Why Standing Rock matters

Jared Olson, sexy God

By Jared Olson | gargoyle@flagler.edu

If it’s ever finished, the Dakota Access Pipeline will stretch almost 1,000 miles across the continent- a metal capillary rocketing across the landscape. It will funnel thousands of barrels of crude, dredged-up oil from the Bakken Oil Fields, to the industrial centers of southern Illinois. According to the politicians, it will create thousands of new jobs and revitalize economic independence.

But standing in its way, halting its development interminably—in a modern nod to the century old Indian Wars—is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who have stood their ground to protect their homeland, despite violent backlash from law enforcement.

Sadly, we here in St. Augustine will likely remain indifferent to the Standing Rock conflict. Because, like most Americans outside of North Dakota, we will revert to the same litany of overused excuses: it’s too far away to be concerned about, it’s a different situation, it’s not my problem.

So let’s see whether those excuses (which few of us can deny having used, at one point or another) hold up to their weight:

Five years from now, imagine the shipping company Maersk decides it would be profitable to dredge a deepwater port in St. Augustine, which could be subsequently used to dock and unload their massive fleet of container ships. Doing so would create new local jobs, surely, and would most certainly invigorate Florida’s economy.

But to accomplish such a task they would first have to demolish Castillo de San Marcos, rip apart the bayfront walkway, and raze away all the native mangrove forests within a two-mile radius of St. Augustine Inlet. The historical and environmental significance that has made our town so beautiful, and has been magnetic for tourism, would be irrevocably destroyed.

Let’s hypothetically imagine this happens. Local citizens, outraged at the indifference of a massive corporation to the welfare of their small town, would likely band together and protest in the streets, perhaps rioting at the sight of foreign construction barges. The national media would be drawn to their plight. They love their town, and wouldn’t want it defiled for anything.

But around the country, all people can say is: “it’s not my problem” and “they shouldn’t be so damn sensitive.” Or, even worse: “It’s good for the national economy, so they should be happy about it anyways.”

So you can imagine the sheer frustration the residents of Standing Rock feel when people in other parts of the U.S. express similarly indifferent sentiments towards their struggles.

While imprisoned for fighting for civil rights in Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The same logic is applicable to the case of Standing Rock, or of any case where corporate power infringes on local rights and the health of the environment.

If we let corporate power succeed in Standing Rock, we let corporate power succeed everywhere: we are giving conglomerates permission to regard our environment, our rights to sovereignty over our water resources, as if they were disposable.

Notorious images have been released of young, bare-chested Sioux, gleaming with sweat, riding their stallions tauntingly before a stolid black wall of police. They shout angrily at the officers, who will within a few minutes close in on their encampment with riot gear and batons.

The image of the young Sioux riding his horse before the police has a universal relevance we should all be aware of. After all, they’re fighting for a cause that’s a lot closer to home than we think.

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