Standing

I have a t-shirt to sell. It says, “I watched fifty people get arrested on the #noDAPL livestream.” On the back it says, “Even the press.”

They’re arresting the press right now, at this very moment.

This is America, Shailene Woodley. It was so cool to hang out in North Dakota, right? Like Occupy and Woodstock all rolled into one. One day she had warpaint on. You could tell from the color she’d improvised it from her makeup kit. Conflict attracts narcissists like flies to shit, but after they’ve laid their eggs and the hot stink grows clammy, they buzz along to fresher dung.

It’s still happening. They snatched a praying man. They’re rushing the press down the road, picking off journalists one by one. I don’t know what happened to the water protectors. Three hours ago, about 150 of them walked out singing, and there were maybe thirty or forty left at the edge of the encampment when the police rushed in. I’m sure they’re all shackled now and on their way to a dog kennel.

This is America, Dr. Jill Ellen Stein. Where are you now that there’s no election to run? Vandalize a bulldozer today. Hop on a plane. There aren’t enough cameras here for Jill. Not ones that count, anyhow, and the cow pies are stale. Maybe she’s too busy building a grassroots Green Party movement. Guffaw.

I hate to use the word noble. It’s been misused in these affairs, but I don’t know what else to call activists who are willing to sit in the mud and pray while militarized police violently snatch them away. I’m not sure what else to call livestreamers, none from major media outlets as far as I can tell, who are willing to stand in the ice and muck and pump out grainy videos on social media while risking their lives and equipment.

They’re running past parked vehicles now. A few more people went down. Someone just shouted, “They’re deploying less-lethals.” The remaining journalists are entering their cars. A commentator just mentioned that he already has metal pins in his hand from a previous run-in with crowd-control weapons.

I want to identify with this. I absolutely lust for it. I’d like to think if someone wanted to push a pipeline through my neighborhood, or my farmland, I’d be willing to risk my freedom and the teeth in my head. I’d like to imagine I’d be steadfast and stalwart, standing in defiance, but that’s another white man fantasy. In my mind’s eye, I see a rifle in my hand, but we all know I’d probably just call a congressman (they’re all men around here), make a social media post, and end up taking a payment and crying in my Cheerios. I can’t possibly know the rage of hundreds of years of oppression, and I’m so used to getting my way that I immediately daydream about violence when the water protectors are sitting and praying. They are sitting in the cold mud, patiently waiting for the brutalization that’s about to unfold. I don’t have the strength.

The cops have moved forward a couple more times, picking off press and protectors a few at a time, a common tactic design to prevent mass melees. Divide and conquer is the plan, and it’s working. The stream I’ve been tuned in to is amazingly still broadcasting. It’s Revolutionary_Z, Jon Ziegler. I click on CNN. Seven extrasolar planets found. I click on U.S. News. Raped in America’s nursing homes.

Oh. There it is. Right under the manatee.

We have failed Standing Rock. It wasn’t short and sweet enough for the American Attention Span. Where are those thousands of Veterans? I don’t even see RT. One of the streamers just said the cops broke a man’s hip as they wrestled on the ground. The police line has pulled back a bit. The next rush will bring the citizen observers close to their vehicles. I’m not sure if they’ll flee at that point, or if the cops will even allow it.

A plane buzzes overhead. The press discuss past events during the lull. Jon is telling the story of the time his finger got blown off by a rubber bullet. He’s cutting the feed to charge up his gear and start his car. It is all but finished. At least a couple dozen people will sleep in jail tonight, if they’re lucky enough to avoid the dog cages.

The bulldozers will move in at 9 am tomorrow. It is finished. Instead of risking a mass confrontation that would have resulted in death and destruction, the water protectors have gone home to fight another day.

If you purchased one of Shailene’s cool t-shirts, don’t feel too bad. Many a kindhearted folk have been pulled in by the like, whether it be Komen or some other such huckster. It feels good to throw money at a thing, and it’s easy if you have it to spare. Ask any political organizer how difficult it is to get feet on pavement and hearts and minds into voting booths.

Be wary next time you care about something and a grinning attention seeker comes waving, dragging their fame and entourage with them. Unless it’s Sean Penn with a shotgun and a rowboat, you’re probably going to end up in a worse place than where you started. Just don’t marry him, for god’s sake.

The government’s feelers for what will pass muster with the common folk have extended. Those tentacles are probing you this very moment, and like the wave of cops rushing forth, drowning brave Americans in a blackened sea, and receding like the tide, it will pick the citizenry apart at the edges until we’re too tattered to stand against them. This is the challenge here, at the end of History, as America buckles under its own weight. Our immune system acts in outcry, the virus adapts, and soon Trump’s pen strokes an order, dissimilar enough from the last to stop people from filling the streets. There it is, the sweet spot of what we’ll tolerate.

“Eureka! I’ve found it,” they’ll say. “The limits of what they will endure.”

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