When Integrity Meets Money

North Dakota is usually a pretty quiet place.

We don’t have much crime, and whatever does happen goes unreported by our local media. Kids can ride their bikes until sundown during the summer. People walk their dogs at night with no thought of being mugged or kidnapped. No worries about gunshots being fired at night. Yes, it’s a quiet place. So much so that we’ve become accustomed to living in our own peaceful bubble. Living in this bubble can make one extremely naive at times. Terribly naive.

Enter the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The pipeline that is under construction near Cannonball, N.D. has made national headlines. What started as a modest protest by the Standing Rock Sioux back in April has almost reached full-scale riot. Tensions came to a head today when protestors and law enforcement clashed at the obstruction on Highway 1806. Sound cannons were fired. Rubber bullets invaded the air space (one person was allegedly struck). Helicopters were flown. Tires were burned. A protestor was shot in the hand. People were armed with guns.

Today was nothing short of wild in North Dakota.

I really don’t know how to feel about the entire situation. Through all of what has gone on and what I’ve read/heard, I’m torn. I’m completely split, and here’s why.

I’m not in agreement with those who are rioting. I never condone violence. Not only are you breaking the law (and the police will react to this), but rioters are overshadowing the cause. Rioting means the level of anger has moved past the point of coherent discussion. Why would the police stop and talk to you in a heightened state? Force will be used. Remember, they want to go home. They have families. They want to see their kids grow up. Their lives are just as important.

Then, we have the ranchers and farmers. Reports suggest cattle have been found dead, hay bales have been moved, and land has been destroyed. Stop and think for a second. That’s their livelihood. Most of these farms have been family oriented for generations. Farming is how they pay the bills, and right now some are losing substantial amounts of money.

On the flip side….

The Standing Rock Sioux have an extremely valid point. One leak and their portion of the Missouri River is compromised. That is a real issue. Think about it like this. America still has legalized segregation in the form of reservations. If you’ve  ever been to “The Rez”, then you’ll know living  conditions aren’t the greatest. Government has already shown  they do not care about this particular group. Now they want to compromise the major source of water, too? That’s why there’s a problem.

On top of that, I see an eerie pattern of thought process creeping up.

Whenever an unarmed black man is shot it’s justified by the same people. That mindset runs rampant in North Dakota. These are the people that say “Well he’d be alive if he (insert here).” These people are so greatly concerned about Chicago’s gun violence problem, but are nowhere to be seen when discussing solutions.

This grates my nerves 

These same folks are applying “there are bigger issues” to this problem. Drugs, domestic violence, and alcohol abuse are huge problems on the reservation. Make no mistake about it. However, that does not encompass all of the people. Yet, I hear, “They’re drunks that don’t do anything all day. They sit there and collect  a check!” This is from fellow North Dakotans might I add. An overwhelming amount of North Dakotans either say this or have thought it. Conveniently, these “bigger issues” folks don’t have to worry about a leakage because they don’t live near Cannonball. They aren’t trying to help reservation problems.

This is why I’m torn. My bleeding heart rides with Standing Rock because I understand what it’s  like to be marginalized as a black man. At the same time, I don’t see anything illegal going on with the company. But these points really aren’t the issue.

The issue is integrity.

Let’s get one thing straight: That pipeline is going to be built. No question. Why? It stands to make too much money, and people are greedy. America is all about the dollar. Especially big oil companies. You may ask where is the integrity, but company integrity and actual integrity differs. The company will always be about the company. Yes, they will follow (maybe bend) regulations, but the end game of this pipeline is money. Everything else is a side issue including this water fiasco.

For every day of halted construction, copious amounts of money is lost. And that’s what matters. 

When integrity meets money, some people lose their integrity. The bystanders watch the issue and their integrity is challenged as well. You see the true colors of people when money is involved. Things are tense because this is a battle of money vs life.

In America, money means life. Not your integrity.

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