Sitting in my snug house, my thoughts turn constantly to the thousands of people camping at the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock, now under its first coating of winter snow.
I am not sure how to think about the 2,000 veterans who are arriving there this weekend with the intention of shielding the civilian water protectors from the brutal attacks of police.
Although they come unarmed, in peace, it still seems like their presence may up the ante and draw even more violence from so-called “law enforcement.”
Violence is part of the mechanics of justice. Has there ever been a peaceful revolution? Power is never conceded without a demand, and rarely conceded without a breakdown of communication, a descent into the ancient human inclination to settle scores with our fists.
With the camp under an eviction order set for midnight Sunday, and the people there defiantly vowing to stay and resist, to hold their ground to protect the land and the water, it’s hard to know what to expect. Anything could happen. There is a lot of pressure being placed on President Obama to intervene, and he still might. Hope springs eternal.
What I know is that the Standing Rock confrontation is the strongest volley yet in the ongoing struggles to resist the might of the fossil fuel lords.
Minutes later, these unarmed people, praying in and for the water, would be hit with mace by the police.
In Pennsylvania, when the frackers came and began leasing up the forests over the Marcellus Shale, the people there took it as an unexpected bonanza, and began signing eagerly on the dotted line. They couldn’t imagine what would happen next: the logging, the industrial-scale pumping stations, the noise, the tanker trucks, the poisoning of the surface and ground water with toxic chemicals.
Same thing in Oklahoma, where the people who sold their land rights could never have imagined that the fracking would start setting off earthquakes.
Ordinary people took the bait of short-term gains, accepting the fool’s gold of the frackers and drillers. In the Bakken oilfields of the Dakotas, as in the Alberta tar sands, it’s the same story.
But ordinary people are perhaps not quite as stupid as the fossil fuel magnates seem to think.
It may take time, but we do wake up. We are coming to appreciate the inestimable value of clean water, clean air, healthy ecosystems and a stable climate.
Back in the 1990s–when Julia Butterfly Hill sat in Luna, the 1500-year-old redwood tree, to protect her from logging, and Rachel Corrie stood up to the bulldozers in Palestine and paid for her bravery with her life—news of their protests spread mostly through word of mouth. The mainstream media didn’t cover Rachel’s commitment to her cause until she was dead.
But now in the 21st century, we are all connected. I can bring the snowy camp at Standing Rock into bed with me on my smartphone. I can watch the police beating up elders and kids. I can see the exquisite dignity of the water protectors praying at the river bank. I can be with them, virtually, excruciatingly, in real time.
And that makes all the difference.
The days when corporate bosses and their hired goons could ride roughshod over protesters without anyone even knowing—those days are gone. We are all citizen journalists now, and each generation of digital natives is savvier than the last about how to use the communication tools available to us to spread the word and stiffen the spines of the larger circles of resisters and witnesses.
I fear another Wounded Knee could be in the making at Standing Rock. The police are trying to needle the water protectors into “riot” so that it will look justified when they call out the big guns to “keep the peace.” Will “law enforcement” actually take the risk of escalating from rubber bullets to real bullets?
Water protectors being hit with water cannons in 28-degree (F) temperatures last month.
So far it’s been so inspiring to watch the Native leaders steadfastly resisting those incitements, standing firm in their commitment to a movement grounded in non-violent prayer.
This Sunday, December 4, 2016, we have all been called to pray with and for Standing Rock, and for the entire Earth—to pray that we human beings will come to our senses and stop destroying our home and each other.
Although I was not raised to pray in a formal way, I find myself increasingly drawn to a kind of prayer that borders on channeling: a deep meditation in which I ground my feet in the roots of a tree or a mountain, open up my heart to the high vibrations of the air, and let the streaming energy of the sun and the stars pour down through my head into the rich loam at my feet.
When I shared this practice with my Facebook tribe recently, others chimed in, saying they too had felt a similar call. I found it spelled out again by Sharon McErlane, who channels the “grandmothers of the light.”
We are being called to stand up for the light now, even as the darkness deepens around us, literally and figuratively.
We don’t need the Internet to connect our hearts and minds through the energy flowing down to us from the cosmos. We can do as the trees do, and turn that radiant energy to sweet nourishment.
Like every living thing on this planet, we were born to grow and to flourish. Human beings have been fulfilling that original mission all too well lately.
We need to learn to grow wisely now, in harmony with each other and with the vast pulse of life on the planet.
The protectors of Standing Rock are like the immune system of human civilization, come to fight off the aggressive cancer of short-term corporate profiteers. Let us join together to strengthen that immune system through our love and concern, our prayers and our actions.
I end with words from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee that I return to over and over for guidance in these dark times:
….The ancient energies of the Earth are still alive and we do not begin to understand how they are responding both to the energy of change and our collective resistance. But rather than attempting any prophecy I would continue to be aware of what each moment is telling us, watching the signs in the inner and outer worlds just as a sailor would read the winds and tides.
And from within this darkening there arises a cry that we hold the light that is left, the light that is within our self and within the spiritual body of the world. So much as been lost, so much has been desecrated by our endless desires, but those of us who are aware of the sacred need to hold what is left, hold it in our hearts and real awareness. The light of the sacred needs our care and protection. Maybe at some time it will give birth to the child with stars in its eyes, to the future whose seeds are still all around us. Without our relationship to this light nothing can be born, and the darkness will devour any real hope. Those of us who are aware of what we were given, of the oneness that was awakening, are needed to hold true to life’s deeper purpose, the unfolding of the soul of the world. We need to stay attuned to the heart of the world and life’s essential message of love, however the drama in the outer world unfolds.
–from Darkening of the Light (Golden Sufi Center, 2013)
Nova Scotia, Winter 2015