Last night I went to the Nation Institute annual gala in New York. This site is associated with the Nation Institute so you won't get much objectivity here, but, two strong impressions:
He just turned 50, he gave a great speech. You saw a gangly lantern-jawed man who lives in his head (and the mountains) talk about his desire for engagement in midlife; and so he started 350.org, whose "wonky" name is about how much carbon (PPM, I think) we can have in the atmosphere, a ceiling we've exceeded. The most inspiring part of the speech was his description of the "poor, brown and Asian" partners he has found in his work-- the people who did least to create this problem but are suffering its direst consequences. And he told a story about Lily in Addis Ababa. In conjunction with McKibben's org, she organized a demonstration against climate change last October 24, on the international day of action. But the Ethiopian authorities had suddenly denied her application for a demo. And she had 15,000 people in the streets two days ahead of time. I am very sorry, she said, through a bad telephone connection. And McKibben told her, Lily, the day doesn't matter, and then shook his head over the commitment of his youthful partners. Oh and McKibben also said that we might lose this battle, unlike the fights for civil rights, human rights, and women's rights that have preceded this one.
--Speaking of which, Benjamin Todd Jealous of the NAACP was the keynote speaker. He is a big guy with a big presence. Sometimes someone gives a speech that you don't really know what the point is but it is such a great speech that you don't care. Jealous had the room dead quiet for 15 minutes telling a story about a campaign in Mississippi in 1994 to reverse Governor Kirk Fordice's initiative to close two historically-black colleges and make one of them, Valley State, into a prison. involved the day when some of Jealous's team went up to Mississippi State to appeal to Earth Day demonstrators to support their initiative, and someone called out, "Get a rope!" Shaken and fearful, the team returned to Jackson, MI, and met with Jealous at 3 in the morning in a Waffle House. An old redneck watching them from a nearby booth came up to the group and said, "Are y'all the boys I've seen on television?" And just when they expected him to pull out a gun he said, If I was a [n-word] in this state I'd be a lot angrier than you, and gave them a lot of money. The historically-black colleges are still open. I found it an inspiring story about finding friends in unusual places...
And let's be clear, Jealous had the room dead quiet because it was a story about a noble struggle, a struggle for equal rights. The story called on the idealistic feeling that exists in a privileged New York audience about an achievement. Are those feelings transferable to the Palestinian struggle? I say, Yes.