Bush won -- but activism isn't defeated

A message from Greenpeace USA Executive Director John Passacantando

Feature story - 3 November, 2004
The chief troublemaker over at Greenpeace in the USA wrote to his team about George W. Bush's victory in the US and what it means for the environmental cause. For all of us concerned about the future of our planet and the role that US policy plays in that future, it's a stirring reminder that setbacks are part of saving the world.

Greenpeace never quits.

Dear Team,

It's hard to know what to say today. To see Bush re-elected with the first electoral majority since his father's first election is an emotional blow.

He seems to have secured a mandate based on his policies of pre-emptive war, war on the environment, crony capitalism, veiled racism, homophobia and a fundamentalism that would make the Taliban proud. This despite the largest "Get out the Vote" effort in the history of progressive causes in the United States.

I can't tell you what went wrong. The political analysts will be coming forth with their thoughts over the next several weeks. What I can tell you is that our country is split down the middle creating a cultural civil war that is not going away any time soon. It is a fight over values in which there is very little middle ground remaining. The stakes are extremely high for all we hold dear. I do not write to offer answers. I know that we must find ways to inspire ourselves and our allies to strive for a greener and more peaceful world.

I also know that in the history of social movements there have been setbacks and sacrifices far higher than we have yet paid. There have been causes that have taken generations. When you listen to President Bush and feel disenfranchised, when you feel like your government doesn't represent you, when you feel like it is no longer your country, savor that feeling. Before Gandhi, King, Lewis, Parks, Muir and Thoreau went on to do great things, they all felt that way. They felt it, it made them angry, and then it motivated them. Now it's our turn. Feel pissed off. Then together we will turn it into something.

I know that yesterday's setback will weed the summer soldiers from the ranks of the movement. But I also know that the sweetness of a victory is in direct proportion to the enormity of the struggle. I know that our Greenpeace mission is the struggle of our generation and that George Bush is symbolic of all that we oppose. And I know that this struggle is going to be long and bitter, that we will have to work harder and smarter, we will have to make greater sacrifices, and ultimately, the cause for which we fight will be the envy of future generations.

We all need to spend some time being pissed off. Feeling shock. Mourning. Then we have to act. Our cause is just. We can not afford to be defeated, or to be defeatist. Too much is at stake: our planet, our future and the legacy we leave to our children.

John Passacantando,

Executive Director