Yesterday: A viral video from the day before repeatedly appears in my news feed. After scrolling past it for about the 30th time...I click play.
The scene unfolds and sounds of discord fill my ears. As I watch the ugly clash between uniformed men in riot gear and non-violent protestors, some clad in feathers, still singing prayers as ear-splitting sound cannons blare in the background – something in me breaks and I find myself sobbing uncontrollably, shaking as though I'm right there with them.
From a place of sincere humility, I'll admit that I've cultivated a kind of requisite numbness. It has been my only defense in the face of what feels like a swift global spiral towards chaos. I am painfully sensitive. I feel it all too deeply and it's paralyzing – the issues are too many, each one as significant as the next. I have a hard enough time making decisions about menial things in my daily life – choosing which blatant inequity to throw my wholehearted support behind feels impossible. Where does one even start?
It seems the chasm between those who give a shit about humanity – who care about this planet and all the lives it supports – and those who are motivated by rampant greed and narcissistic self-interest – has grown impossibly wide. For anyone with half a heart who is actually paying attention rather than being drawn into the well-crafted distractions presented by mainstream media, it is a whole lot of heartbreak to bear – day after day after day – with no apparent end in sight.
So – though I'm not the least bit proud of it, I've unknowingly built an inner barrier – an 'i-don't-wanna-hear-it' pressing of fingers to ears as I hum to myself – a selective, 'focus-only-on-what's-good' blurring of vision – attempting to drown out the cacophonous sound of it all.
But this – this cannot be ignored.
As I watch the surreal imbalance of response – gun-toting, self-important (white) extremists who occupied a wildlife refuge for a month are acquitted while peaceful (native) protestors in North Dakota are met with beatings, arrests, the killing of their horses and forceable ejection from land they rightfully own – my heart aches and my blood boils.
The story at Standing Rock has evolved far beyond a protest. No longer is this just about the right to clean water and an environmental disaster waiting to happen (which a pipeline surely is.) It has become a battle reminiscent of historical abuses – a dire human rights issue that deserves our attention. More accurately, it highlights a human rights issue that is so embedded in our national history, we fail to clearly recognize it.
It makes a certain kind of sense – considering the grave injustice upon which this country was originally founded – that our political climate would devolve into what it currently is. Strangely apropos that this bizarre clown show of an election would coincide with the largest gathering of indigenous people in more than 100 years – a banding together of 280 tribes, unified by their shared concern for the Earth they hold sacred – merging voices to protect the waters – speaking for future generations who cannot advocate for themselves.
What a beautifully powerful occurrence that should give every one of us pause.
If only we could humbly admit, as a nation, how horribly the indigenous people of this land have been treated for centuries, perhaps we'd eventually find some way towards internal harmony – however tenuous that journey might be – however unlikely it presently seems – no matter how disheartened and sick I feel as I watch from a helpless distance.
Yes – I AM ANGRY – and more than a bit terrified about where we are headed as a global family.
Rather than respectfully acknowledging what these tribes are trying to accomplish – FOR ALL OF US – we watch substanceless debates and discuss the absurdity of one orange-faced buffoon ad nauseam. How is it possible that the most important issue in our country today is routinely ignored by the media while they give generous airtime to a repugnant egomaniac EVERY.SINGLE.DAY?! I can't comprehend how our priorities have become so incredibly skewed.
Yet...I have to choose Hope over Fear.
I have to believe we are capable of more than this...that, somehow, we'll collectively WAKE UP and remember that we're all related – that we all face the same environmental collapse – towards which we are rapidly hurtling.
Instead of joining forces and sharing technology that might divert imminent disaster, we bicker like petty siblings over who gets the bigger slice of cake – who gets to be 'the boss' – who gets to step foot in 'our room' – drawing imaginary lines, as though we can divide this planet into 'mine' and 'yours' – too damn self-involved to recognize the genuine threats we face as a species – too proud to admit that we've done this to ourselves, and only we can mitigate the damage we've caused.
Do I still feel paralyzed? Yes. Does stubborn pessimism creep in, suggesting that I'm incapable of effecting any kind of measurable change? Usually – it's a whole lot of bullshit to witness in a seemingly endless overlap of awful and bizarre and heartbreaking.
Every now and then, however, I remember that every single one of us makes an impact. Whether we press the pillow against our ears, pretending it's not happening or doesn't affect us, or we step boldly into informed action, doing all we can to raise awareness and support our cause – we are either complicit in the wrong-doing or actively engaged in making it right.
We are all responsible. • We are all affected. • WATER IS LIFE.
I don't claim to know how to fix this, nor do I understand how best to support those on the front lines at Standing Rock. I only know that I'm no longer numbing myself against the abrasive reality of what's happening RIGHT NOW. I'm letting it pierce me to my core – letting it settle deeply in me, however uncomfortable.
I may not yet know how to meaningfully proceed, but I suspect this – pressing 'publish' – is, at the very least, a good place to begin.
• #NoDAPL • #WaterIsLife • #StandWithStandingRock •
Update - Inspired to take action? Click here: How To Be An Effective Ally for Standing Rock - great resource for anyone considering heading to Standing Rock. Also clearly outlines best ways to offer support from afar.
While there has been a considerable media blackout regarding this story, Lawrence O'Donnell has been paying attention. His thoughts are worth hearing.