“I’d like to think it’s compassion,” Hey answered. “But it’s probably just to atone for my war crimes.”
Is that why I, too, feel drawn to battles like these? Is living in a wealthy country itself a war crime, since we live on the backs of those who can’t enjoy such prosperity?
This battle, in any case, was momentarily won. First Nations people had stood up, resisted a pipeline, and stopped it for now. That much was empirical. It’s also empirical that almost everything good in this country — the eight-hour day, the end of slavery and child labor, the right of women to vote and gays to marry, what have you — was won through struggle, sometimes cold and harsh. The long arc of history does in fact bend towards justice.
But Hey’s story showed me how this empirical stuff could happen, how shit and blood could be spun into meaning. Or at least it was one such way, one window into the process. If Standing Rock were a proverbial elephant, I’d taken a magnifying glass to one tiny bit of its skin. What about the rest of the vast reality?
Those 2,000 vets who’d arrived just before me — had some of them, like Hey, collapsed at the end of their service and ricocheted around until they found a community to truly serve with, without war crimes this time? What other stories had brought them here? And what about Rupa and the dozens of medical and legal professionals who’d left jobs and obligations to be of service here?
Most of all, what about each of the Sioux, Omaha, Dene, Ho-chunk, Creek, and others who’d come and endured months of discomfort and sometimes violence, to make Standing Rock the next Wounded Knee? Had some of them also found a community that they’d longed for, for other reasons? What else?
The idea of a formula that “we” can learn from any “them” is sloppy at best, colonial at worst. Yet since things do change, and movements do win, there must be a formula. Maybe it’s just not one we can ever wrap our heads around, or that can ever be reduced to a few words on a camera, or probably to words at all. The elephant is humongous, beyond anything most of us can imagine, which is why we can’t begin to absorb it.
Yet Standing Rock is being absorbed, just as Occupy was. At the dinner table, or in bed, or maybe even at the office water cooler, stories like Hey’s are radiating across the country in all kinds of ways. Those who participate in struggles let others see the elephant through one particular patch of skin, helping to mobilize something inside for the new struggles of 2017 and beyond.
An extraordinary variety of artists came to Jon Swihart and Kim Merrill’s backyard potlucks, discussing not just their work, but also the events and challenges of their lives.
With A Lion for Every House at the Art Institute of Chicago, Floating Museum riffs wildly on the art rental programs of some museums.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
A Thing for the Mind takes Philip Guston’s 1978 painting “Story” as a starting point to examine the myriad ways in which this piece has filtered into the work of other painters.
An Oakland librarian and a French teacher in Oklahoma City collect ephemera they discover in returned and used books, from photos and recipes to love letters.
Until you’ve seen a place for yourself, it’s a bit of an abstract idea. So why not ask Artificial Intelligence to create your travel poster?
Incarcerated people will be allowed to read Heather Ann Thompson’s 2016 Blood in the Water, except for two pages featuring a map of the prison.
The Nevada Museum of Art in Reno welcomes guests to learn about “The Architect to the Stars” through captivating black and white photography. On view through October 2.
The long-lost painting resurfaced at the upscale Urban Gallery in Tel Aviv, sparking the anger of Palestinians.
“Guests in love, please understand — most of the exhibits in our museum are objects ‘born’ many years ago and subject to completely different moral standards,” said the Fort Gerhard museum in a statement.
This week, the Webb space telescope wows, übernovels, crappy pigeon nests, the problem with “experts,” and much more.