Saturday, November 26, 2016

Standing Rock: The Ghost of Tatanka

Standing Rock: The Ghost of Tatanka

Not surprisingly, District Commander John W. Henderson of the U. S.  Army Corp of Engineers announced yesterday the transplanting of protestors from their present location in the Dakota Pipeline standoff to another site “for their own safety” by December 5th.

"I am closing the portion of the Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River to all public use and access effective December 5, 2016.

"This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions."

Those remaining will be charged with trespassing and possibly prosecuted.

As you may already know, December 15th will be the anniversary of the assassination of Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock reservation just over 125 years ago.  Having refused to bring his followers into the designated Sioux reservation, the holy man and leader fought and destroyed General Custer’s  U.S. 7th Cavalry along the hills of the Little Bighorn in 1875. 

By 1883 he was forced into entering the reservation for his people’s safety and his own well-being. 

By that time, Standing Rock and other sites were greatly influenced by the spread of a spiritual movement  - a “round” or Ghost dance created by exasperated Native Americans which prophesied a hopeful return to a peaceful life without further white expansion.

Concerned for his still puissant influences, Indian Agent John McLaughlin had Sitting Bull arrested early on the morning of December 15, 1890; however, someone in the group of arresting agents or chief’s companions fired a shot.  In the altercation, Sitting Bull fell with gunshots to the head and chest.  The great Sioux leader Tatanka Iyotake was dead.

District Commander John W. Henderson has decided to select a new and more safe “free-speech” zone for the protestors whose numbers on NPR radio have been reported fluctuating between 3000 – 5000 people despite inclement weather.  The protestors and the Sioux at Standing Rock have maintained their vigil in protest against the disturbance of sacred lands and also the threat to the drinking water of the tribes and the thousands of peoples downstream if the Missouri is polluted by a pipeline malfunction.

There have been several calls over the years to create a holiday on December 15th in honor of not only Sitting Bull but also the great injustices forced upon Native Americans in the expansion of the United States westward.  The New York Times posited the question in 1990 for the 100th anniversary of Tatanks’s murder, and Facebook petitions are still active throughout the internet. 

In response to Henderson’s warning, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's chairman, Dave Archambault II responded:

"It is both unfortunate and ironic that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving – a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe. Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the treatment of our people. We have suffered much, but we still have hope that the President will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children."

President Obama had earlier forced a temporary halt to the development of the pipeline until all other avenues could be entertained.  While the President alluded to the possibility of an alternate route in early November, these latest warnings by District Commander Henderson point to something else altogether.

The sculpted image of the Sitting Bull Memorial overlooks the Missouri at Standing Rock near Mobridge.   According to the Mobridge Area Chamber,  “The tragedy of Sitting Bull’s) death has been compounded by the story of his remains. In 1953, one of Sitting Bull's descendants by marriage, Clarence Grey Eagle (the son of one of the Indian police who arrested Sitting Bull), and a group of businessmen from Mobridge obtained an opinion from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the descendants of Sitting Bull should determine his final burial site. On April 8 of that year, the group used the BIA letter as justification the clandestine relocation of the great chief's remains to a site in the southern portion of the Standing Rock Reservation that overlooks the Missouri River near Mobridge."

After the President's call for the cessation of pipeline development, President Obama had alluded to the possibility of an alternate route in early November.  He had indicated that the Corp of Army Engineers were considering other sites.  However, these latest warnings by District Commander Henderson point to something else altogether.

If you are planning to attend the demonstration - especially as we move into December - you are advised to bring an excellent tent, a very suitable sleeping bag, and your own food/cooking supplies.  If you'd like to get involved?

Donations can be made directly to the tribe and the ongoing protest at
 All donations will be used for legal, sanitary, and emergency purposes.

A short video is also available at Indian Country Media Network regarding the months-long battle.

If you call the Whitehouse at 202-456-1111 to urge President Obama to maintain the halt to shale oil transfer across sacred land and water resources, you may find the number unavailable or closed.

If so - you may email the President at the following site:
Write or Call the White House |

My personal letter follows.

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for taking a  moment in your busy schedule to attend to my request.

Mr. President, I would ask you to do something that has not been done for over 200 years in America: protect our indigenous peoples from the encroachment and destruction of their sacred lands and rights by those vocalizing progress as an excuse for taking and desecrating.  The Energy Partnerships in Dakota are preparing for what may become a violent showdown between people and supporters and armed security units who have already used water-cannons and possibly chemicals from crop dusting planes.  As you may already know, the legendary leader and spiritual ancestor of the Sioux and other tribes, Sitting Bull, was assassinated at Standing Rock in 1890 after an Indian Agent ordered his arrest.  

Is it possible that in the name of this great Native American leader who died on September 15th, you can find an opportunity to prevent bloodshed at the very least?  Or to find an alternate route away from sacred land and water at the most? 

These are a people who have suffered the Trail of Tears, the loss of the Black Hills, the unspeakable incidents like Wounded Knee.  To do little or nothing is not an option for me; thus, my letter.

I wish you well and urge you to please take action.

