is worth seeing. DeChristopher is a man worth watching, not only for his effect on the climate-change movement but for what we will learn—or be reminded of—of civil disobedience.