Standing Rock: This is What Restorative Justice Looks Like

People find ways to organize their own communities, ways that intuitively make sense on a soul level.  After the recent success at the water protest yesterday, in which the government denied a crucial permit for the Access Pipeline, a group of veterans who went to aid water protectors at the Standing Rock protest engaged in a ceremonial apology to the tribe on behalf of the military.  I think this is a metahistorical statement, transcending space and time, to atone for centuries of trauma and war crimes in the name of this country (and I would say further, perhaps of civilization itself).  The courageous warrior who offered the bold statement was dressed in an old Calvary uniform.  Historical trauma not only affected First Nations people, it affects us all.  War has a knack with that.


This is what democracy looks like unleashed from the bondage of nationalism and the culture industry.  It opens itself to a responsibility to our land base and our community. This is a restoration of human dignity.


This is a practice of truth and reconciliation, a model of restorative justice. Nothing will bring back those who were lost, or fully restore all that was lost or could have been for these people.  However, it is totally AMAZING that such desperate times as an oil pipeline being built in native territory, compounded with a nation reeling from a neofascist revolution in our federal politics, can give rise to a moment like this.


I suggest that this can be a model for moving forward in this country. Seeds of new life are in this picture.  We are at a moment where we have a choice to either regress to a kind of pure capitalism of robber barons and imperialism, which we see all around us waking the ghosts of greed and white supremacism. Or, we can recoil from the horror of this moment, which is really a breaking point, and find within ourselves a new kind of world.


Part of this new world is finding within our culture a new peace. Parts of it are in a reconstruction that was never completed after the Civil War.  Those parts remain lingering over the collective.  A second reconstruction would include a much broader scope, not just in terms of atonement with the First Nations people as well, but with, finally, a responsibility to the land itself.  Can not responsibility to the landbase be an Amendment, to be included in the path of a country?


A fuller truth and reconciliation commission, I suggest, is a moral imperative for this culture. If we look to South Africa’s example, and chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu, we can glimpse what this may look like. It wouldn’t be exactly the same, but the building blocks are there. Australia has a national “Sorry Day” for its historical abuses of the Aboriginal people. Could this not be an annual event in America, an atonement in the national consciousness?  A way to get our heads out of the sand about the realities of class and the continuing abuses and disparities in our culture?