The Dakota Access Pipeline has “environmental disaster” written all over it. It’s a senseless destruction of land and culture and a blatant disregard of treaty with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. I hate this pipeline and would love to see it scrapped. But it’s time to be truthful. The protest against it near Cannon Ball, North Dakota is a tragic exercise in futility.
Many of the “police” at the site are privately contracted security guards, not unlike the ones the US military had in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are a heavily armed, paramilitary force and really answerable to nobody other their employers who pay them very, very well. Local and state government stand to benefit greatly when the pipeline is operational so they are going to be of no help. Quite the contrary, they apparently are all too thrilled to throw as many of the protesters behind bars and to be blunt, people are crazy to think they will lift a finger to stop any violence when it happens. Some in this country may even welcome a forcible crushing of this protest, the First Amendment be damned. As such, in the absence of direct intervention at the Federal level, the self-described “water protectors” out there are sitting ducks. When the time comes that the corporate overseers of this project back in Dallas decide they are bored with this nuisance, those guards will be given leave to do whatever they want.
Let me say that again. They can and will do whatever they want.
If those security contractors, or the Morton County Sheriff’s office, or the North Dakota State Police, or any of the myriad enforcers with a badge and a gun out there decide to go in and kill fifty protesters, they will likely do just that and there isn’t a single court with any jurisdiction in these United States that will send a single one of those men to jail. The law, right or wrong, will call the protest “trespassing on private property” and that is all that will be required to initiate a legal mass execution. At the rate we are going, there is nothing to indicate that this will not end in a brutal and violent crackdown. Why? There has never been a point in our national history where the needs and rights of Indigenous Peoples have ever trumped private interests. This pipeline is 60% completed, has cost almost $4 billion and despite the injunctions currently in place, construction will resume sooner than later and it will resume through Indigenous land. It’s oil, people. Nobody is going to get in the way of the flow of oil which everybody needs and loves. And ugly as it sounds, obscure petitions on even more obscure websites, appeals to the United Nations or a protest that is smaller than the average Grateful Dead concert will do little if anything to dislodge a powerful oil developer like Energy Transfer Partners.
I’m very upset at this. Not so much because of the construction of the pipeline itself. I’m upset because it’s only when the abuse of the Indigenous people of this nation reach an absolutely horrendous point such as this exigency do white people start to care and that is the rub. This is why it’s now acceptable for the rich and famous to now make “appearances” in opposition to the project. Rarely, however, are the elite of Hollywood’s activist class actually going anywhere near North Dakota. Some do, but it’s always best to play it safe. Protests in New York and Washington, DC are great. So are interviews on YouTube, primetime cable news shows and of course, what could be better than the ever popular hashtag activism on their Twitter feed? They want you to know that they “stand with Standing Rock”.
Well, so what?
Well-known entertainers and media stars don’t want trouble. They just want exposure. Honestly, who wants to go to where there’s the potential for real danger to life and limb? Especially theirs, since they have a vested interest in maintaining those faces and bodies that keep them so very well compensated at the box office. Does anyone think these celebrities will go to North Dakota and stick it out long-term to fight a real injustice? Hell, no. They want a photo-op and then they are gone. Lawrence O’Donnell will not lose a day of sleep once the protest has been successfully terminated. America barely knows who Amy Goodman is now much less cares. So when she was arrested for reporting on this travesty, it was hardly noticed.
Worse yet, the endless parade of celebrities who never trouble themselves with Indigenous matters at any other time will still be able to enjoy their lives of luxury when this protest inevitably ends. It’s a disgusting spectacle. Think about it. What do Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Sarandon, Pharrell Williams, Rosario Dawson, Mark Ruffalo, et al really have to lose if the pipeline goes through? Not a damn thing. Riley Keogh is out there taking promotional selfies with people there like she’s at a family barbecue, for God’s sake. Now, I’ll give credit where credit is due. Shaliene Woodley went to Standing Rock and got herself arrested and humiliated and brought attention to the cause. Good for her. On the other hand, Ms. Woodley is privileged enough to have the best of attorneys at her disposal to get her out of jail as quickly as she can get thrown in. Plus, as soon as her agent calls with the latest Divergent script, she is on the next plane back to Los Angeles. Guaranteed. Who do the people who live there all the time have to turn to when they get beaten, strip searched and imprisoned? Nobody, that’s who.
Dr. Jill Stein has been out there, but seeing as her future in politics is up in smoke, she may as well take up professional activism full-time. As for the Rev. Jesse Jackson? He just goes where the cameras are and has for the last thirty years. As nice as it may appear, it’s all just famous people making themselves feel good by going somewhere to have a camera pointed at them and say “Look at me! I’m progressive! I care about issues! And by the way, check out my new movie.” Don’t believe me? Then ask Ben Affleck about the attachment of this protest with promotion of the new Justice League movie set for 2017 release. Wow. Now that’s what I call heroism.
So what’s the solution? Let the Dakota Access Pipeline go though.
Let it go through and wait for catastrophe to strike. When white people start dying after the pipeline breaks down, which at some point in the future it will, you can rest assured that the Powers That Be will get their collective asses in gear and fast. When rich white people are getting hurt then things get done. That’s a fact. Things never get done when the people who were here thousands of years before America even existed are the ones getting hurt.