THE BLOG
06/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What Should I Do If There's A Mountain In My Lobby?

You can't say "Chase bank kills people to make money." You can say "Chase kills people with your money." Now, this is a true statement, sadly proven again and again by their funding of mountaintop removal strip-mining in Appalachia. Certainly Chase's guilt was proven over the weekend by the results of its financing of Massey Energy's recklessness at Performance Coal in West Virginia. The proof has been there for us to be shocked by for years.

Beyond the proof is the common sense. Blowing up mountains with communities living in the valleys below? Leveling whole ecosystems and tossing the dead and dying earth like garbage into the streams below? Yet, somehow, even the common sense doesn't work nowadays. Somehow the facts (AND the common sense) are defeated in our present-day American culture by corporate spin campaigns about "jobs" and "the economy," and "clean coal."

Then there is the 19th Century-style corruption of regulatory agencies and elected officials and judges in Appalachia. But when we talk to activists on the ground in West Virginia those explanations aren't enough. There is something else besides corporate disinformation and standard corruption. A veteran resister to Big Coal will look at us and then the voice trails off... We all sense something else is making it impossible to stop this violence. Our talk goes to "People are so bored..." "It has been so long since there was a social movement of any kind..." "People are angry but essentially... silent..."

Yes our shouts of outrage seem to disappear into black holes that hang in the air. There is a landscape that has silencers buried in the pavement, behind the billboard faces, inside the black plastic gadgets people smash against their heads. Our words disappear. The meaning fades.

Now suddenly with the 25 dead at Performance mine, we have a national tabloid event and we were building toxic mountains in Chase lobbies when the spotlight strayed our way. Phrases like "Mountaintop Removal" can be recited to audiences of millions. But more important than that - the anti-worlds that swallow our words seem to be suddenly not there. We are able to attach our compassion to a tabloid story, and our words can take a straight route from our mouths to the ears of good people who in turn speak to others.

I got an email from Bo Webb, a longtime activist who has rallied in front of Performance mine. He agreed, "Yes we have a moment where the media is in the valley here. Got to go down there and mingle with 'em." On our side, here in the city that uses the energy to light up big-juice items like Times Square - only the preemptively hip and snarky blogs are finding a way to make fun of our attempts at influencing the customers of Chase. For a few hours or days, our words can flow among us unobstructed and we might create a collective conscience.

The corporations are holding their breath. If we create too many words and too much meaning - compassion becomes policy. Laws might result that protect families in Appalachia. Maybe a Chase boycott could take root in our cities? New York City residents might force a change in our consuming, where for so long the consequences of our spending were overlooked. Of course, the marketers would hammer such an uprising with all the "bad for jobs" and "bad for the economy" and "bad for America" they could muster. But maybe we'll know better this time. God knows it's throw-open-the-windows-and-shout time. It's build-a-mountain-in the-lobby time! Mount-a-lujah!

We invite you to make your own mountains in the lobbies of Chase ATM branches in your town. Use dirt from your backyard or public park, bring it into a Chase branch and leave it there. Leave a note for Chase CEO Jamie Dimon as Rev. Billy has. Take a picture or make a video and send it to MountainInMyLobby@revbilly.com, post it on our Faceboook page, and send it around the world. Learn more at http://www.revbilly.com/theres-a-mountain-in-my-lobby