Feeling patriotic? Sell your gas-guzzling absolute monarchy-funding, human rights tragedy-perpetuating car and buy an electric car! Let’s all stop voting with our dollars for public beheadings, public lashings, internet censorship, repression of speech, an absence of an independent free press, and woman-hating kings who make life a fascist regime hell for their subjects in Saudi Arabia by donating to their cause every time we purchase gasoline.
I’ve said before that we vote in three ways, first with our actual ballot at the polls; second, with our dollars, with which we vote affirmatively for all the laws and policies of the government of the country the product is manufactured in when we buy it; and third, with our time, minutes and hours we spend assenting to the practices of the major corporations who create our news, our television, our music, and our books, by spending that time reading/watching/listening to it (to say nothing of the free advertising we give away every time we wear branded clothing/shoes/handbags, etc.). And because we get to vote at the polls once a year at the most, we technically do much more voting with our time and money — especially when we pay our taxes, in which case we re-vote, and confirm the presence of every member of Congress, and second their every legislative move.
This is why it’s so important to sign petitions and write to Congress regularly, reminding them that they work for us and promising them that we will fire them next election day if they don’t do what we want. Hey, that’s how lobbyists do it. It’s an incredibly effective strategy. Less than a third of eligible voters turned out last mid-term election — how many voters would you guess actually picked up the phone and called their one Rep and two Senators? Guarantee lobbyists picked up the phone. Multiple times. And showed up in person.
So every time we fill our cars up with gas, we are voting with our dollars for the laws and policies of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, most American gasoline’s country of origin. Now, I was ten during the first war in Iraq, the Gulf War that began in 1991, and I remember my mom calling me downstairs to watch President George H W Bush on the TV in the family room so that she could teach me the body language of lying. As he yammered about how urgent it was to declare war (a declaration that started the instability in Iraq we are still fighting today; people often refer to our 2003 invasion as the impetus, but this blogger suggests that our 1991 invasion is a better historical peg), my mom said to me, “You’re watching the President of the United States lie to the American people on live national television. Now, I want you to watch his face.” Now in my little SNL’d brain, I immediately thought of Dana Carvey and his brilliant impression of Bush the first, and my mom, anticipating this, told me it was not time to improve my comedy routine; it was time to learn the facial ticks and speech blips of liars. (I put my GHWB hand gestures back into my pockets and put “Not gonna do it” firmly out of my head.) So she says, “Now, Sarah Louise, there are people who lie, people who lie pathologically, and people like this man who look straight into the camera when they lie. No compunction whatsoever.” (Me: “What’s compunction?” Mom: “No qualms.” Me: “What’s a qualm?” Mom: “Jesus, Sarah, what do I look like, a human dictionary?” Me, nodding sweetly: “Yep.” Later she made me look up compunction and qualms in the big dictionary in the dining room. Thanks, mom.) After the address from the Oval Office was over, we talked (she talked, I listened) a bit more about the nature of someone who could feel gratified by getting away with deceiving millions of people and how they are few and far between in every day life but very frequently found in people who occupy positions of authority in government.
Now, this was a game we played with lots of public figures on the glowing oracle-box of truth (the TV) over the years; for example, a year later, we would watch the Bush/Perot/Clinton debates together and she would tell me that the difference between George H W Bush and Bill Clinton was that Clinton actually believed his own lies. But that night, on the eve of Desert Storm in 1991, she just wanted to me to know that the most important thing to remember about the United States’ involvement in the Middle East was that it was about oil. Period.
Long story short, our military protection of the Saudi regime is how we protect our access to cheap, readily available oil.
If your next question is why, let me be the first to admit that Abby Martin’s answer rivals the one my mom gave me twenty-five years ago. (Ok, truth: Abby’s 27 minute answer is so thorough, so concise, and so well-researched that it is actually better than my mom’s — and if my mom were alive, she would love Abby Martin and agree.) The historical perspective provided in the episode of the Empire Files embedded below tells you everything you need to know, going all the way back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. And it makes it very very clear that our “dependence” on oil is actually the Saudi monarchy’s dependence on US consumption of their oil. But, long story short, the answer to “why?” is that our military protection of their regime is how we protect our access to cheap, readily available oil.
This is a paradigm 100% in our power to change. We don’t have to buy gas. We don’t have to vote with our dollars for monarchs who believe it’s okay for women to vote as long as the men they live with and are financially dependent on give them permission to leave the house. We don’t have to collectively prop up a regime that denies due process (what courts? oh, secret courts with “private” trials), a regime that beheads people for stealing, for being gay, and for objecting to abuse of power by the government and protesting that injustice in public, in print or online, a regime that lashes women for being raped (yes, a woman who is raped will receive more public lashings than her rapist), a regime that is destined to be overthrown. And it knows it. As Abby Martin points out in her brilliant withering expose, the House of Saud is scared — and they should be. History hasn’t been kind to kings.
Also, please sign this petition asking the UN to remove Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council:
**Brief Aside: I managed to find the No Compunction, No Qualms speech from 1991 on youtube. Watch it here. Notice GHWB trip up on the word diplomatic starting at the 53 second mark. No, flubbing a word isn’t always an indicator of dishonesty. In this case it is.
**Second brief aside: Have you ever watched the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Try watching it again with this whole new additional perspective.