Once again, I started out to write one thing and am now writing another. I had intended to point out that during our beautiful weekend we were under an air quality alert. Driven by the heat and southwesterly winds from the industrial Midwest and auto emissions, we had bad air on a weekend where lots of people were outdoors seeking recreation and relief from isolation. The theme of the piece I did not write was a reminder of why it matters to us locally what happens nationally, and the real impact of regulatory decisions being made in Washington on the health and well-being of those of us here on Cape Cod.
Of greater concern to me today, and stay with me a little here, is the presence of federal police on the streets in a growing number of cities. I, like you, may have thought that there was no such thing as federal police, let alone anonymous police with unmarked vehicles. That chilling detail aside, we are witnessing the systematic restriction of the right of people to peacefully gather and exercise their First Amendment right to express political views. People are being arrested by unmarked police, transported in unmarked cars and detained by federal officers. Lest you think this is just an issue for the troublemakers and that this could never happen to you, me or someone we know, think again. I know a young woman, a recent college graduate headed to graduate school in the fall with strong Midwestern middle America roots and farmer grandparents, who was recently teargassed while peacefully assembling and protesting. She is not an anarchist nor a radical by any measure, just a regular mainstream American worried about the direction of her country and young and inexperienced enough to still think that the promise of the right of expression could come without personal assumption of risk and bodily harm. If they will gas her, they will gas anyone.
So, what does this all have to do with environmental protection here on Cape Cod? Plenty. A government that unleashes secret police on its own people really doesn’t care what those same people think about climate change, oil and gas development, alternative energy generation or the protection of public spaces like the National Seashore. The inability of any one of us to protest government actions, and inactions, is a direct threat to the ability of any of us to hold our own government accountable or to ensure it is responsive to, and protective of, its own citizenry. This is not someone else’s problem, it is ours collectively and we damn sure need to do something about it now, while we are still allowed to.