27 November 2016


photo by Monica Steele
It was a long, though scenic, drive home to Tacoma. Two thoughts come to mind this morning following up my posts on each of our four days there. The first is that anything I reported that was heard rather than seen should be considered unverified and quite possibly incorrect. What someone told me may have felt authentic at the time, but when I get some distance I can imagine other scenarios; I may not have remembered what they said accurately, and they themselves may have likewise gotten something crossed. I can only accurately report and reflect on what it felt like to be there. That said, when I read the article in the NYT stating that federal officials plan on closing the camps on 12/5, it appears likely that they underestimate the strength, resourcefulness and organization of the Protectors dwelling there. When I was working in the carpentry shed, for example, a new arrival introduced himself saying, "I just drove in from MT with a truck full of tools and a compressor. What can I do?" I just hope that a majority of the great influx Thanksgiving week did not have to return to work on Monday like me.

The second thought regards my own sense of the White allies at Standing Rock. Those that I met all appeared to have had access to higher education, which is one way of defining Middle Class. As has been seen, when bad things happen to this demographic we are more likely to hear about it in the media—which makes their direct participation a good leveraging of their privilege. But as we drove through hundreds of square miles of open spaces used in production of livestock, corn, crude oil, I tried also to imagine the families who make their living, perhaps going back through generations, in these and related enterprises. I wonder if one of the essential components of the "cultural divide" is between those who can imagine options for themselves and those who cannot. If I am in survival mode, I cannot envision beyond my immediate needs. It isn't that I am short-sighted or don't care about future generations. It is just that I have to have my needs met on a physical, emotional and, likely, spiritual level before I can take on any issues past caring for family or my immediate community. It takes a certain level of privilege, therefore, to assume responsibility for any of the many issues at stake at Standing Rock—unless, of course, you were already residing on the reservation. We know that significant change can only be implemented at a grassroots level. The barrier is the manipulated divisions that keep many of us from recognizing our common adversary. It is up to those of us who have had the kind of privilege enabling us to begin taking responsibility for all humanity to make human connection with those who have been left behind. If we do not, we have only ourselves to blame for the results. A good starting point is today's op-ed by Derek Black. . . http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/opinion/sunday/why-i-left-white-nationalism.html?emc=edit_th_20161127&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=41616302&_r=0

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