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Why the Standing Rock Protest is Everyone’s Issue

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Members of the Anishinabek Nation sing as they enter the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s protest encampment (image from the New Yorker)

The scene at Standing Rock is like a medieval morality play, pitting good against evil. Of all the nightmares in America today, one stands out as a symbol of everything that’s wrong: the Dakota Access Pipeline. As a symbol of all that’s right, we have the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American nations’ opposition to DAPL, a valiant fight against the corporate takeover of America, in defense of the people’s right to clean water.

The Dakota Access Pipeline exemplifies the horror of corporate domination. The horror is intensified by the corporate media’s blind eye to the travesty, not even reporting on it, and our politicians rolling over for their corporate overlords and campaign donors. While on the surface, the protest appears to be a small group of people with a vested interest in protecting their drinking water, it’s really a national—and, in fact, global—issue. We are diverted by the terror of a visible Nazi presence at the highest levels of government, but it’s bread and circuses to keep us from looking at an even greater evil.

A Look Back

We have to start with the realization that our presence on the American continent started with a hostile takeover of the land from the Native Americans who had lived on the continent for about 13,000 years. For whatever wars they had among themselves, the tribes shared a reverence for the natural environment, which was pristine when European settlers arrived. We gave them blankets infected with smallpox. We killed them off. We seized their land. We finally corralled them onto reservations, land given to the tribes by treaty. And now we are violating those treaties, snatching land by eminent domain, and allowing corporate interests to endanger Native Americans’ environment and the water that is life.

from Huffington Post

A Look Forward

We have to stop looking at the DAPL as a local issue that is only of concern to an Indian tribe in a sparsely populated state. Their protest is about a lot more than that. We are facing global annihilation, environmental change wreaked by corporate interests for money. The air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in, and the water we drink has been fouled in the interest of money, and for all the progress of modern medicine, we all fight the pollution of our environment to remain well.

It’s not just the water of the Missouri, running through Native American lands, that is endangered. The world’s water supply flows through rivers, streams, bays, and oceans, into a single constantly flowing source. The water in Sioux territory is the same water that eventually will cycle around to wherever it is you live. When the tribe stands up for the purity of their water supply, they’re standing for yours, too. These people are protesting on behalf of all humanity, for the right to have clean water. And we are watching corporate goons threatening the lives of the people who bravely defend that right for us.

A Look at Government’s Position

So where are the progressive heroes in Washington, supporting the people’s rights to clean water, without which we’ll all die miserably? Elizabeth Warren, who claims Native American heritage, and talks the talk about standing up to Wall Street? Her silence on DAPL speaks rather loudly of her fraudulence. That’s too bad; she used to look like a promising female president. Now she looks like any other politician owned by corporate America.

Our principal presidential candidates ignored the pipeline protest, which they could easily do, because the mainstream media conveniently fails to cover it. And why? Because both  major candidates in the general election have vested interests in the  pipeline: Trump has a million dollars invested in it and Hillary gets backing from the big banks that are financing it, notably Goldman Sachs. Even Jill Stein, who took a position against DAPL, has a stock portfolio full of big banks, big pharma, and other corporate investments. She did, at least, oppose it, as did Bernie Sanders. And who are the big financiers of DAPL? The big banks on Wall Street.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a rally to call on President Barack Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, in front of the White House in Washington, U.S. September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A Look at Wall Street’s Position

Only one thing matters on Wall Street: profits. If a company isn’t profitable, it’s extinct. So it’s in the interests of Wall Street to own politicians, who will allow them to make lots and lots of money. You might think that, as human beings, the executives in Wall Street’s banks would have an interest in the quality of their drinking water, too. But they don’t really have to worry, because they have quietly bought the land under which there are aquifers. That’s what W did when he left office. It’s only the rest of us who will die miserably.

The Opposition

While the mainstream media pretends that the protests in North Dakota aren’t happening, the DAPL corporate interests are firing rubber bullets and water cannons at the unarmed protectors of the river. Water cannons slamming protestors, in 25° temperatures, cause hypothermia. A 21-year old woman may lose her arm from yesterday’s conflict, when doctors found bits of grenade in it. But on the other side, there are rumors that cops hired to oppose the protestors are starting to quit their jobs. Their courage to walk away deserves our thanks. It’s hard to walk away from a paying gig in these uncertain times.

Sunrise reveals the Sacred Stones Camp where the Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by members of 280 Native American tribes, including Susan Leopold of the Potowatomack of Virginia. (Photo by Alyssa Schukar for the New York Times)

We can’t all go to Standing Rock to express our opposition in person. But there is a lot we can do, beginning with economic resistance. While many of us struggle with keeping bank accounts above water, we can carry on the fine tradition, begun in 2011, of ditching big banks profiting from DAPL and opening accounts in credit unions. We can find out which oil companies profit from DAPL and boycott them. We can look at how the Koch brothers and other corporate giants make their money and boycott their products. This is hard with the Koch brothers, because they own elements that are in everything, like the Dacron poly fiber in bedding and the lycra in so much of women’s clothing. But they also produce products like Northern paper products, Brawny paper towels, and other items we pick up innocently at the market. If we buy their products, we give them more power, and we can also take it away.

We can join the fight against Citizens United and get corporate money out of politics (although they will find ways to influence politicians, like donations to their foundations). And we can stop getting our news from the mainstream media. As long as we tune in to MSNBC and the other media monoliths, they make advertising money based on our attention. If people stop watching those corporate stations, they will lose their source of income—as well they should, after their shameful performance in the 2016 election.

Corporations have taken over America, and this, my friends, is one of the essential characteristics of fascism. I recommend looking at this list of the 14 characteristics of fascistic dictatorships. Every single one of them exists in America today and did long before Trump’s rise to power.

The Hitler salutes, swastika graffiti, and other affectations are external trappings of the alt-right. Those people, like a lot of us, are outraged by what has happened to America, but they are the dupes of the divide-and-conquer corporatists, fearing for the loss of their white privilege and traditional lifestyles. As long as we’re fighting each other, the corporatists can slip in, unnoticed, and increase their domination of the world, which they are securing by buying up those aquifers. The very first war in human history was over water rights, and it may become our last war as well, because, as the Standing Rock protestors say, water is life. Corporate actors exploit our fears and pit groups of disenfranchised Americans against each other, using their ownership of media to fan the flames of division.

The Internet offers us options to mainstream media, but as we’ve seen, Facebook is not one of them. Twitter provides a platform for independent journalism that is not controlled by corporate money, and outside sources with a less biased view of what is happening in this country. Publications like The Guardian, a UK paper with a US branch, offer solid analysis, as does the International Business Times. Commentators like The Young Turks, Amy Goodman, and Lee Camp tell us what is really happening, the things that the billionaire owners of television news don’t want us to hear—like how DAPL, the police, and hired goons harm Native Americans, who are trying to save the earth for all of us.

For more ways to support the Native American resistance to corporate power, here’s a list.


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P Segal - Bohemian Archivist

P Segal - Bohemian Archivist

P Segal is a San Francisco native, writer, therapist, and life coach. Literary agents have called her a clever niche writer, but none of them can figure out what the hell her niche is.