Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thoughts On Standing Rock - An Open Letter to Protesters

Dear protesters,
This is not about a pipeline. Not anymore. You are wasting an opportunity to call attention to issues and injustices that your people have been forced to endure for 200 years. Or longer. Your actions are injuring your credibility and affecting your ability to make progress and improve your conditions where it really counts. In your homes. With your families and friends. And with a society that, for the most part, doesn't understand or appreciate your culture, your history or your struggles.
I see many similarities in these protests to something that happened over 40 years ago. I was 17 years old at the time and was pitched into it with virtually no experience in that sort of situation. It was the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, by members of the American Indian Movement. The take-over was motivated in part as a protest of conditions on the reservations, the conviction and jailing of a single mother of 5 over an incident in which her involvement was questionable, a failure to prosecute as a serious crime the stabbing death of a Native by a non-Native, and a basic lack of opportunity for nearly everyone who lived on an Indian reservation, as well as their over all poor treatment. The siege resulted in at least two people being shot to death and several serious injuries on both sides of the conflict. In the end - nothing was gained. Oh, there were changes promised. Press conferences were held and speeches were made. But nothing really changed. The reason, in my opinion, is that too many people in positions of influence who could have done something significant chose not to because of the militant nature of the protest and the suspected insincere motives of the leaders.
Which brings me to the question - where are your leaders? Who are your leaders? Mostly what I hear about is busloads of "water protectors" (many of whom are non-Native) coming in from other parts of the country and inserting themselves into the situation in the name of social justice and for the purpose of protecting the environment. Guess what. You're not helping. You may think all those selfies you're posting on Facebook along with those rumors and that fake photo of the little girl that was supposedly bitten by a police dog you're circulating are gaining you allies, but they're not. At least not anyone that may actually be able to help.
So cool it. Hearings have been held, tribes were consulted, permits issued, and historically significant sites are not affected. Is there a possibility of a leak? Of course. Is it any more of a possibility than a tanker truck accident or train wreck? Probably not.
I understand your concerns. It makes me sad to see people get hurt. But it also frustrates me to think this will deflect attention away from things that matter more. Like quality physical and mental health care, jobs, improved sanitation, adequate housing, addiction treatment and prevention, child care and education...the list could go on and on. Aren't these things more important right now than an oil pipeline that is only one of hundreds of other pipelines scattered all over the country? When everything is said and done, and when the dust clears, don't you want to be able to say that you fought a good fight for the right cause? And, even though you might not have won the war, you will have won a few battles and made a real difference.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.   2 Timothy 4:7

Roger O'Dea     11/23/2016