What The DAPL Victory Means For All Of Us

What The DAPL Victory Means For All Of Us

Why their victory means more than just re-routing.

For the past few months, protesters in Standing Rock, North Dakota have contested the construction of a pipeline which would contaminate the drinking waters of the resident Native American people. These peaceful protesters have been met with forceful opposition from law enforcement in the form of tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. On Friday, it was announced that the protesters were to evacuate the area by Monday, December 5th in lieu of facing arrest. However, the protesters refused to leave, choosing instead to hold their ground.

After months of peacefully protesting at Standing Rock, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has officially been re-routed. The Stand With Standing Rock movement's seemingly endless fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline has been recognized by officials throughout the nation.

Protesting has always been a staple of American culture -- our country started as a series of protests which built up to become the first successful war for independence from colonization. The first amendment of our constitution grants us the right to assemble; this ability has been exercised many times throughout history to varying degrees of success. However, the decided impact of these demonstrations hinges on the use of peaceful protest.

Peaceful protesting and non-violent resistance is an interesting concept, to say the very least. What makes peaceful protesting difficult is when human nature gets in the way. When we get worked up about an issue that is very near and dear to our hearts, oftentimes our emotions take over for our actions. Tensions are further heightened when government-endorsed military personnel use extensive, harmful measures to combat those protesting in peace.

Let me be clear: this is not excusing violent behavior, but providing an explanation as to why something peaceful can come to be the opposite. Along with that, it is not an attack on law enforcement or the police force, but a commentary on how things have been handled.

There have been examples of protests that started out as peaceful and were then lead to violence because of the presence of military force. And, along with that, there are protests that were not always peaceful that were also met with military force. We can look at the Kent State protests against the Vietnam War, which included mild violence from the protesters, but was met with the infamous shooting of students by the Ohio National Guard and other forces.

Another example includes the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, which was an assembly of peaceful protesters who sought to disrupt the World Trade Organization Ministerial Coreference. It eventually spiraled into protesters smashing windows and blocking intersections but was met with tear gas, pepper spray, and other forces from the National Guard, and the Seattle police.

Some of the most powerful examples of peaceful protests in the past century have been immortalized in photographs. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, headed by Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama from 1955-56. The 1963 March on Washington lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When, in 1967, a group of hippies and anti-Vietnam War activists facing the National Gaurd with flowers, not guns.1968 Olympic gold and bronze medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos respectively, holding their fists in the air as a silent, peaceful statement for the ongoing oppression of African Americans in America.

To look to more modern day examples, we don't have to look far. The summer of 2014 started one of the most powerful movements in recent American history:the Black Lives Matter movement. Regardless of your opinion on those who stand for BLM, it cannot be denied that they have become one of the most prominent groups in modern day society. They started coming together with the murder of Eric Garner in Staten Island, who was put in a chokehold by police for selling untaxed cigarettes. This death was the first of many that summer: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which lead to weeks of protesting; Walter Scott in South Carolina, and Freddie Grey in Baltimore.

The above cases fuel the fire of BLM because they are three black men who were met with fatal force from police officers. While the innocence of the men in question is debatable, the fact that they were murdered by police officers is infuriating, to say the very least. The BLM movement induces a confusing dichotomy -- people are mad at the police for acting against these men with brutal force, and on the surface, it seems as if these people are protesting against the police force as a whole. As if they detest them, and show them no respect. However, this is not the case. These people are looking for justice and fair treatment from a system which has systematically been against them for generations.

And more recently, upon the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, students and other groups throughout America have been coming together to make their opinions known about Donald Trump, the president-elect, and his platform. These anti-Trump protests have died down since the week after the election, but their importance remains: the people are once again unhappy, therefore they are exercising their right to assemble and make their voices heard.

The importance of the victory at Standing Rock is one for the American people: those who are struggling to be heard in a nation that doesn't want to hear them. Those who are fighting for equal rights which are currently being denied. Those who are wronged by systematic injustice which has been in place for generations.

In spite of any flack they may receive from various sources, peaceful protesting works. Especially in the face of violence and disdain. Congratulations, those who fought against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Your victory is an important stone in the pathway to justice.

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Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Yet another school shooting in America, still nothing done. We are dying.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018: We are all heartbroken to hear about another school shooting.

