EDITORIAL: On the fringe
By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
I know you’re out there
you’re in hiding
and you hold your meetings
I can hear you comin’
I know what you’re after
We’re wise to you this time
We won’t let you kill the laughter
In the twilight’s last gleaming
This is open season
But you won’t get too far
Cause you gotta blame someone
For your own confusion
We’re on guard this time
Against your final solution
We can hear you comin’
No, you’re not gonna win this time
We can hear the footsteps
Way out along the walkway
We all know you’re out there
Can you feel the resistance
Can you feel the thunder”
Tommy Cochrane wrote and his band, Red Rider, performed “Lunatic Fringe” in the early 1970’s. Cochrane wrote the song because of his concern over the rise of anti-Semitism in that period of time. His lyrics echo today’s concerns over racial and social divisions. As in the 1970’s, we are seeing the signs of hostility, prejudice, and discrimination that Tommy saw, but it is a much more expansive society of hate.
We now have an official declaration by U.S. President Trump that he will facilitate the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tribal leaders and activists announced that they were not surprised by the proclamation of the president. His stance on the issue was communicated during his campaign and this is follow through on promises made during the election.
Activists have promised escalation in activities related to protesting the pipeline. There has already been violence with regard to situation at the construction site with natives being injured in the process. Regardless of your stance on the pipeline, there no questioning that there is much at stake and potentially lives on the line. Tribal leadership has asked activists to dissolve the encampment and carry the fight on through the courts and play it out in the media, probably in fear that this situation could escalate into violence and lead to injuries and death on both sides of the argument. Also in the mix are non-Indian activists whose agenda may not be entirely in line with the Native American agenda with regard to the pipeline. Activists whose actions we cannot control, but may be seen as our people being accomplices to. All it will take is people with the wrong ethics on either side of the line to catalyze a very tragic outcome.
As we have seen in international, national and tribal government, the wheels of justice turn slowly. Sometimes those wheels turn so slowly that they do not look like they are moving. And, we are a society that wants things to happen now or actually ten minutes ago. We don’t like to be kept waiting. Court decisions and cases seem and do drag on for years. Government officials so caught up in red tape and discussion of issues that they don’t seem to resolve any. I heard one government official, frustrated with the process say, “we talk and study an issue to death and yet nothing ever happens”. Populations, communities, and individuals are frustrated as they see their standards of living in jeopardy, changes in their work environment causing the perception of instability and uncertainty, and injustices being perpetrated and unpunished.
Races and factions are more divided and living in silos than any time in recent history. Instead of celebrating diversity, we use it to highlight why we should hate each other more. Because of our passion to win, we only see our side of an argument, eliminating or ignoring any common ground that might exist. From the outside, it looks like we are on a course of completely isolating or destroying ourselves. In fact, the Doomsday Clock (maintained by the members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board since 1947), a symbolic clock representing a countdown to possible global catastrophee, was just moved to two and a half minutes to midnight; the closest it has been to the midnight of our destruction since 1953. We are so divided as communities and nations that, as crazy as it sounds, we may be on the brink of major disaster or total annulation. Indeed, we may be on the lunatic fringe.
I know. Sounds pretty dramatic. But, we are living in pretty dramatic times. And, whether you are looking at our own tribal government, Indian Country, the U.S., or the world, you can find elements of the problem all around.
What do we do to stop this? Is it possible to turn things around and start finding more common ground than what divides us? Each of us is in need of a heart check, a gut check. We don’t walk a mile in the other person’s shoes anymore. We don’t care about others equally or even above ourselves like we used to. The common good is no longer good enough, it is all about winning and getting it all for my side. Hearts and minds have to change if we are going to survive as a tribe and a nation. The good of community must be more important than the good of self. A good friend and colleague of mine has a habit of borrowing a quote from U.S. President John F. Kennedy during his marketing presentations. He says, “A rising tide raises all boats”. The meaning behind the quote is that if we will focus on the things that lift us all up and strive to achieve that, we won’t have to worry about our personal success. It will come as a result of all of us winning.
So, we must choose. Do we want to stop focusing on the things that divide and embrace the things that unite us, or do we want that clock to keep on ticking down to midnight?