As a sincere and concerned citizen of the United States,

John Dillon

Friday, November 25, 2016

Current Teacher Ralph Ratto Will Resist De Vos Education Department

From Teacher Ralph Ratto: Response to DeVos as Education Secretary
Ralph Ratto blogs on his post entitled “Opine I Will.”
Following are selections from Mr. Ratto's most recent blog – a dark vision of what could come quickly -  after the announcement of Trump’s new Secretary of Education. And, Mr. Ratto reminds us as we are reminded by Bernie Sanders and others, now is the time to resist, to fight back.
“Public education is our nation’s most important asset that is responsible for protecting and nurturing our nation’s most precious asset, our children. Public Education is about to be dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder in every state of our nation. Trump’s legacy will someday describe this real estate scoundrel as the demolition expert that has destroyed an American institution that began in 1690.  Unfortunately, a large portion of our populace do not realize that the end is near.
“No matter which party you support or who you voted for, you will soon feel the real pain of a Trump administration. Some have said, we may survive four years of Trump, but will we survive many years of an ultra-Right Wing Supreme Court? Will we survive a Tea party controlled Congress? Will our schools survive?
“The “end” for public education is one step closer with Trump’s pick for Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a conservative activist that has pushed for school vouchers across the nation. She supports raiding taxpayer revenues and funneling them to private and parochial schools. She has no experience in education and will be the chief architect in Trump’s demolition plan.
…and privatize those national parks next.
“Trump’s demolition plan includes the destruction of unions. The very same unions that advocate for highly effective schools, strong standards that are appropriate, school safety, and protect the needs of our most challenged students.   Trump has signaled that he would establish Right to Work laws nationwide. Trump’s plan would impede all unions’ abilities to provide the much-needed advocacy that has protected our schools and in turn our middle class.
“The end will arrive for many of our union sisters and brothers when a Trump Supreme Court dismantles public unions’ bargaining rights and his wrecking ball destroys tenure protections. Public schools will be immediately impacted when teachers that advocate for their students are fired without due process. Public schools will be systematically taken over by private for profit corporations that will not be subjected to collective bargaining. Profits and the bottom line will be the only measure that is important.
“The end is near for public pensions. Trump’s demolition crew is about to blow up a system that has allowed hard working public sector employees to contribute to a system that would protect them in their end years. Trump’s crew will raid our pensions and turn them over to his private sector buddies. Public sector employees will now face the same questionable future as the private sector workers who have lost their future.
“The end is near for our curricula. Our Science programs will be distorted with creationists warped views, Social Studies will be used as a tool to indoctrinate and not liberate the mind. The Arts will be lost forever. The focus will be on a false accountability system, based on a failed business model invented in some boardroom.
“If we put aside Trumps racism, bigoted, misogynist statements. We are still left with the unpleasant truth that the end is near. Unfortunately, it will be pain that will eventually open the eyes of many of our union sisters and brothers. The pain will be swift and devastating. It will be too late for I told you so’s. It will be our demise. Unless we stop him!
“Resist! Resist! Resist! Put your niceties aside. Inform, argue, debate and be relentless. Boycott when told to, protest when you can. Throw up roadblocks, stand your ground. Don’t accept “maybe things will get better” or give him a chance. All the signs are there. Point everyone out. Point every threat to our way of life. Point out every conflict, every attack, every enemy.
“Do what we do best. Teach! Teach others how the end is near and how it will be a reality if we do not wake up. Our national nightmare is here.”

Opine I Will
For the entire post, please go to:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Senator Sanders Warns "Do Not Despair!"

Bernie Sanders:  Do Not Despair!


You’d have believed they were giving something away by the crowds that pushed into the North Central College Residence/Recreation Hall last night in Naperville. 

In fact, they were – and it wasn’t just Independent Senator Bernie Sanders new book Our Revolution, which came with the price of the ticket. 

Better than that, for a crowd of young and elderly tipping well over three thousand it was an opportunity to hear the Democratic runner-up’s advice about what to do after this election cycle setback.

Senator Sanders began by purposely avoiding the promotion of his book, and instead launched into an unscripted speech after an observation that “probably more than one or two of you have the election in your minds right now.”

The audience, sporting various styles and “Bernie” regalia responded in applause and moans.  Sanders countered with reminding all of us of a song we might consider while we prepare ourselves for the fight ahead.  “Pete Seeger sang one of my favorite songs,” he proposed, “and I think you all know how it goes.” 

I thought immediately of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” as a response to Kate Smith’s sentimentally bombastic “God Bless America.”  But Bernie’s choice was more pro-labor.  More indicative of what ails us now.

“Which Side Are You On.”

“My Daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won.”

Good Choice. 

Despite the unanimous call to sing the tune, Sanders refused and started his hour and a half talk with the same theme with which he ended: 

“You cannot despair.  You cannot take the time or the luxury of self-indulgence to despair.  It is NOT your right to do so.”

On the streets outside the hall, John Laesch and other representatives for Northern Illinois Jobs for Justice handed out flyers inviting visitors to participate in upcoming meetings of Progressives in Kane and DuPage County.  In addition, they were handing out posters with the symbol to fight the TPP.  “We plan to begin a chant to “Say no to the TPP” while the Senator is introduced, said the fellow.  Inside the hall, people meandering through the security queues were asked to surrender their paperwork and the TPP posters.  The entryway floor was littered with the signs.

