Unintended Consequences

by Susan Prince

Many have spoken eloquently about their very visceral emotional experiences the day that Trump was elected. Like everyone else, I was completely surprised and utterly shocked by the stunning outcome. But something else very odd was happening for me. As I watched my friends respond with extreme fear and deep grief, I realized that I didn’t share those same feelings. Maybe it’s because I have been honing a spiritual practice to stay in a state of inner peace in spite of my surroundings. Knowing that I can choose whether or not to be anxious has been very liberating. But the reason that I went down that path is more to the point.

I have been an activist for years, a calling born out of my passion for Nature and all things wild and free. Since I was a little child, I have felt most at home in deep quiet forests and at the edge of big seas. It came naturally to me then, as an adult, to want to protect those places that I loved. I have never understood how some people don’t have the same passion.

How could they destroy ancient old-growth ecosystems, pollute cold, clean rivers, overfish oceans, tear down mountaintops and burn up rain forests? How can everyone not want to protect wolves, elephants, manatees, beavers, and whales?

When the Deep Water Horizon oil spill happened I was catapulted into an inconsolable grief. And when I spent my first winter with no snow on the mountains, in my backyard, I felt real fear. Water is Life, not just for humans but for everything on this incredible garden planet that we are so blessed to call home. Without clean, clear, unpolluted water we are all doomed.

As I was processing my state on the day that Trump was elected, I realized that I had already experienced deep despair about the way things were going and the seeming inability of our political system to respond adequately. For so long now, we activists have been holding on by our fingernails in the face of escalating species extinction and severe global warming. What would it take then? A revolution? Bernie was a breath of fresh air but apparently not mainstream enough to tip the system. So, on that dark day, I thought that maybe Trump’s election would be that thing. Maybe now there would be some kind of upheaval created, some unintended consequence that would force a kickback of real change!

The immediate indication of this possibility was the huge and determined reaction by so many to respond in peace and with love to that terribly mean-spirited campaign. Since then, there has been a concerted effort to let the folks who have the most to lose feel that they will be supported by those of us who understand that this country is at it’s best when it’s inclusive of all.

And almost simultaneously with the election, Standing Rock came into sharp focus. As I watched with more and more concern, I realized that what was going on in North Dakota was one of the most important events of our era, taking place in real time— Native Americans, the first Nation of this country, standing peacefully to protect the water, up against powerful oil corporations and abusive law enforcement. What had germinated as a small group of young people holding their ground in protest was quickly becoming a movement of thousands. As more and more citizens showed up to stand with the Sioux against the DAPL, I was amazed and heartened.

On the day that the Army Corps denied the permit to proceed I was happier than I have been in so long. Just the possibility that what is right and good can prevail lifted an enormous blanket of pessimism. Many of us had already marched, written letters, and prayed for the XL Pipeline to be canceled, and we stood with the Canadian First Nation people against the horrors of the Tar Sands. I have been to the Amazon and witnessed the strength of those indigenous people who also know the terrible impact of oil spills. Now, much more of the world is watching as Standing Rock is being played out and, thanks to social media, this story can’t be hidden.

Gen. Wesley Clark Jr., kneels in front of Leonard Crow Dog, right, during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 5, 2016 in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Native Americans conducted a forgiveness ceremony with U.S. veterans at the Standing Rock casino, giving the veterans an opportunity to atone for military actions conducted against Natives throughout history. The ceremony was held in celebration of Standing Rock protesters’ victory Sunday in halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Leonard Crow Dog formally forgave Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO, Wesley Clark Sr. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

For me, this process has been completely captivating. I know that many powers came into play in order for the Standing Rock momentum to build as it did. But I can’t help but believe that a big part of it was pushback against the election – an unintended consequence if you will. People wanted to act, to get behind a cause that made sense, that was based on protecting the basic right to have clean water, and they wanted to stand with the people who were here first and have been treated so unfairly for the last 500 years.

The way in which this movement has been carried out has been exemplary. In order to enter the Sacred Stone Camp, all the First Nations tribes had to agree to let go of their differences and all other supporters had to agree to follow peacemaker principles in both words and actions. There was even a ceremony there last week where military veterans’ asked forgiveness for all past transgressions.

Standing Rock has brought out the very best in us. And, in spite of the current bizarre political situation, I feel some hope now. At the least, I am proud that so many were willing to act. And there has been a ripple effect in my own community. More and more people are finding ways to reach out and help locally, committing to being part of the solution however they can show up.  Everywhere new kinds of alliances are being formed. I have no idea how all this is going to turn out. These are times of great paradoxes.  But I choose to align myself with those who want to live in peace, help each other, and do whatever we can to protect our beautiful planet Earth.

Susan Prince is a Life Coach specializing in guiding people thru major life transitions. She has created and led several workshops designed for women in their later years, and currently co-facilitates the Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreats for the Center for Conscious Eldering. Susan has published articles on both eldering and nature connection and, most recently, has written about her experiences in the Amazonian rain forests.


Susan Prince

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