Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pipeline Gig...and My Take on Bullies

Singing in the cold with my friend Dan Ward on flute.
I will expound below in this post to express my thoughts on this whole pipeline business (independent of how Trump is or Obama was handling - or mishandling - the situation).

For now, just wanted to express how wonderful it is to see so many young people being smart, articulate, and active. Psera & Landra organized this in days, and I was honored they asked me to play. So I called my buddy Dan Ward and we did a few songs: the old folk song "Wayfaring Stranger", the Peter Gabriel song "Biko", and what started as an instrumental version of "Amazing Grace" but ended up having the 400+ people (who were out in the dark and freezing weather) singing their hearts out.

Michael Johnathon (founder/host of the PBS show Woodsongs) also played, as did Fred Keams. Many fantastic speakers included Black Bear, Rachel Thunder, Landra Lewis, Psera Newman, and others. And it was all just fabulous.

I hope you had similar experiences and gatherings in your neck of the woods.

Aside: All photos care of Jon Ricker of Lexington, KY.

And here's a local news story: Herald-Leader


Now for my politics.

Except, perhaps oddly, it has little to do with politics.

That is, I do not know this issue in any depth. Only depth enough to know there aren't only 2 solutions (pipeline or nothing). More on that in a minute.
Michael Johnathon and Fred Keams

Others can discuss the merits of environmental impact or attack dogs and water canons or who actually owns the oil and who is buying it, economic impact & job creation & domestic gas prices, or why Obama ignored it or what Trump means by " be negotiated...", or whether or not the pipeline actually is ON reservation land or not, or what the hell an easement actually IS, or frakking & oil-sands, or further down the line, whether there even should be "Indian reservations"....and many have discussed all this and more.

That's not why I'm writing and its not what I intend to discuss here.

"So what the hell else is there to discuss, then?"

I don't like bullies.

I don't like bullies and I don't like bullying.

I sure as hell don't like it when that bully is a government or a large organization of any kind that is picking on someone smaller, less organized, less funded, and less able to fight due to the rules being stacked against them.

Democrat or republican, socialist or libertarian, green or downright anarchist, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. In this country, at this time, there are laws on the books (we can discuss their validity at another time), and it is NEVER the government's position EVER to engage in Civil Disobedience to effect change. They have bully pulpits and legislative bodies and checks-n-balances for that.

Fact is, if someone has land and you - as an individual or as a business or as a government - want it, you ask for it. If what you intend to do with that land has potential consequence outside the borders of the land you want, that risk must be assessed and permission granted by all parties involved.

You want the pipeline, you ASK the people of Standing Rock for it. And the others in the pipeline's path.

The crowd builds in Lex....
You offer to buy the land (if needed) and you get an independent assessment of the impact of your pipeline (both environmental and cultural), as it will impact well beyond the borders of the land you buy.

If they say no, you either live with it and come up with another plan for distributing the oil in question....OR you take it to court as an Eminent Domain matter.

What you DON'T do is try to run over them, ignore the law, arrest peaceful protesters with militarized police, force people out of their homes, and try to stifle media attention on it all. And yet, that's what both Obama's government was doing (until the story finally gained traction) and appears to be what Trump's government is about to do.

That, more than any other reason, is why I support the people of Standing Rock, why I support their supporters, and why (independent of any individual or movement) I am against the current actions of those who support the Dakota Access Pipeline (aka: DAPL). I equally support others in the same situation over this pipeline (like the Iowa Farmers, who sued and lost an eminent domain battle, and others suffering the government's blatant property rights violations).

To be sure, I also stand by them for many other of the reasons listed above. But I wanted to be very clear as to my prime motivation.

Why? Because I've been asked.

Not sure why anybody would bother to ask me. I'm just a guitar player. But they did, and so there is my answer.

Soooo...with regard to "accept 'no' or exercise eminent domain" - the latter is NOT something I support (just as I didn't support the Kelo decision). Why? Because I believe in private contacts (whether those are related to peoples houses, farms, or a treaty made years ago). I believe in holding people and organizations and, yes, governments to their word. I believe in property rights. I believe in real and meaningful stewardship, environmental and economic.

So what to do if the answer is no?

I alluded to this above when I said "...I do not know this issue in any depth. Only depth enough to know there aren't only 2 solutions (pipeline or nothing)....".

400+ people in our little town in freezing temps as darkness falls.
I heard a beautiful speech last night by Dan Ward (the same man who played with me on stage). In addition to many wonderful things, he said - and I'm not quoting, just going by memory - "There are never only 2 solutions. So write your ideas down. Be thoughtful and be respectful. For example, maybe, instead of a pipeline, they could build a series of small refineries, employing people in all those communities. Maybe they could simply build one refinery at the Bakken Oil Field in ND (from where the pipeline runs). See, I don't know. I'm not an oil man. But if I can come up with those, others can come up with better plans. And then maybe we don't need a pipeline at all."

Pipelines (over or under the water & land), trains, refineries....I don't have any easy answers either. But I'm with Dan on this one. If the government (and supporters of a pipeline) stop treating this as a winner-take-all scenario, and instead reach out to everyone for options, my bet is that some middle school kid comes up with a master plan that none of us would ever have thought of. And certainly no politician would have thought of.

Just like 15 year old Ari Dyckovsky (quantum entanglement) and 9 year old Katie Stagliano (tackling hunger in 27 states) and  Kiran Sridhar (see his project WasteNoFood) and the 3 Irish teens who took top honors at the Google Science Fair in 2014 (world hunger) and Alexis Lewis, the 15-year-old inventor (transportation) and just look at the 10 finalists in the Technovation 2014 competition, where these young ladies solved problems ranging from safe drinking water to sanitation to buying local to protecting the Anazon to public safety.

So....let's stop the false dichotomy and let's stop the bullying and let's stop the misinformation. Instead, let's put the problem on the table and let greater minds find options.

But to do that, we need all of us to hold our governments to a higher standard of behavior. Every single one of them. And we need to start now.

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