Do We Not Live in a Democracy?by Barbara Warren, MD, MPH on Aug. 26, 2011, under Uncategorized
It was a beautiful day in the mountains outside of Flagstaff and a welcome relief from the heat of Southern Arizona. We had escaped the confines of a stuffy conference room and a bureaucratic meeting. We were off to find a “Prayer Circle” in the San Francisco Peaks. This proved to be a tough job and we were about to get an important education.
As we neared our destination, we witnessed a construction zone, a cadre of forest service workers and signs of serious deforestation and disruption of the earth around us. We asked several of the earth moving vehicle drivers, forest service agents, and others where the prayer circle was being held. To a person, they denied knowing anything about it, but to our surprise several of them pointed video cameras at us and our vehicle, recording our presence in this place. Is it a crime to ask directions or to be on public lands?
Eventually we found the people gathering for the prayer circle on our own. There was a small security team. We were politely screened as we approached – with a handshake, a smile and a welcome. They needed to know we were not “unfriendlies”. You can watch the prayer circle proceedings and get more information HERE.
This meeting of indigenous people and supporters is a weekly event on the San Francisco Peaks to address the devastation and desecration of the sacred lands of 13 different Native American tribes. And why is this happening? An entrepreneur from the Phoenix area is trying to build a second ski slope on the San Francisco Peaks by tearing up the land, placing a long chain of water pipes and pumping millions of gallons of reclaimed (sewage) water uphill to make artificial snow…….. in this desert land. The forest service, the water company and the business owner all will profit from this misadventure.
This is yet another in a long list of atrocities committed on the lands and lives of Native American peoples. For example: Witness the mining of extremely toxic uranium on the Navajo reservation, exposing and polluting families and their homes and their water to this deadly substance. They have had no recourse and no reparations. Witness the presence of the most hazardous and toxic emissions from old and woefully inadequately equipped coal burning power plants on the reservations. Families are exposed to high risks of early deaths and chronic illnesses from cancer, chronic lung disease and cardiovascular diseases. Children and vulnerable elderly and the sick cannot go outside their homes because of asthma caused by coal plant emissions on many days. And now these peoples are to be exposed to snow made of wastewater containing the toxic chemical byproducts of our human wastes. But the bad joke is on all of the skiers and children playing in that toxic snow. Everyone will be exposed.
Where is the social justice? The profiteers did not ask permission to desecrate these lands with conditions that you and I would not allow in our own back yards. And all parties try to suppress appropriate public discourse with threats and intimidation.
We live in a Democracy. The Declaration if Independence calls out the inalienable rights of every American the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Our Constitution guarantees in Article XIV: “..nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property..” Where will the limits be to our freedoms in the pursuit of “profits”?