Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This is US – This is Obama, This is Hillary, This is Trump - Standing Rock Meets Edward Snowden

This may be a photo of Afghanistan, it may be Iraq, it may be Syria, but it is Standing Rock, North Dakota in the United States. This photo reminds me of the Hollywood filmmaker who shot his movie about war-torn Beirut in the Bronx.

What you are looking at in the above photo, according to Unicorn Riot on Facebook, are “military style walls to protect the oil pipeline from protestors: a barrier of six foot walls and three rows of razor wire followed by a second barrier that is twelve feet tall with a row of razor wire across top. Excavators and bulldozers continue construction as pipe is laid out and crews await the drills so they can begin boring the holes to connect the pipeline under the Missouri River. Military, sheriffs, and mercenaries patrol the perimeter night and day, 24 hour surveillance on the camps.”

This is happening now. Hundreds of protestors, calling themselves Water Protectors have assembled near Cannon Ball, North Dakota in a camp called Standing Rock where they are attempting to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, planned to stretch from Stanley, ND to Patoka, IL. The Army Corp of Engineers has overridden the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie to approve the pipeline. It’s not the first time the United States has broken a treaty with Native Americans. However, the way land grabs are going right now, it may be one of the last. There’s not much left, and our National Parks are currently in danger of being confiscated by Republicans who think we should be drilling on all available land, whether it’s available or not.

The camp at Standing Rock is a militarized zone. Veterans for Peace have said that law enforcement, sheriffs and mercenaries there are armed more than they, veterans, were for war. Dogs have been used to attack peaceful demonstrators; journalists and filmmakers have been arrested; demonstrators have been arrested, tear-gassed and shot. In a cry to the public for help, protestors stated, “DAPL is now flooding the camp with huge lights and flying drones, helicopters, planes, and even fighter jets over us. This is a war zone!! And where is our president? No one is protecting us…they protect the pipeline…so sad to see that they only care about short term profits…where will their children live once the earth is poisoned and they can't drink water..”

Many Americans don't want more fossil fuels. We stand with the the protestors at Standing Rock. Solar Power! Wind! Water! God has given us all we need. We could live in Paradise.

What has President Obama done about this confrontation? President Obama is great at double speak. His smile is worth a dozen promises. Obama said he’d look into asking the Army Corp of Engineers to consider re-routing the pipeline away from Native lands, sacred lands, and Native water supplies, namely the Missouri River, which water protectors are guarding, which was basically saying nothing at all, meanwhile making everyone happy and hopeful. (UPDATE: On November 15, the White House announced President Obama is calling for a halt in the pipeline construction so that representatives from pipeline builder, Energy Transfers Partners and the Native American tribes can sit down and negotiate terms on which they can agree. This is huge. However, it is also a brilliant ploy on Obama’s part. He knows that no matter what both sides agree upon, President Trump will certainly over-turn any plan that does away with the pipeline or costs too much money and time. Obama gets the credit for being reasonable and kind while the investors only have to wait patiently.)

What was candidate Hillary Clinton’s response? More double-speak. Only she doesn’t have that killer grin. “…all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it's important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators' rights to protest peacefully, and workers' rights to do their jobs safely.”

You can’t have it both ways, Hillary. And, we know about your oil connections, your bank ties and your fracking friends. Many people have been starry-eyed over the possibility of the first woman President. But, just like the first African-American President, we can't let sentiment blind us to the truth. Hillary, like Obama, would have allowed this pipeline to go forward.

And Trump? He has indicated that he will support the building of the pipeline. According to Time.com, “…Trump owns stock in the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, as well as another company that will own a share of the pipeline once it is completed. He also received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from the company’s CEO…Making matters worse for environmental activists, they now also face the possibility of the Trump White House reversing Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Trump has listed reviving that project, which would have carried crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, as a priority for his first 100 days. TransCanada, the company behind Keystone, said it planned to work with a Trump administration shortly following the election.”

Recently, I saw an interview with Edward Snowden broadcast from the Tuschincki Theatre in the Netherlands. One thing he said resonated and, he outta know, he urge us to not “look at this as a question of single election or a single government…a vote will never be enough…we should be cautious of putting to much hope or fear in one person. President Obama campaigned on a platform of ending mass surveillance, ending torture and we all put a lot of hope in him because of this. We thought because the right person got into office everything would change…We can not hope for an Obama and we can not fear a Donald Trump rather we should build it ourselves.”

Edward Snowden

I’ve been thinking about Snowden a lot lately. Not because of the election, not because I sympathize with him. I don’t. I’m sorry that the whole thing happened. What whole thing, you ask? I’ve been thinking about Snowden because I saw the Oliver Stone movie and one scene keeps haunting me. The scene in which we gaze over the techie's shoulder to see on his computer screen keywords highlighted in a random Facebook news feed. As the techie explains the purpose of the surveillance to Snowden, who has just arrived, we realize, that could be our Facebook page, and our stupid, meaningless chatter about hating the President, or the policies of the United States has just been misinterpreted by the National Security Agency.