Meanwhile, Sanders reminded us that TPP and some other political positions between Trump and himself were not necessarily unaligned.   In fact, he reminded us, the President-elect and he would concur about the terrible trade agreements that have hollowed out the middle class in the United States. 

Citing the myopic platform of the Democratic Party when it came to comprehending the true state of struggling middle class families in our country, Sanders identified the smart and insightful side of Trump’s strategy to win the election.  And he warned the current path of the Democratic Party was not inclusive or economically accurate enough to regain the backing of most if not all peoples who had been previous members of the tent. 

Contrariwise, he also declared his refusal to negotiate anything that would come from a new administration that hinted at misogyny, prejudice, torture, racism, registers, immigration prejudice, or any kind of discrimination.

Senator Sanders exhorted all of us to be part of the democratic process.  Get involved on the local level.  Be part of the process.  Run for a local office or school board.  Make a difference.”

Furthermore, he cited all of our responsibility to protect those who might likely be marginalized in these next four years.  “If millions of Muslims are placed on a registry, “ he explained, “it is up to millions of us to say ‘NO.” We cannot and must not leave them to fight alone.  Like everything we face, it’s about all of us.  This is our battle too.”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

If the Glove Fits, Mr. Trump...

If the Glove Fits, Mr. Trump…. 

It seems that nearly every week, Donald Trump says something hurtful or does something despicable. Taken separately, each of his offenses is barely tolerable; taken together they are revelatory. They proclaim that the man who covets the presidency has made assailing and assaulting us his modus operandi. Women, the disabled, Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, anyone who dares to criticize him -few escape his angry rhetoric and aggressive behavior. But we should use a more exact description of Donald Trump’s behavior. Mr. Trump hawks dehumanization. The man who purports to stand for making America great again has only succeeded in weaponizing anger.

 The rhetoric of Mr. Trump's campaign to make America great again suggests he has a certain perception of what a correct social hierarchy would look like. In Trump’s authoritarian view, some groups are inherently superior to others. Those people should be, quite naturally, at the top of the social hierarchy. To keep Trump's fantasy going, the rest of us cannot have a real voice or any power. If we speak our minds, we will be bullied, belittled, intimidated, objectified, and demonized. For, in Trump’s twisted view, we are inferior – read “less than human.”

 The Donald Trumps of the world are not new and they are not rare. They fill our history books and populate our literature. At the Roda Theatre at Berkeley Rep, an adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, is currently playing (September 23rd through November 6th). The production was, I imagine, motivated by the ugliness unleashed by Trump’s campaign and some uncanny similarities between Mr. Trump and the demagogue who becomes president in Lewis’s novel. Senator Buzz Windrip also runs a ‘Make America’s Hate Great Again’ campaign. He foments fear and hatred while touting patriotism and family values. With the aid of an angry and woefully/willfully ignorant electorate, Winthrop establishes a fascist dictatorship and abolishes civil liberties. Chaos, riots, and finally civil war consume America.

Can it happen here? If "it" means the rise of a demagogue, a hater, a man who demonizes his opponents and legitimizes dehumanization, then it has happened here. Whether Mr. Trump gets elected or not, his hatred spewing speeches, his incendiary and insurgent remarks about election rigging, and his desire to keep certain groups at the bottom of the social hierarchy suggest he will not go away. So yes, it has and will continue to happen here.

Fast forward from the publication of Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel to 1965. The place is Czechoslovakia and a short, animated film called Ruka, The Hand, has been released. Though its creator, Jiri Trnka, was not a political filmmaker for most of his career, The Hand is an overt attack on Stalinism and a poignant allegory about the impact of tyranny on the lives of ordinary people.

One of the main characters, a gloved Hand, is a master of dehumanization. He relentlessly tries to coerce a vulnerable potter into creating a likeness of himself, instead of making the small flower pots, which the little man cherishes. The potter is bullied, intimidated, and ultimately imprisoned by the Hand, who sees no value in the potter’s work or life. In the Hand’s view, the potter exists simply to glorify him and fulfill his wishes.

From the moment the Hand enters the potter’s life, he creates chaos and terror. In the beginning of Trnka’s film, the Hand appears dressed in a seemingly benign white glove. (Think Trump’s initial shtick about being one of us.) However, the Hand cannot tolerate any opposition. Soon his true nature appears. The white-gloved Hand ultimately shows himself to be an angry, dark-gloved fist. (The real Donald Trump cannot be handled by his campaign managers. His outbursts and vituperative rhetoric define his campaign.)

Though Trnka was reacting to a different political climate when he created his film– his country already threatened by Russia, who would invade Czechoslovakia in 1968 - The Hand still has a chilling lesson for America 2016: democracy is fragile because, within its boundaries, the Trumps of the world are allowed to exist. The hand that bullies, that gropes, that threatens, that assaults, and that dehumanizes us already lives among us.

M. Nilson