Imagine for a moment the feeling of having a military force with loaded guns, Humvees and helicopters baring down you.This is a feeling I lived with for nearly five months in North Dakota during the Standing Rock Water Protectors camps in the Cannon Ball district.
It’s difficult to convey the feeling of being under constant surveillance.Always knowing that the person sitting across from you could be a federal agent or a private security guard working on behalf of the Dakota Access Pipeline. There was a sense that trust was in short supply, and that any level of paranoia was justified. At the same time there was a sense that no matter how hard you may try there really wasn’t anything you could do to change the fact that your camp had been infiltrated.
In the time since the camps closed my life has been quite different than in the time before. My social media reach has been growing. I am finding that I have a lot to say, but the words only come together slowly. I am still coming to terms with the emotions I felt during the military eviction of our camp. Having your own government deployed against you is a disheartening feeling. Who do you turn to when the so-called good guys are against you?
Yesterday morning I had an opportunity to present three hour long speeches to a political science class in Ohio.Since I live in Oregon, the speeches went out through video conferencing. The students had had their prom that weekend, and as you can imagine they were looking pretty haggard. Some were genuinely engaged, though, and even came through with a few questions.
Talking to teenagers reminded me of how important it is to maintain engagement around activism, and to continue speaking out for the protection of air, water and soil. The young people are going to have to live with the effects of our action or inaction. I feel a sense of duty to the young people. They deserve to know that we are doing our utmost to make a more livable world for them and the future they will live in.
Talking to young people about civil disobedience was a challenge. I wanted to tell them there is reason to hope, that there is reason to fight and learn. I wanted to tell them that if they stand by their convictions and they are on the right side of the law that they can make change in this world. In the end I wanted to be honest with them.
I told them that they have power. I told them that they could remain legal, and peaceful while taking constitutionally-protected direct actions to change the world. I told them that although they cannot vote, and adults do get to dictate their lives to them that they still possess their individual rights, which all people possess. And that it’s important for them to know how to use their voices. I told them about sit-ins, walk-outs, petitioning and letter-writing. I told them that the world is worth protecting and that there are people all across the country doing what they can to defend a livable planet for the future.
The Dakota Access Pipeline was built. The section of river and land we were trying to protect was leveled by bulldozers and our beautiful village was destroyed by state-sponsored “sanitation” workers.In the face of that difficult loss I had a hard time telling the children to stay hopeful. But the fire which was sparked by the International Indigenous Youth Council when they ran from North Dakota to Washington DC in the spring of 2016 is still spreading in the spring of 2018
There are countless protest camps popping up around the country. People are emboldened by the condition of our planet. They have seen the potential of unity which was present at Standing Rock. People know that they are not alone in their willingness to put their bodies on the gears of industry, and growing numbers of them are actively blockading pipelines.
When the young people in the future are looking out on a sick world of toxins, when the people in future times reflect on this moment in the world’s history my hope is that they will remember the youth. It was the youth who awakened the world by standing up to the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha, then again when their group ran across the country to raise awareness and to deliver a petition to the White House. It is the youth who need our active support. Their ideas, their initiatives, their actions. We owe them that much at least, to support the youth is our duty.
I wish I could ask people to do what we did. I wish that I could ask people to stand in the path of the pipeline. I wish that I could ask people to engage in direct actions to halt progress on this dangerous infrastructure expansion happening across the country.I do think that people will at some point see how badly we are neglecting our duty to this world which we are a part of. In reality asking people to become engaged in direct action to halt fossil fuels is difficult. The lasting effects of trauma are a real issue for many of the people who engage in activism. When our state, local, and federal governments engage in unconstitutional behaviors as a matter of course. They don’t simply violate civil rights, they trample the constitution. For the most part judges and juries protect the soldiers and officers who are involved in these illegal and unconstitutional pro-oil industry activities, while punishing those who are actively obeying the law.
The hardest take-away for me is that being a decent person who is not violating any laws can land you in jail when the government is actively invested in fossil fuel infrastructure. The state is willing to go the extra mile to protect these dangerous projects. The state will issue retroactive permits to a company who has violated the law. The state will prevent people from speaking their piece through media suppression. The state will issue false statements to bolster their violent position. The state will use mass arrest and indiscriminate firing of chemical weapons on unarmed nonviolent civilians, spiritual leaders, veterans, elders and children.
I wish I could have put the above statement into my presentation to the students. I wish I had those words at that time. Speaking about state-sponsored oppression is uncomfortable. As much as I know it’s important to write this post I am definitely triggered by the memories. I would feel better about my future in activism if I felt as though things would be different. Sadly, the future seems to be a place where goons with guns acting on behalf of oil companies guarantee the future of fossil fuel pollution through state-sponsored suppression of popular movements.
Right now the American Legislative Exchange Council is pushing a piece of model legislation which in effect criminalizes speech.In fact the speech contained in this blog could be considered under the legislation as conspiracy to commit a crime. The use of legislation to silence the public is happening in many states from coast to coast. The oil industry knows that public opinion is trending against them, so they have enlisted the legislative branch to lend extra strength to law enforcement. The oligarchy is aware that “We The People” have the power and the oligarchs are making certain that their activities have the weight of law behind them. Although the actions of the fossil fuel industry threaten the future of the planet, the money-grubbers are lining up to take their graft. Our political system is built around the idea of protecting industry profits over the public’s safety. The Trump administration is a perfect example of this marriage between corporation and state.
I maintain that the children of today will not want a future like the one which is being laid out by the political and financial elites. It is my belief that the world must shift towards a more sustainable and compassionate reality. It’s my belief that we as the “adults” of this time need to do all we can to teach the youth about their inherent rights, and their power as free-thinking people.
We are heading towards a dire future, one with poisonous air, water and soil. Much of our food is already toxic. Most of us are aware of these issues on a surface level. To turn these conditions around we are going to have to engage in change not only in our personal lives to alter the destructive behaviors we as individuals participate in, we are also going to have to engage on an international level to change the face of the global economy. We need to remove control from corporate oligarchs and return our power to the proper place.
Camps like the Water Protectors camp in North Dakota are important in the over all evolution of awareness. We also will need to create schools which teach this new way of being.Schools which teach sustainable practices and values which support all humanity. We will need to displace corrupt officials in government, and put an end to the fossil fuel industry all together. If what we really want is a future of fresh air and clear water our obsession with oil has to end. If we really want a survivable planet for the children who have yet to be born we will need to choose conscious evolution.
The potential for a livable planet is still a reality. The efforts which will be required are still within our reach. The future is not set in stone. If only we can find the courage to embrace the changes that are needed to shift our focus to positive change. The Water Protectors are everywhere now.
“They tried to kick out our Sacred Fire, now it burns on all horizons.”
Thanks for reading this far!
Thanks to Steemit Creators’ Guild for their proofreaders.
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