Does that mean I have oil on my hands?

Initially my social advocate side decided to boycott when I watched the ocean being polluted as a result of a BP fiasco. I felt satisfaction when I drove by BP stations and few cars were at the pumps. I even found myself sizing up those few who were pumping gas and wondering, “What have YOU got against the ocean?” (I later learned that BP supplies gas to many of my other local gas stations, so going to Quick Trip wasn’t doing sea life a darned bit of good.)

The problem with my boycotting stand on this is that I have a built-in aversion to scapegoating. And my own spiritual journey makes me aware of how quickly we humans project guilt onto others because of our own unbearable fear about being unworthy. My decision to boycott wasn’t sitting so well with the side of me who sees the Oneness in all things. After all, I am guilty of being overly dependent on my car. I often drive when I could carpool or simply get off my behind and walk. It’s sort of like blaming the media for the crap we stayed glued to on the tube. Or blaming a social worker when an abused child isn’t protected well enough by an understaffed, overworked and fiscally neglected child protection system. Why blame the mirror? In this case, a big cultural mirror.

So today I drove into the BP station up the street from my house. There were one or two cars at first. By the time I finished filling my tank the place was packed. And I felt happy about it. Me, the social worker who will go the extra mile for the injured and underdog, me the lover of dolphins, turtles and whales.

Because BP is us. And the owner of my local BP station is a member of my community with a family to support and anguish over the folly of the  parent corporation. (I’ve been there in my lifetime. Have you?)

There was a thank you note taped to each pump at the station this morning, explaining that the station is locally owned and operated. I wanted to go inside and hug somebody.

So let’s stop the scapegoating and the finger pointing and good grief, let’s  stop making this a political event. We’re in this together. Those responsible need to make amends and pay for this mess. They should do time or pay huge fines if there are criminal elements to what happened. But I won’t make my neighbor any more responsible than I am for our country’s squandering of resources. This is our time to come together and do some soul searching about ourselves.

For more information about the author go to A portion of the profits from her book, “The First Lamp,” goes to sea turtle conservation.

Cathleen Hulbert

Cathleen Hulbert

Cathleen Hulbert, MSW, LCSW, is a free-lance journalist and clinical social worker who spent six years living in New York City where she earned her graduate degree from Columbia University School of Social Work and worked in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. During that time, unexpected teachers began to emerge who would set the stage for the writing of  the novel, “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about original innocence. For more information about the book go to She later traveled to Hawaii to answer the call of Kalah and to embrace the healing power of Aloha. She returned with a renewed dedication to sea turtle conservation, a burning love for the Hawaiian culture and a deeper respect for the needs of Mother Earth. She now lives in Roswell, Georgia, where she works in the healthcare field and continues to write. In November 2008 Cathleen was a co-recipient of the National Hemophilia Foundation's "Distinction in Communication Award" for helping teens with chronic bleeding disorders create their own camp newspapers. Her current project is a sequel to "The First Lamp."

  1. Jim Fitzgerald

    Excellent article Cathy. I, too, struggled with this issue and came to the same conclusion you did. I think my initial desire to boycott was to feel like I had some measure of control over an uncontrollable situation.

  2. Bullcrap. This spill was not my fault. I did not cut corners on drilling safely. I didn’t have a joke of an emergency response plan. I didn’t bribe government officials to look the other way while I did things on the cheap and dangerous.
    BP will never knowingly get another cent of my money just as Exxon has not. The local owners can align themselves with a more responsible company or go out of business.
    Boycotts work.

  3. Cathleen Hulbert

    The actual spill is not your fault, nor was it mine, AMB. I think you are missing the point by taking my opening question too literally. I am part of a culture that helped to support the creation of companies such as BP, which are all too willing to risk the health of the sea and the planet to fulfill a greedy demand. At any rate, I have found my comfort zone by looking inward first to see how I might accept personal responsibility and become part of the solution. And you have found your comfort zone by angrily declaring your innocence in all of this. Perhaps you protest too much? Projection as protection is a common defense mechanism.

    And to you, Jim, you have been a great teacher to me in the area of cultural awareness. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Kate McNally

    Whenever I hear anyone talk about boycotting an oil company, I remember an email I got several years ago. It was one of those sent to everyone on the sender’s mailing list, full of outrage at the oil-company-despoiler-du-jour, and rallying the troops to boycott the offending company. The plan was that nobody would buy gas from their stations on a give day—a Tuesday, as I remember.

    When I got this email, I laughed. Not buying gas on one particular day would not hurt the oil company at all. What WOULD hurt the oil companies—all of them—would be for us to park our cars for a day. Or a week. Walk. Ride a bike. Take a bus. Take a train, if there are any left.

    Whenever I return to the US I see cars the size of small houses. They seem to be getting bigger. I also see gas that costs about 1/5 what I pay in Belgium, and hear people complaining bitterly about that. When I hop in the car to go to the supermarket instead of walking the mile or so, I now see the images from the oil spill, of animals coated in the oil that I demand from the oil companies.

    No, *I* didn’t cut corners on drilling safety. It wasn’t ME who failed to have an emergency response plan. *I* didn’t bribe government officials to look the other way. *I* didn’t fail to stop the leak. *I* didn’t cause this.

    Well, not directly.

    I agree with Cathleen. It’s time to stop pointing fingers. We ALL did this. And it looks like it will take ALL of us to solve it. My part is using less oil. From ANY company.

  5. Frank Povah

    And there’s the problem, right there. If all of us didn’t pay our satellite TV, utility, telephone, health insurance bills just one month, if we all wrote a letter to our congressmen, if we all didn’t use our cars for one whole weekend – if all of us, that is didn’t do these things – then something might be done.

  6. Mandy Richburg Rivers

    Once or twice a week I stop at a BP station on my way to work. The lady that owns it is a lovely Hindu woman named Bajdra. She greets me each time I come in with a boisterous, heart-filled “GOOT MORRRNING, FRIEND!!!” How can you not have a good day with a greeting like that at 7AM? She has two daughters and son and two grand babies.

    If I can help it, I only buy gas there because I like to support local businesses and I really LIKE her. She owns two stations and from them supports her family (sending one of her daughter to med school to boot). When I hear people talking about boycotting BP, I think of Bajdra and her family. These are good people that work hard that don’t deserve this fallout.

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