Understanding

There are many things I don’t understand.

I don’t understand astrophysics. I can’t get my mind around how astronomers figure out things like anti-matter, super novas and black holes. The immensity of the universe boggles my mind.

Likewise, I have a hard time fathoming how scientists came up with the ideas that things like quarks and Higgs bosons, the tiniest of tiny pieces of matter, even exist.

I don’t understand gravity. I understand it’s effects on my body when I trip over the cat in the middle of the night, but I don’t really understand why or how it works.

There are many days when I don’t understand my spouse. He thinks in different ways than I do. He loves to talk. I like it quiet. He is happiest in the middle of a crowd of people he can visit with and I look forward to going home. He works best with a crew and I prefer to work alone most of the time. He likes to eat liver and thinks Norwegian fish balls are a delicacy.

I spend a lot of time trying to understand points of view which are different than mine. I read things written by others who vote differently from me. I read editorials and essays on all sides of issues I care about. I try hard to listen to the stories of people whose lives have led them to different conclusions than mine. I try hard to be open to having my opinion changed.

I have been trying to understand the politics of the day. I am not doing well. I don’t understand how supporters of either nominee for President can ignore the inconsistencies in their candidates’ positions. I don’t understand how it is possible to view videotaped comments on an issue and then dismiss the untruths stated even when confronted with facts. I don’t understand the meanness and hatred many commentators post to candidates’ Facebook, Twitter and blog pages.

I don’t understand how our governor can declare a “State of Emergency” in regard to the protests of Native Americans and their supporters against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline and never make a trip to the site to talk to the leaders there. If we had a dispute with our Canadian neighbors, would he, our Senators and Congressman not make a trip to Winnipeg and meet with them? Are they all afraid for their safety or that they may have to change their thinking? Are they worried about the next election, or is it  the value their investment portfolios?

I don’t understand the spokespeople for the pipeline claiming that there were no real artifacts and burial sites in the way of the pipeline. They assert that the documentation presented by the tribes‘ most recent surveys filed with the court on Friday were fabricated.  If there was nothing there, then why was there a need to excavate that very bit of top soil on Labor Day weekend? I don’t understand why they needed to move scrapers ten miles to strip topsoil from a bit of the pipeline route unconnected to other work sites. Why did they feel the need, on this occasion, to have their workers accompanied by hired security guards armed with mace and attack dogs? Were they hoping there would be trouble? Would the calm, professional presence of the ND Highway Patrol not have sufficed on this occasion? If the violence against the pipeline workers and their security guards was so extreme, why were none of them admitted to a hospital for treatment?

I don’t understand the motivations of all of those who oppose this pipeline. I’m sure there are those who are caught up in the excitement and the publicity. They are not, however, the ones who have been there since the start and they will be gone before the end. I’m sure there are those who oppose all oil development. I think, however, the reasons for many are much deeper.

Having lived on the same piece of the earth for most of my life, I understand having a deep attachment to this place. I understand the importance of the lives of my ancestors and others who lived and worked here. To see a bulldozer raze the trees planted and watered by hand by my grandmother would be more than I could bear.

I understand the importance of water to life. I have friends who live on the West Coast who can’t believe we measure rain in hundredths of an inch. They can’t imagine growing anything in a place which survives on less than 20 inches of rain in a year. Without the water from our well, our cows would die of thirst and in many years my garden would never sprout. There are alternatives to the well, but the cost of those sources keeps going up and the possibility of those sources drying up is always there.

We can, and eventually we will, find alternatives to using oil and coal to heat our homes, drive our cars and to make plastic for cheap toys and other stuff. We will, however, never find an alternative to water. We may find new ways to purify it or even to take the salt out of sea water, but we will always need water. There is no substitute. I don’t understand why the interests of clean water don’t take precedence over our short term energy needs.

I pray for a peaceful resolution to this standoff that is respectful of the concerns of the people of Standing Rock. I hope voters will hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and inaction.

Copyright © 2016 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains

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