I love Mozart. I love Shakespeare. I love Michelangelo. But do arts and literature define civilization, or is it how people treat each other? I just returned from a demonstration outside the Wells Fargo building in Salt Lake City. It was in support of the protesters at Standing Rock and against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Given the potential environmental and cultural desecration the pipeline could create alone raises valid questions as to why Wells Fargo would invest millions of dollars into that project, rather than funneling it into renewable energy. But for me an even greater issue is why law enforcement has been brutalizing peaceful, mostly Native American protesters. Why they have reportedly locked people of all ages and genders into dog kennels and have stamped numbers on their arms. Why they have used Mace, Tasers, rubber bullets, and attack dogs. Why they have done all this when an occupying force of armed, right-wing militias in Oregon was treated with kid gloves and has walked away free. Could it be that in our contemporary society, might actually does make right?
Right now, not only in this country, but around the world, it seems that the barbarity with which this continent was colonized a half millennium ago casts our ability to call ourselves “civilized” into serious question. Perhaps, at Standing Rock, if we can find it within ourselves to consider and implement those values that are truly important, that truly define civilization, maybe, maybe we will begin to turn a corner.