In the fall of 2011, my family went to Washington DC. Similar to many families visiting our nations capital, we toured many of the memorials and historical sights including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial which had just opened in DC earlier that summer, in August, 2011. We were in Washington, as a family, not only to visit our nations capital, but to join a peaceful protest that was going to “circle the White House” to help convince then President Obama, that he should stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This proposed oil pipeline was to begin in my home province of Alberta and travel through the US to refineries in the southern US where the oil traveling through it would ultimately be exported to markets around the world. I had visited DC earlier that summer, also with my children, with the purpose of coming to DC to be arrested, to protest this same pipeline (my children would not accompany me at this event) Those stories which you can read about in older blog posts, require more time and space, but I raise them now, for some of the following reasons.
My family, as others from across the country, were called to DC by our convictions and desires to express our concerns and hopes to our elected leaders – freely and publicly and without fear. Americans have been doing this for decades. The expressed purpose of our protests and many other public protest events I have been involved with, have followed and adhered to Dr. King’s teachings of peaceful, non-violent protest. For me, there is nothing more empowering and emblematic of democracy as practiced in the United States, than being able to be in our nation’s capital, expressing ones views, beliefs hopes and opportunities – and taking our children with us to see democracy in action.
What happened on January 6th, 2021 is the exact opposite of democracy in action. That day was and will remain a sad and disturbing day, one already forever etched in our nation’s history. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and every day, we must fight for the freedoms our nation stands for. We are forever a work in progress; democracy is not static, it is always fragile, and “under construction,” by it’s very nature. We can learn from our mistakes and our wrong turns and teach our children, by our examples as we strive for justice, truth, equity, equality and peace – where every person is valued, regardless of the color of their skin, their race or religion.
As Dr. King so eloquently stated: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
It is comforting and also telling that another quote from Dr. King about the moral arc of history bending towards justice also is expected to bear out, when one of the first things President Biden has said he will do, is to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, yet again. Let’s hope it’s for the last time. Without peaceful protests and the voice of the people, this pipeline may well have been built almost 10 years ago, and would have been in operation. Instead, it remains a symbol of hope and of perseverance.