I had a strange experience the other day when I passed by a BP gas station: as I caught glimpse of the BP logo, an anger so visceral welled up in my stomach that it actually made me question my commitment to a lawful society.
That cheery little green and yellow sun? I wanted to get "Medieval" on it -- I wanted bad things to happen to it right then and there, and I wanted to be the one who did it. I thought of rocks, sticks, axe handles, and I wondered how many people felt the exact same way when they passed by a BP gas station.
Of course, I did not do anything to that BP sign. Like I did in that moment of private rage, millions of Americans every day make the same decision. We do not pick up stones. We do not reach for axe handles. We swallow our anger at BP and keep walking.
Why not throw a stone or two at that interminably cheery logo? Because it would not achieve the outcome we want.
I realized, as millions like me have, that even if every American turned out with pitchforks and torches at every BP station in the country, that act of collective political exasperation would not stop one drop of oil from polluting the Gulf, it would not save a single marsh or coastline, and it would not prevent one marine creature from dying the unimaginably horrible death of crude petroleum asphyxiation.
If throwing stones into the oil pipe itself did not stop the spill, throwing stones at BP signs certainly will not either.
I confess my feelings of rage, in other words, not to advocate civil disobedience as retaliation for BP's destructive actions, but to shed light on just how much collective anger this disaster has generated and to ask: what should we do about it?
No More BP Fill-Ups -- Ever
For starters, we should all make the choice to stop purchasing gasoline from BP, except in those situations when there is absolutely no other choice. Whether or not we call it a "boycott," purchasing gasoline from BP should become from this day forward something that we actively avoid.
Particularly as we head into the summer season, we cannot allow a company that has destroyed an ocean to grow rich again by selling us the fuel we use to take our families on vacation. Even if BP undercuts the competitors (which I suspect they will to try), just drive by. Switching gasoline brands has to be one of the easiest things to do, and now is the time to do it.
No more gas revenue for BP -- ever.
Look Past the Boycott -- Transforming BP
Next, we need to find a way to go beyond what is traditionally thought of as a boycott and find the means to transform BP into a global force that rights the very kind of wrongs it has created on such a massive scale.
If, after the spill is finally stopped, BP simply returns to its prior practice as a company that drills for oil and sells it for profit -- that will be as bad as the spill itself, if not worse. It would be morally unacceptable for a company to destroy an ocean and then -- after all the bills have been paid -- to continue as the exact same company it was before the accident.
Citizens both in this country and elsewhere must find ways to compel BP to evolve from a company that destroys oceans into an entity that repairs them.
In ten years time, when we happen upon the logo of the firm formerly known as "BP," it should make us think of the optimism and collective will we found amidst this disaster.
Should BP as a corporate entity be dismantled? Should individual executives go to jail? Absolutely, if the legal system finds the grounds for doing so.
But beyond these civil penalties, we must also think about the possibility of retooling BP's resources into the very kind of entity that -- if it existed, today -- would have provided immediate solutions to the disaster we see unfolding without end.
View The Spill As A Starting Point--Year Zero
Imagining the transformation of BP and then enacting that vision must become the first act of a new era -- an era not brought about at the speed of a violent explosion in the middle of an ocean.
A drilling platform exploded into flames, innocent lives were lost, so much oil spilled that it destroyed economic, ecological, and social life on a scale comparable only to a World War --and then we were in a new era.
If we are to move forward, we must seize upon our rage at the very thought of BP to begin seeing this nation in a new light.
In other words, we must not use our rage as an excuse to throw stones at gas station windows, but as the driving force we have all been asking for to push our country -- and the world -- into a new age defined not by our destruction of the oceans, but by our stewardship of them.
And if we can do that -- if each of us can each look past our private anger and think about what it would mean to create a force whose sole purpose was to care for the oceans -- then what would stop us from thinking about creating a force to care for the land and the air?
These are not easy steps to take.
To look upon BP's destructive act of ego and see, floating amidst the muck and death, the very optimism and motivation we need to finally step forward and care for the environment we value so deeply as a nation -- that will take focus and a level of effort this generation has yet to marshal. But we must try.
We must try and we must succeed, because the alternative is far worse than even an ocean filled with filth.
The alternative is a nation filled with cynicism, hopelessness, despair -- entropy. And if that happens -- if we allow that to be the outcome of this BP debacle -- oily marshes and dead birds will seem quaint by comparison.
Getting medieval on BP may be our gut reaction to this disaster. Nobody can be blamed for the rage we feel. In the long run, though, we will be better served by not giving into those impulses.
This is the time to look up, to start fresh.
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