Posts Tagged ‘Sioux’

Who Stands with Standing Rock?

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Face off at Standing Rock.

Face off at Standing Rock.

Last Monday morning, virtual reality became real reality, if you will, in an encouraging way.

My usual morning routine includes a casual scroll through my Facebook feed to see if I missed anything of vital interest overnight. Usually it’s more of the same. But Monday, a post stopped me short and prompted a silent, “Really?”

It seems a young Facebook friend had traveled to North Dakota overnight and “checked in” at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in solidarity with the Sioux tribe protesting construction of an oil pipeline there. We both live in upstate New York, so this is no easy overnight jaunt. I was impressed with the young man’s commitment to a cause, until I scrolled a little more and discovered that another local friend, a middle-aged woman, had also checked in at Standing Rock. I could believe that she, too, would support the cause, but I was now skeptical about the travel.

A short while later, my partner said, “My Facebook friend checked in at Standing Rock.”

“Not really, I said,” having finally figured out what was going on. “I think there’s a movement on Facebook to show support for the protesters by checking in, virtually, at Standing Rock. It’s a really cool idea.”

Indeed there was and indeed it was. Cool. About a million Facebook users stood in real and virtual solidarity with the Sioux Tribe and thousands of others who have joined them in North Dakota to protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

While the check-ins apparently started as a response to a request from activists at the site, who said police were using the Facebook feature to find out who was at Standing Rock in order to target them, police denied doing so. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, as the massive show of online support sent a message far beyond North Dakota.

For one thing, it brought to focus an actual issue — really several issues — that were being played out in a part of the country far removed from the drudgery and dirty laundry of the presidential campaign. The standoff at Standing Rock had been going on for some time with major media outlets managing to ignore it while obsessing on emails and sexual predation.

I can imagine the newsroom discussion. Editor: “North Dakota? An oil pipeline? Indians? That’s a long way. Can’t we pick up some info from a local reporter?”

Assistant editor: “I don’t know, chief, there’s a bunch of tribes there and now hundreds of others supporting them and they are unarmed and the police and hired security forces are using tear gas and Mace and batons and rubber bullets — they shot some reporter and some horses — to force them off the land. The Sioux say it’s ancient tribal land where their ancestors are buried. Also, the pipeline threatens their water source. The protesters say the private security force even used attack dogs on them. A lot of people were arrested, including what’s-her-name, from NPR. It’s getting ugly. Mark Rufalo was there. Bernie Sanders asked Obama to do something.”

Do something.

The Sioux are still waiting.

A little background for those, like myself, overwhelmed with political “news.” Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe see the pipeline as a threat to their water supply and their culture. They say its route crosses lands — not part of the reservation — where members of their tribe once hunted and were buried. They also worry about damage if the pipeline were to break where it crosses under the Missouri River, their sole source of water.

Energy Transfer, the company building the pipeline — a $3.7 billion project —  says it will pour millions of dollars into local economies and create thousands of construction jobs. The pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from western North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline was moved from its original path, closer to Bismarck, the state capital, because officials feared it could damage the city water supply. Apparently, no such concern was felt for the drinking water of the Sioux.

So, back to do something.

The two candidates for president did nothing.

Donald Trump loves oil and doesn’t trust anyone who isn’t white and Christian. North Dakota’s three Electoral College votes are his anyway.

Hillary Clinton, often criticized as overly cautious, missed a chance to show real leadership. With no votes to pick up in the state, she could have stood for the rights of indigenous peoples, for protection of the environment, for the First Amendment right to free assembly, and for the responsibility of corporations, who like being considered citizens when giving money to politicians, to also act like responsible citizens when it comes to the public good. She could also have stood against military style force by police against unarmed citizens. Some Clinton doubters in other states (Nevada, Colorado, Arizona) might have been impressed.

Even President Obama waffled. He said, in an effort to accommodate sacred land of Native Americans, “the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline in a way. So we’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

Well, maybe that’s not so bad if the police and paid enforcers aren’t shooting rubber bullets at you and dousing you with hoses, Mr. President. How about telling them to stand down while the Army Corps does its job?

In one day, a million Americans stood in virtual solidarity with the Sioux. Is it too much to ask their president and would-be presidents to demonstrate the real thing?

GOP Has a Day of Reckoning Coming

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

The face of the Republican Party.

The face of the Republican Party.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel called a presidential election campaign and, if the gods are not playing a cruel trick on us, that light is not on an engine with TRUMP emblazoned on its sides. In any event, the end is near and I am as weary of writing about this ugly affair probably as  you are of reading about it.

