On Steel(ing)

“In this serious hour in our nation’s history, when we are confronted with grave crises ….the American people will find it hard, as I do, to accept a situation in which a tiny handful of steel executives whose pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility can show such utter contempt for the interests of 186 million Americans.”
— President John F. Kennedy

In the 1962 “steel price crisis,” a small group of industry executives decided to take actions to make JFK “appear at best weak and at worst stupid to the workers and to the American people.” The businessmen took steps in direct contradiction to the president’s decision on price policy. Kennedy was quoted by reporters as saying, “My father always told me that steel men were sons-of-bitches, but I never realized till now how right he was.” Within 24 hours, the executives would find was neither weak nor stupid. They had misjudged him. (Sorensen, Theodore; Kennedy; Harper & Row; 1965; pages 448 -451)

President Barack Obama is now faced with a similar situation at Standing Rock. On Sunday, the administration rejected the DAPL permit; on Monday, a small number of “energy” executives decided to carry on drilling. They seek to make the president appear “at best weak and at worst stupid.” It is vitally important that President Obama respond in a manner, like President Kennedy in 1962, to expose their “pursuit of private power and profit” while showing “utter contempt” for the rule of law and for the public interest.

This must include two related actions by President Obama: first, he should send in the National Guard, to prevent further unlawful activities by the DAPL; and second, he should make a prime-time address to the nation, fully informing citizens of why he is taking this step.

In 1962, the steel executives found President Kennedy be strong and decisive. He had made a decision, and intended to enforce it by any means necessary. If President Obama fails to fully enforce his decision on the DAPL, it will show that he is weak and indecisive.

Thus, it is important that individuals and groups of grass roots activists call President Obama, and insist that he take immediate action. We need to be calling and e-mailing non-stop, to all of our elected representatives in Washington, DC.

Also, we need to remember the old saying that a wounded animal is most dangerous. Sunday’s decision wounded the DAPL. Thus, be fully aware that they will react in manners beyond their continued drilling. This includes attempting to flood social media with both misinformation and disinformation. It will include stepping up attempts to divide people. And to provoke acts of violence.

Alone, we are like individual fingers that our opposition can easily break. Together, those same fingers form a peaceful fist that is powerful enough to protect us all. Be awake. Be aware. And be active.

Thank you.


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