Saturday, June 23, 2012

BIDDER 70: documentary about Tim DeChristopher

Bidder 70--the documentary about Tim DeChristopher, who disrupted the illegal land auction for drilling rights in Utah, hastily called at the end of the Bush Administration.

This was the first subject I wrote on in this blog, and now there's a moving documentary on the subject. It was featured yesterday as part of the Human Rights Watch film series at Lincoln Center. I hope it goes into general distribution.

 Tim DeChristopher was bidder #70 at the auction he intentionally disrupted, and "70" became a symbol of the environmental movement that coalesced around him in Salt Lake City, being stenciled on signs carried throughout demonstrations.

This is a very moving film, not only because it addresses the critical issues of climate change and the possible destruction of some of the most sublime land on earth, but because it squarely faces the moral issue of what we are willing to endure to support our convictions. It begins with a Martin Luther King quote to the effect that you must be willing to suffer at the hands of the authorities you oppose. Of course, King not only went to jail, he got himself killed. And so did Gandhi

De Christopher very seriously faces going to prison (the film offers a brief excursion into prison scenes, and communicates how oppressive and demoralizing it is), and his supporters derive courage from this and cheerfully get themselves arrested—twice.  It also reveals the utter corruption of our political system, wherein the Obama Administration, whose Secretary of Commerce, Ken Salazar, invalidated the auction that DeChristopher disrupted, still refuses to stop the trial, where the judge, one Dee Benson (a man) an appointee of President George H.W. Bush and Brigham Young U. graduate (also chief of staff for Sen. Orrin Hatch from 1984–88, and co-author of the minority report on the Iran-Contra scandal, with Dick Cheney—so his far-right credentials are impeccable), refuses to let the defense speak of the environmental issues that motivated DeChristopher, and a host of other legal points, assuring that DeChristopher be convicted on the narrowest possible grounds. Then he's really mean to him after the trail, not letting him get his affairs in order before reporting to prison—as if he were a violent criminal or flight risk.

So we live in a country where an idealist who acts out of conviction to save unique land and slow the progress of climate change is sent to Federal prison (in California, far from his family in Colorado, though there is a prison close to them in Colorado), while the Administration refuses to prosecute BP for its repeated violations that led to the devastating oil spill in 2010, nor, for that matter, the CEOs of the financial institutions whose documented law-breaking led to the great Crash of 2008, wreaking catastrophic economic havoc around the world.

The film does mention in passing that an oil company executive has bragged that his industry controlled the White House.