The problem is, that’s all most of the mainstream and social media care to talk about these days. In case you missed the other news: 1) The Cubs and Indians are in the World Series. 2) Heavily armed police in North Dakota attacked hundreds of protesters who joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe trying to block construction of a pipeline they say threatens water supplies and sacred sites. And 3) Tim Tebow is apparently just as good at baseball as he was at playing quarterback in the NFL.

But really, the only thing the media want to talk about are Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election is rigged and that the press — meaning all the news outlets who report accurately on his words and actions — lie.

These are claims that losers and demagogues resort to when everything else — lies, threats, lies, threats, lies, threats — fails. Honestly, it is disheartening to feel a need to point out to, apparently, millions of Americans, that Trump’s claims are nonsense. It is even more disheartening to realize that many of the people who still support his candidacy don’t seem to care. There is a major issue to address some day soon in that.

Meanwhile, as to his two claims:

  • Voter fraud is virtually non-existent in America. You can check this with any legitimate news provider. The real threat is voter intimidation — keeping some people from voting through excessive (illegal) regulations and perceived threats. Suggesting rigged elections is a serious threat to the very foundation of a free, democratic society — an orderly transfer of power. This is something about which Trump knows little and seemingly cares less. As far as he’s concerned, if he doesn’t win, the powers that be must be against him.
  • The press. Ah, the press. “They can say anything they want,” he complained the other day. No kidding, Sherlock. You just noticed? He says if he’s president he’s going to change that and strip the major media companies of their power. He can try, of course. It won’t be easy though. You see, Donald, those same forefathers who were so wise as to guarantee Americans the right to bear arms in that Second Amendment you and your followers are so fond of spouting and shouting about thought the idea of a free and unfettered press was so important to a functioning democracy that they wrote it into the First Amendment of the Constitution. That’s one ahead of the guns amendment, which some might say suggests it is more important. Since a civics lesson is apparently in order for Trumpers, it should be noted that the First Amendment also guarantees everyone freedom of religion. Which is also to say, freedom from your religion.

But these are mere facts and Trump and the folks at Fox News have demonstrated the power of repeating false news over and over again until listeners — like the inhabitants of Orwell’s “1984” — simply take it for fact. We have always been at war with Eurasia. We have never been at war with Eurasia. Love is hate. War is peace. I know Putin well. I never met the man.

We are told that many Trump supporters — virtually all of them white  and the majority male — are angry and frustrated with their lives. Somehow, goes the argument, all those black, brown, Muslim, Mexican, gay, Jewish, Arab, Asian people who don’t belong here — and some pushy American women as well — have prevented these Trump fans from realizing the American Dream. They took all the jobs and live on welfare. Love is hate. Up is down. Bigotry has nothing to do with it. We just want to make America great again, like before all those other people said they wanted to enjoy the American Dream, too.

Enough already. At some point in a person’s life, if he or she is lucky, the opportunity presents itself to take responsibility for one’s actions. To take stock of how things are going. Not materially, but really. It can be frightening. It can also be rewarding. Among other things, this look in the mirror allows one to say — if one can be honest — “I’ve made some mistakes. I sincerely regret them. I hope to do better from now on.” A lot of people never do this.

With that runaway train called Trump menacing the trust and tolerance that are the pillars of our, yes, already great nation, I’m thinking that a lot of people — a lot of white, Republican people — have a date with a mirror. It’s far too late to undo the damage Trump has done or to deny any part in it, but it’s not too late to admit the mistake of supporting him in spite of all the hateful, false things he said. It’s not too late to admit to acting as if he didn’t say them because, well, maybe because you were angry or confused or frightened or thought it would be disloyal. Maybe you feel you were lied to. Or maybe you just wanted to believe the lies.

Republican politicians who have stuck with Trump have no such out. The McCains and Ryans and Cruzes and Rubios knew Trump was bad news from day one. But he was their bad news and his lies became their lies even when they disagreed with him, because they never had the courage — the humility, the simple decency — to look in the mirror and say: “Enough. This man is obscene. He is an insult to our party and our nation. We made a grave mistake in pandering to the worst instincts of some of our party members in order to get their votes. Our pride kept us from admitting this. Fear drove our decisions. We allowed him to make fools of us. Indeed, we made fools of ourselves.”

Speaking, if I may, for the rest of an angry, resentful nation, that day of reckoning can’t come soon enough.