*Eleditor’s note: Elephant is a diverse community of nine million readers and hundreds of writers (you can write too!). We are reader-created. Many blogs here are experience, opinion, and not fact or The One Right Point of View. We welcome all points of view, especially when offered with more sources and less invective, more frankness and less PR. Dislike this Op-Ed or opinion? Share your own take here.
Dear Mr. President,
Eight years ago, with great enthusiasm, we anticipated the arrival of our first African American President. The majority believed, as a younger man and a minority, we had chosen the best candidate to represent all of our diverse citizens. Promises were made to protect our environment, ensure equality for all citizens and to unite this country. Those promises have fallen way short of expectation.
As the leader of our country, you must be color blind. It is your duty to serve and protect all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity. Your battle cries of equality are loud, but lack committed action.
The dismissive attitude and lack of concern that you have displayed on behalf of the Native people who have experienced horrific civil right violations is astonishing. This has occurred under your watch. Your silence is sanctioning these actions.
What did you feel when you watched the footage of non-violent American citizens being shot with rubber bullets, bitten by attack dogs, squirted with pepper spray, beaten with clubs and sprayed with cold water in freezing temperatures as they stood in deep ceremonial prayer to protect the water for all of us?
Why did you remain silent knowing these people were arrested, strip searched, humiliated, and kept in dog cages all for daring to exercise their first amendment right?
The silence from the Oval Office is deafening. You should have been the first to stand up to protect their first amendment rights and civil liberties. Instead, an approach of “wait and see” was embraced. While you sat waiting, many veterans, who have already given so much, left their families for the unthinkable—deployment to protect their own citizens.
Meanwhile, you, the Commander in Chief, snuggled up in the warm safety of your relationship with the oil companies. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.” When your ultimate test came, you didn’t stand at all. You quietly took a seat. That will be the blaring legacy of your presidency.
Finally, on December 4th, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a long over due statement: “The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.”
We hope that the commitments made by you to the Native Americans will be honored, but hoping is not enough. I am not the first to demand your involvement in this issue. The Native Americans have been screaming for your assistance for months, Bernie Sanders has repeatedly demanded you take action, and the list gets longer every day. American citizens must band together to protect one another from injustice, violence, civil rights violations, and demand that our elected officials protect the civil liberties of all citizens regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
We have gotten a glimpse of what the Trump years will bring, and it isn’t a pretty picture for the environment or human rights. There is still time for you to do the right thing. Permanently, not just temporarily, halt the Dakota Access Pipeline on tribal lands.
We can not drink oil. We must unite together and send a loud message that we, the American citizens, will not tolerate the abuse of our people or the violations of our civil liberties. We can not allow the oil companies or banks to control our government.
It is imperative that we also get involved in our local communities. Contaminated water, oil spills, and environmental disasters are not an isolated problem. They are occurring on a daily basis in many states. How do we “Make America Great Again?” We stand up, together, united as we demand our government be the voice of the people, not the oil companies, banks, and corporations. This is our country. This land is the future of our people, our children, and grandchildren. The time has come to stand up and protect our liberties and natural resources.
Mni Wiconi—Water is Life.
Author: Melissa Codispoti
Editor: Travis May