I’ve been trying, subtly, to tell my friends they must see the movie, but, of course, no one listens to me. Now, I’m going to tell you why I’ve been haunted by that scene.
According to Snowden, the government has been peeking into our emails and social networking such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, etc. using violent or threatening keywords they consider key to finding terrorists. I’m not going to type these words here. See the movie and you’ll see the words.

Now, this has been happening since the technology was available in the early 1990s - and please don't forget that the internet itself comes from the U.S. Department of Defense - and since the Patriot Act and since 9/11. Obama had nothing to do with starting it, but he continued it. Hillary, as Secretary of State knew about it. And Trump, Trump is gonna love it.

Not only the government looks at our keywords. So do sites that sell stuff to us. I’m not going to mention any by name. You know what they are. You probably have noticed by now that if you’re in the market for shoes and you click on a shoe, that shoe follows you around the internet all day.

Now, for the scary part. And again, you can’t blame either of the candidates or the current President – these sites are not only looking at your keywords, they are listening to them. Yes, if you say, in the privacy of your own home, “I need shoes,” and you say that in the presence of any device into which you may speak, that device is listening to you whether it is turned off or not. It does help if your computer, for instance, is on and the cover is up. But, it doesn’t need to be on. If the cover is up, someone may be watching and listening through the camera and microphone abilities of your lap-top. Or phone or TV or iPad.

I know this because after a conversation with my daughter about blenders versus food processors, a certain shopping site sent me an email offering blenders and food processors though I hadn’t clicked on anything yet. A conversation a friend and I had over lunch about Rosemary’s Baby author Ira Levin yielded an email for books by a scientist named Kendra Levin. A conversation on the phone about how the hotel did not have robes available – this on the OTHER END of the phone – led to an email for hotel spa robes.

Again, you may see Snowden for the details. In the movie, we see a Muslim woman removing her burka in what she thinks is her private bedroom. The techie says, “I always wondered what was under those.” Snowden is shocked. We also see a woman and her daughter Facetiming and discussing Botox treatments.

Snowden has said about mass surveillance that it does not stop terrorism because of the huge amount of useless information that must be sorted. He recommends more targeted surveillance, stating that our mass surveillance of American citizens did not stop the Boston Marathon bombing, for instance. “When you collect everything you understand nothing - you get drowned in so much information you can’t find what’s relevant...Targeted surveillance does not destroy the rights of everyone else in society.”

Snowden went on to say he felt optimistic about the future, “Despite the challenges and statements by President elect this is a nation that will strive to get better…this is a dark moment in our history but it’s not the end.”

Again, if Snowden can say that, I think we can listen.

One more thing: a lot of us have been pretty freaked out and disillusioned by the rash of
sexual harassment and human rights violations being committed since the election in the name of Trump. A 10-year-old girl was grabbed by a classmate who said, “If the President can do it, I can too.” An Asian woman was beaten in the street when she tried to ignore a man telling her “This is America, you should go home.” He held on to her and told her she had to listen to him. When she punched him in the throat to get away, he called the police and claimed she attacked him. She was arrested. Swastikas and white supremacists graffiti are appearing over-night. the KKK has promised a Trump victory parade. But, think about it, when have we not had racial, ethnic incidents? The KKK and white supremacists have been waiting in the wings for decades. These are being done in the name of Trump, but Trump is not the cause, he is the excuse. He has certainly fanned the flames that already burned. 

Now, consider all the race riots and killings we've had during the administration of our first African-American President.

Think about this: Journalist Kelly Oxford requested women to tweet her their first incidents of sexual harassment  - THEIR FIRST INCIDENT – and she received 30 million tweets from women. 

Trump's attitudes toward women and accusations of his sexual assaults on women have been inflammatory to the behavior of the kinds of men who want to assault women, but he is only one of the men responsible for a centuries-old climate of disrespect that caused at least 30 million assaults and counting.

My point is this – This is US – this is Obama, this is Hillary, this is Trump. Only we have the power to be better people. To withstand oppression as best we can right now. To protect others. To be healthy. To fight. 

Remember - the only reason Obama stepped in to try to stop the pipeline in the convenient eleventh hour of his term as President is because of the Water Protectors' long, enduring protest.

In Snowden’s words - and a lot of us are already doing this, but it’s good to hear someone who’s been in the trenches say it  - if you can’t organize, then support the people who do organize. Sign petitions, send money to the organizations who can carry out the work you believe in, who can take those petitions to court, who can organize marches and protests, who can research and appeal to the proper channels to get bills passed and laws changed, who can safeguard our freedoms and our future. 

Let me quote SNL’s Hillary Clinton, “I’m not giving up. And neither should you.”

Ironically, that means going against Hillary and oil/banking business as usual for me, but Hallelujah!

©PatriciaGoodwin, 2016

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation.

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