Like most Bernie Sanders fans my age, I got all excited when I saw those Facebook posts about “checking in” with the Standing Rock pipeline protest in North Dakota.
The chants from participating in the School of the Americas protests years ago came back to me. “North and South the people say Close the SOA.”
I’m 55 and the heart of my religious convictions revolve around social justice. It’s the part of my faith that speaks to me the loudest. That and Mary. And Jesus.
Anywho, not to go on a religious rant here (because I really want to go on a humanity rant), but I spent a good part of my morning today reading a bunch of Google search articles about the Standing Rock pipeline protests. I read stories about how Native Americans from across the country are coming to protest, about how young people are involved, about how police are marking those they arrest with numbers (sort of like days of old). I read a couple of stories about how other North Dakotans think the protesters are a nuisance, even Native American North Dakotans.
I don’t know a lot about Native American culture. I’ve spent about 43 minutes of my life considering what it must feel like to be part of a native culture where your ancestors once roamed an entire good-sized continent and now you are all relegated to tiny “reservations” in places where no one else really flocks to settle, where life at best appears to be pretty damn difficult.
I’m not even going to pretend to understand what it feels like to live in North Dakota, when I complain if the picture I’m trying to take with my cell phone on Martha’s Vineyard gets obscured by an errant sea gull.
I fell for all those Facebook posts because I was so glad to read that my friends had made the decision to stand in solidarity with the protesters there. Part of me felt guilty for not being there with them. I thought about looking up how much available credit I had on my various cards to see if I could manage a plane ticket to join them.
Then I found out they weren’t actually there but had joined a social media event to express their support. And then I thought, “Man, why didn’t I know about this?” That led to me admonishing myself for not being connected, for not noticing what was happening in North Dakota all those months ago. Along with social justice, my faith brings a hefty dose of guilt, which I might add, isn’t always a bad thing. Not if it moves you to action. I’m going to keep reading about North Dakota. Both sides because that’s the newspaper in me. But I care and if standing there at the gates of the SOA taught me anything, it’s the beauty of thousands of people gathered together to say something just isn’t right.