The mainstream media lies; it is a tool used to steer the masses toward the goals of special interest groups and corporations; the voices of the majority are often disregarded in favor of profit for an elite minority who are desperate to keep in place a sadistic, toxic status quo, but, thanks to social media and the passion of the people, we can do something about it; here is but one way.
This Sunday, December 4th, over 1,500 Veterans will be gathering with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (or DAPL), which threatens to destroy ancestral Native American burial grounds and contaminate the drinking water for over 18,000,000 people downstream of the Missouri River.
By now this may be old news to you. Standing Rock has gone truly viral. Perhaps you are aware that DAPL was originally supposed to run just outside Bismarck, North Dakota, a predominantly white city, and was moved to Army Corps of Engineers Land bordering Sioux territory further north when the citizenry cited threats to their drinking water. When the Sioux made the same protests as the people of Biskmarck they were rebuffed.
Most of the news coming out of Standing Rock these days has to do with the violent clashes taking places between unarmed protestors and militarized police and security. What’s truly mind-boggling (even while it is totally in keeping with America’s rich tradition of state and federal governments serving as lapdogs for corporate interests) is that the police, who have sworn an oath to serve and protect the civilian populace, are acting as bodyguards for DAPL employees and are using barbaric tactics (spraying protestors with fire hoses in subfreezing weather, shooting them with rubber bullets and macing them) to force the protestors to back down.
As of this writing, President Obama has ordered a halt to the construction of the pipeline, and says that the Army Corps of Engineers is looking into ways of possibly rerouting the pipeline around Sioux land. The CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, which is owned by an amalgamation of banks and shady unknowns, says there is no alternative; the pipeline will continue as planned.
The Army Corps of Engineers served protestors at camp Oceti Sakowin with an eviction notice, giving them until the 5th of December to leave; after the 5th, anybody on the land is subject to prosecution for trespassing.
Tribal Elders believe that the letter was simply a way for the Army to forfeit liability for any injuries sustained by protestors, as many of them have never experienced weather as harsh as the Dakotas in winter.
So, the Sioux—and the more than 10,000 people who have gathered at Standing Rock in support of the water protectors—aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re still coming.
This brings me back to #VeteransStandWithStandingRock, and the meet-up scheduled for December 4th.
I’m a Veteran. I served four years in the Army as a Combat Medic. I did the brunt of my enlistment at Fort Campbell, KY (home of the 101st Airborne, Screaming Eagles, hooah!), but I also deployed to Afghanistan from September 2012 to June 2013. I know what it means to exist in a harsh environment, subject to hostile conditions, with nothing but your brothers and sisters in arms to keep you motivated. I also understand the oath I took the day I enlisted: to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Domestic enemies are poisoning our water and disregarding treaties forged with indigenous people over one hundred years ago, and if the Morton County Sheriff’s Department can’t find it within themselves to stand up to the politicians who make the calls and whose pockets are lined with fossil fuel money, then I am thankful we have the Veterans and their pledge of solidarity.
Not only is this a huge chance for us to make (an admittedly miniscule, microscopic) amends to the Native American peoples whose cultures Western settlers destroyed, but it is an opportunity to tell them we don’t agree with our government and that their lives matter.
An emission-free world is possible, but we as a people have to tell the fossil fuel industry and the United States government that we are ready to kick our addiction to oil. It’s time to get clean. That’s the number on reason I want to go Standing Rock.
Number two is I’m wary of the mainstream media. If you read reports on Standing Rock on sites like earthjustice.org, you get an image in your mind of a peaceful, sustainable, almost-village, where prayer is the priority, along with love and kindness. But the mainstream media, which until now has been nearly silent in its coverage of Standing Rock, is finally reporting, and they are painting a grim picture. As one letter to the Boston Globe points out, the Globe has essentially neglected to touch upon the seriousness of the DAPL’s threat to water, instead choosing to write a story on how the people in these camps are living like dirty hoboes. Where is the dignity? Where is the evidence that people in authority—and the media—are taking Standing Rock as seriously as it needs to be, and are calling it what it is? Bill McKibben says Standing Rock is the moral center of the universe. Senator Bernie Sanders says that the fossil fuel companies pushing for more dependence on oil is totally insane. There was a #NODAPL rally in Washington DC on Sunday, which received little media coverage. Why are the concerned voices being blatantly ignored? What is the point of working hard for an education in a world that shows zero indication of turning from a path which science clearly shows spells damnation for the planet?
I emailed the photographer Dan Tapahe who wrote this article for The Huffington Post, to ask him what his advice would be for someone wanting to go Standing Rock and lend a body to the struggle. Within twelve hours Mr. Tapahe wrote me back with this sage advice:
When you’re there go to the volunteer tent and let them know what your [sic] willing to do and for how long. It’s a very peaceful camp so be open and willing to help where it’s needed. The more service you do the more willing people will be to help you in return. You don’t have to go to the frontline to help if you’re not comfortable to do so.
The power of the Internet to spur on revolutions and topple tyrants has been experimented with in the United States, but its abilities are still being realized. This is a chance to take back our future. If you want to argue that this paper has devolved from critical analyses to something more closely resembling a completely subjective, emotional spew, then please recognize this essay for what it is: a passion project in the truest sense of the phrase. My NREMT certification is still valid until March 2018, and as Dan Tapahe told me:
They could use your skills, medics are slim and anyone willing to volunteer would be appreciated.
My advice if you go is dress really warm and be as self sufficient as possible. If you’re there for a long duration of weeks, you can eat at the kitchens, especially if you’re helping with the medics.
Do I not have an obligation to stand with the Veterans this Sunday? I feel in my heart that I do. I have cash, I have gas. I have a medic bag. I still have uniforms issued to me by the Army, which I wore as part of a promise to stand up for what is right. And Standing Rock is right. The only thing stopping me is inertia, and that is incorrigible.
We are at an unprecedented time and place in American (nay, global) history. Like never before, the Internet and social media has placed resources and connectivity at our fingertips, which it is our responsibility to use for the betterment of our planet. No longer can we live frivolously, watching cable news and scripted programming while ignoring our brothers and sisters. We can no longer destroy the homes of our nonhuman relatives.
If Standing Rock reallyis the moral center of the universe, then I want to be able to look back and remember that I made a stand.
That even if the oil company wins and the world my grandchildren inherit is a Mad Max-ian hellscape, at least I can say I didn’t sit idly by. And I can credit the Internet and citizen journalists for sparking this fire. I can only imagine that if we had had Twitter way back when the Rockefellers dismantled the cable car system, we may very well be living in a different present. Media has the power to cause shifts in culture and alter the collective consciousness, and now is the only time in history that the masses have had so much control over the media. That is the mantle that has been placed upon the people of the twenty-first century: we have the power to shape the landscape of the world. Will we lick the Cheetos dust from our fingertips and do so, or will we drop the ball?