Most of us have the luxury to live our lives as we please. While there are devastating things going on around the globe that we hear about, when it comes down to it, Americans have it easy. We live in our own little worlds, tucked away in bubbles of our own personal issues that we learn to manage on a day-to-day basis. Our first world problems- the train breaks down on the way to work, the local organic grocer runs out of our favorite natural peanut butter and getting sick while on vacation- blind us to the third world conflicts happening right in our backyard. One of the greatest battles raging in the United States today is the fight over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I’d bet money that most people don’t even know what the hell that is.
It goes without saying that great change has come to America and that change, in my opinion, is not for the better. With the electing of Donald Trump as the next president, the tide of this country is turning in the direction of more division, more hatred and more violence. To put it plainly, we are headed straight to hell. And the very mindset that people like Trump have where they take from the “little guy” in the name of making a profit is why we are seeing the Dakota Access Pipeline situation. It is time out for people who think that they can go in and take whatever the hell they want from whomever they want. Haven’t marginalized people been robbed enough already? Black folks have no real culture because we were stripped of it when our ancestors were brought here as slaves. Native Americans have been all but annihilated, and now the land given to them by those who did the killing is threatened once again. Indigenous people in this country have suffered enough. What the builders of the pipeline are doing to get their way is a travesty, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.
The Standing Rock Sioux continue to hold their ground in opposition to the pipeline’s construction near their reservation. I, and millions of other people agree that the project threatens their public health and welfare, water supply and cultural resources. They are a great example of what it means to fight for what’s theirs. What started as a small protest back in April on the Standing Rock reservation has morphed into an encampment with over 1000 supporters. They call it the sacred Stone Camp, and it has become the site of face-offs that include militarized police forces using horrendous tactics to dismantle the protest. I’m talking about spraying these folks with water and tear gas in freezing temperatures.
The situation is serious, and it is dire. Supporters and owners of the pipeline argue that it will all work out in the end as a good thing for America. But 8,000 to 12,000 temporary jobs and only 40 new permanent jobs are not good enough figures for me to see the overall benefit of the project. Especially with the many risks involved. Furthermore, the disruption of Standing Rock’s way of life is one of the biggest reasons so many people are against it, and it’s a damn good reason.
We are a land that takes from others for the sake of financial gain. This is who we have always been. Nothing about that aspect of our American fabric has changed. Indeed, it has gotten worse. The frightening thing about it too is that there is no incoming leadership in Washington in place to counter these practices. In fact, the Executive Branch being created right now encourages and demonstrates this kind of resource gouging as good business practices.
This is a national crisis. We as a country united must learn how to stand with our fellow man for what’s right. How can Standing Rock be criticized because they don’t want a potential “culturally and economically catastrophic” situation to occur as a result of the pipeline? The thing would run through their sacred grounds, which are immensely culturally significant to them. These things must be protected. We can’t continue to turn our heads because it doesn’t directly affect us. Our first instinct should be to help not to remain silent.
We are a people who bask in ignorance if it means that our lives aren’t interrupted. But it is not all bliss. It may not be your thing right now that’s threatened, but one day, when you least expect it, you very well may be on the other side; the ones fighting and giving your all to preserve a heritage that defines who you are.
I stand with Standing Rock.