At Great Mills High School in Maryland, a 17-year-old male is pronounced dead at the scene after shooting two other students and a school resource officer. Just before their first period started, at 7:55 am, Austin Rollins shot one male and one female student with a handgun before being shot by the school's resource officer. While the 16-year-old female is in critical condition, the 14-year-old male is currently stable. This is the 17th school shooting in 2018. That's 17 days out of the past 80 that parents have gone to bed with their children in body bags as a result of gun violence.

I don't care what political party you associate with, gun violence is completely out of control. I am a registered Republican and completely agree with stricter gun laws. Learn the difference between a gun ban and sales control. Concerned citizens are not trying to take away your guns, but are trying to take away the rights from those that are risks.

Could you imagine legally having to send your child to school but never coming back? You've packed their lunch, maybe with a special note, and gave them a kiss before they left for school, not knowing that it was their last. No matter where we go, we are not safe. We can't go to malls, movie theaters, schools, or even churches without having to worry if it will be our last trip. Our homes, our places of worship, and our schools are supposed to be the places where we feel safest and, instead, our children are filled with fear. Instead of focusing on the political views that divide these groups, why don't we focus on what unites us? Why don't we focus on protecting our kin?

Everyone has had an opinion on the walkouts that have been happening around the country. Everyone has had an opinion on the 17 minutes of silence for the 17 children lost in the Florida shooting. I've seen people disgusted that Nickelodeon had 17 minutes of broadcast cut because it "interrupted the only program [I] let [my] children watch".

If your child was shot at school, you wouldn't have to worry about what programs they watch, but rather where to bury them and how to afford their memorial.

I've seen people saying that it's no wonder that Millenials are dumb. They "find any excuse to cut class". Have you thought about the fact that they are genuinely worried about going to school?

Personally, I've experienced both a shooting scare at my high school and a bomb threat at my college. I shouldn't have to worry about my life ending. I'm legally forced to go to high school and get an education or I'm putting myself into a lifetime of debt to get a degree.

We are all too young to stress about gun violence. Our school years are supposed to be the times our of lives, but they're being wasted on worrying about dying every day.

Rest in peace to all of those who have lost their lives in shootings, not only this year, but always. Hopes, thoughts, and prayers go out to their loved ones. One day, we will unite and find a solution.

We need to work together and forget the labels of parties and cliques in school and look out for one another instead. There is no kind but mankind.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Herald

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The Republican Versus Democrat Stigma Needs To Slow Down

We Need To Be Individual Again

We as a society have developed an unnecessary need to place people in a specific party based on what could be a single value out of many. This is a letter for those who do not define themselves as one or the other; for those whose values range between conservative and liberal, for those who feel the unfortunate pressure of society to choose one even though your values do not fit just one.

The political parties at one point generally just meant “these are my basic beliefs, so this is the candidate I will vote for because they most closely represent them.” Party affiliation was harmless. Republicans and Democrats could get along fine, differing opinions not getting in the way of relationships and alignment. More importantly, you did not have to be part of a specific political party to be an active member of society. Your opinions and principles were yours.

Over the years following the last two election races, political parties gained a much more significant and defining meaning in our lives as individuals and as members of society. There is a newly developed stigma behind political opinions. You are almost pressured to feel one way or another about every single topic. If a majority of your values are of the conservative agenda, you must be a heart-and-all Republican. In contrast, if you are more liberal-leaning you are docked as a set Democrat. We as citizens are being labeled according to what may be a few hard-values. And dishearteningly enough, can be ridiculed for what we value. Even if you might not value everything the same as your determined party.

There exists those of us that hold values from both parties. It is possible to value women’s rights and also value a traditional marriage. It is possible to be a gun owner and also active in keeping children safe in school. You do not have to just submit to every belief of one party. You can value aspects of different parties and still be a functioning member of the American society. Do not let the looming obligation to declare yourself as strictly one or the other. You do not have to pretend you agree with everything Democratic or everything Republican; you can have your own values. And you should. Our society is messed up in the way that values are pushed on citizens. We are meant to be free individuals with our private values.

It is not fair to those of us who value different things. Not every American is a to-the-bone Democrat or Republican. It is possible to hold liberal beliefs as a conservative person. And Vice-Versa. We need to stop labeling one another as one or the other, conservative or liberal. We need to stop silencing each other because we have differing views. We need to accept not everyone is perfectly one party, and diversity exists. Open mindedness exists in Americans, despite the seemingly growing generalizations. We need to be able to agree to disagree on certain topics.
Cover Image Credit: LexiHanna

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