Lessons From Standing Rock

Can the world be saved by love alone? by prayer?
It sounds nice. A meme with a sunset in the background
But, let’s get real. In these days of unveiled isms, it’s hardly
imaginable, barely conceivable, idealistic, naive and
unrealistic. I call myself a pastor and yet
I cannot muster the hope alone.

What is real? What lasts? What matters?

I drove 1600 miles, stopping to watch the stars
from underneath layers of blankets in the flat
Wyoming snow, so I could join thousands
gathered to be of use. To listen. To learn. To help.
To to remember what it means
to be human.

The enthusiastic priest from the local
Catholic church sits next to me on the plane home.
Proud of his work to provide meals
for the homeless, schools for the orphans,
churches for the forgotten,
he repeats the mantra of his
red state congregation:
“there are many pipelines, why so much fuss with this one?”
as if the pre-existence of destruction
justifies it, renders the damage
insignificant and meaningless.

“A good Christian man” he describes
our president-elect. I have no
words. I can only
wonder what he would do
if one of his children he works so hard to school
shares in confession the secret of her father’s rape.
Would he justify it, render the damage
insignificant and meaningless?
“There have been many beatings and rapes. Why now
fuss with this one?”

Two hours I stood still as they prayed at the barricade
in blizzard winds
shoulder to shoulder with people who
are my tribe. The Apache medicine man
told us all that he adopted us. All of us.
The warriors. The hippies. The tribes they once
opposed. Even the white eyes who betrayed them
Even me.

Standing in the below zero wind chill, flags and hand
WACONI!! as if the prayer itself
had power to change the world. Sioux elders,
Lakota and Hopi, and a reporter from Norway, burning men
and a doctor who discovered an enzyme that predicts neonatal
difficulties, housewives, priests, articulate black youth
calling for “Revolution, Nothing Less!”; white students, full of hope
that they, too, might be arrested;
lawyers, lovers, grandmas who are always escorted
to the front of the food lines, veterans from wars
that healed them from warring, I recognize, as
the tears piercing my eyes turn to ice,
I’ve never felt more alive.

The Apache medicine man tells us
that he gave up the ways of the Green Frog,
driven by money and television sets, when he was 27.
He found happiness again, he said, when he returned to the ways of
of his ancestors, to the ways of the Creator. He calls me his relative.
They all do. Perhaps I belong.

Against what odds in these coming dark days,
can love prevail? Is it imaginable that a strange and intoxicating
movement might be modeled by these suffering, surviving red elders:

The strategy? prayer
The organizing structure? prayer
The tactics? prayer
The call to action? prayer
The march to the barricade? prayer

The response to violence? prayer
The response to victory? prayer
The response to fear? prayer
The response to ongoing betrayal, injustice, infuriation? prayer

Is it possible? To change the world by love alone?

Relatives, the Apache medicine man
adopted you too.

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