Today is Thanksgiving 2016 and I’m feeling extremely emotional. It’s been a tough year for the country and for me personally. We’ve elected (not me) a man who is in way over his head, but thinks he has all the answers. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” It’s a scary time for those of us who know better. The good news is that his election has awakened those of us who thought this could never happen. People are coming together to support each other and to defend those who were targeted by his hateful rhetoric and I’m pretty sure this includes everyone but straight white men. As bad as it feels, I am still hopeful that this is simply the awakening we needed. We were too complacent. Trump is here to rattle us out of our indifference. I believe it’s something that we needed.
However, the issue that is causing me the most distress is the situation up at Standing Rock. I am utterly dumbfounded by the ability of North Dakota to treat unarmed people as they are treating the Water Protectors. Attack dogs, concussion grenades, mace, pepper spray, rubber bullets the size and hardness of lacrosse balls, and water sprayed at people when it’s 28 degrees outside. It’s inhumane. North Dakota law enforcement labels them as rioters. They say they are protecting the citizens of North Dakota. They have SWAT teams, the National Guard, and law enforcement officers from all over the country bullying the people who are standing up against an oil company. They aren’t there to protect the people of North Dakota. They are there to protect a foreign oil company. It’s sickening.
I watched a bit of live feed on Facebook today, but had to turn it off because I got so stressed out and scared that something bad was going to happen to one of the Protectors. I also felt sad because I could never do what those people are doing. I am not courageous enough to stand on the front lines and get arrested or maced or have my arm nearly blown off by a concussion grenade. I am only brave enough to sit behind my computer and write posts about it or wear t-shirts showing my support.
I’m not doing enough and I know it, which made me start thinking about what a hypocrite I am. I talk about the environment. I talk about my love of diversity and standing up for people. I talk about my love of people, yet I rarely venture out of my house. I do nothing. I’ve had opportunities to participate, yet I turn them down because I’m afraid. I’m not sure what I’m afraid of, but it paralyzes me. I want to be that person who devotes her time to those less fortunate or those who are being persecuted. I want to help. Badly. I don’t like this part of myself, but I know that I’ve changed a lot of old behaviors and beliefs lately and I know I change this.
I read a beautiful piece on Indian Country Today written by Ryan Redcorn (read it here: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/11/24/redcorn-oil-and-natural-gas-thanksgiving-166572) Ryan talked about feeling sick as he was putting gas in his car and realizing that he had to take a stand. I have the same feeling every time I fill up my car. Here I am condemning an oil pipeline, while I drive my gas fueled car 30 miles a day to work. My lack of motivation landed me a job nearly as far away from my house as possible and still be in the same town. I buy food at a chain grocery store who has to have everything trucked in from California and Florida, because we need strawberries and tomatoes all year round, right? I live in a town that makes alternate modes of transportation nearly impossible, although it can be done. Do I do it? No. Again, I feel like a hypocrite. What do I do?
First of all, I can make small changes now. I can eat seasonal foods and forego my beloved avocados and seafood. I can choose products made locally as often as I can and I can stop buying food out of season. Second, I can start walking the talk right now and find a place to volunteer my time. There’s plenty of need and I can choose the causes closest to my heart. Third, I can join the protests, that seem to be happening more and more these days, in person instead of just giving them lip service. Lastly, I can start start figuring out how to live the way I want to live. I want to find a place where I can use my bike as my main mode of transportation and figure out how solar panels and wind energy works. I can look into the cost of a tiny home and the price of a small piece of land on which I can grow my own food. And I can start using my design and art skills to promote the causes I feel strongly about. It’s time to walk the talk. Put my money where my mouth is. Shit or get off the pot. Maybe if I start taking some steps now, I will feel like less of a coward and a hypocrite. I may never be on the front lines of a large demonstration like those brave Water Protectors I so admire, but I can be a part of the change that is gathering momentum around the world. I will be idle no more.