When the State Denies The People Our Inherent Rights, How Should We Respond?

Paul Cienfuegos’ December 23rd, 2014 Commentary on KBOO Evening News


(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org, or subscribe via ITunes. This particular commentary can be heard HERE.)


Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.


Since the spring of 2013, I have been traveling to a very beautiful part of the Midwest, where northeast Iowa, western Wisconsin, and southeast Minnesota converge along the magnificent cliffs and wetlands of the Mississippi River watershed. I’ve been leading workshops and giving talks there every few months, to expand the number of communities and states that are shifting gears away from the ultimately dead-end tactic of pleading with regulatory agencies to get corporations to cause a little less harm, and towards a more potent tactic – Community Rights lawmaking.


In this region of the Midwest, the hills are made of a very unusual sand, which, it turns out, is absolutely perfect for use as what is called a “proppant” for the fracking industry. Enormous quantities of this special sand are forced, under high pressure, deep into the ground to prop open the drill holes where the fracking industry captures methane and other gases that are trapped between layers of rock.


Entire hills in this Midwest region are being dynamited to get access to the sand, which is loaded onto long trains and sent 1000 miles or more to fracking operations across the country. Tragically, these mining operations are destroying a way of life in these rural communities that has existed pretty much since the land was originally settled as farms. Most residents have lived in these valleys for five generations or more. But all of that is now changing, as the fracking corporations buy up farmland to get at the sand, and turn family farms and deciduous forest landscapes into devastated and poisoned moonscapes. Communities across this region have mobilized to try to stop it in the only way they know how – by pleading with regulatory agencies – which almost never succeeds.


I am teaching these rural communities how they can instead pass Community Rights ordinances that strip these mining corporations of their so-called constitutional “rights”, that enshrine the local community’s right to self-government, and that ban frac sand mining entirely. This tactic is a lot more politically and legally and culturally powerful than what local communities are used to trying, and I’ve already succeeded in helping four counties to launch Community Rights efforts, which is a very big and bold step for a rural community to take, especially given that these local ordinances are not yet legal - that they are themselves acts of civil disobedience through local law-making, which empowers local residents, and which forces the state and the corporations to change tactics in the way they challenge these local laws.


Recently, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, perhaps the most pro-corporate governor in the country, has proposed a state law that would prohibit local governments from even regulating frac sand mining. Local Wisconsin residents are mobilizing to tell the governor to back off; and so I recently wrote an open letter to these communities, reminding them that they don’t have to act as if they are powerless in relation to the state government. They don’t have to beg or plead, or act as if they are mere subjects of the state, because in fact they are We the People of Wisconsin. It’s not easy for any of us to remember that we are the sovereign people with inherent rights. But it’s time we start acting like we are! Here’s my open letter:



 “May I strongly suggest that the primary theme of your letter writing needs to be your outrage and disbelief that you have elected people to state office to represent you who are now committed to denying The People their inherent right of self-government. And also to quote back at them the relevant passages of your state constitution, which begins with these words:



All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 


You really do not want to be pulled into their game of begging people who are there to serve you, who are your subordinates. It's time to speak with authority, and to let them know that you will no longer stand for any interference in your community's inherent right to protect its own health and welfare. And that any further interference in your rights will be dealt with by organizing to toss them out of office.


Also important to mention that corporate bodies like Wisconsin Manufacturer's and Commerce are not people, and do not have the same legitimate rights and authority under law that We The People have. And that you insist that the will of The People be at all times respected above and beyond the desires of corporate leaders.


Position yourselves as patriots, defending the right of The People to challenge the excesses of big government and big corporations. Hold that frame. Stake out a position in the center, as the mainstream, not the fringe, not as environmentalists.


Put state government on notice that if there is not basic guaranteed self-government rights at the local level, to protect The Peoples health and welfare, that they cannot make any claim that there is any functioning democracy at all in Wisconsin. Make them defend their position of raising the "rights" of corporations over the rights of The People in local communities. Let them know loud and clear that this is absolutely unacceptable.


Stay away from begging, pleading, whining, demanding. A sovereign people do none of these things. A sovereign people instructs their elected representatives who are there to serve The People.


Turn their "radical environmentalists" claim against them. Make the counter claim that there is a "radical anti-democracy" element of corporate leaders that have overwhelmed the People's House, and usurped The Peoples rights.


You are not interested in "driving up local regulatory costs". That's a ridiculous claim. Your goal is to prohibit the harmful activities that have been forced upon your communities, without consent of the governed. And according to your own state Constitution, without "consent of the governed", government ceases to be legitimate. Draw a line in the sand.”



Regardless of what the issues are that you care about most, are you begging and pleading with government officials to get them to act, or are you instructing them, and treating them as your subordinate? This shift in consciousness is an absolutely critical one for We the People to begin to internalize in all of our dealings with our government and corporate creations. No more begging! It’s time to stand up for what we know is right, and draw a line in the sand!


You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News, and a growing number of other radio stations in Washington and Wisconsin. I welcome your feedback.


You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. You can sign up for my newsletter at PaulCienfuegos.com. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!


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