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Along the Pipeline, Oklahoma - July 21, 2012

posted Aug 1, 2012, 5:15 PM by Lauren Avery   [ updated Oct 2, 2016, 8:59 PM ]

Oklahoma

            It’s drier down this way.  The wheat crop is in, and has probably done well.  A cutting or two of pre-draught hay has been raked and baled into huge plastic-covered rolls, scattered like giant Rollos across the gently heaving prairie.  Un-irrigated corn looks bad – real bad – especially at the edges of fields and corners where pivot irrigation system don’t reach.  I saw some totally browned-out fields that looked like corn in a Halloween decoration.  The rice goes up every day.  Randy Thompson told me the other day he sold some partially irrigated corn for $ 7.45 a bushel, and Curt Carlson said he expects the price to go up to $8, maybe $9.  That’s good news, for people who have something to sell.

I visited today with Harlan Hentges of the Center for Energy Matters in Edmond, Oklahoma just north of Oklahoma City.  The Center was originally organized around a drive to stop a coal-fired power plant at Shady Point on the Arkansas border.  It has a five-member board and two staff: Harlan and Rosemary Crawford, whom I met later in the day.   The organization is grant-funded and its mission is purely legal assistance; it is not a membership organization.  So far it has been involved in stopping three coal-fired plants in Oklahoma.

Harlan is a round-faced, robust, big-hearted man with a big Oklahoma smile.  He is progressive and open-minded, with a strong conservative streak.  His background is in farming and ranching.  He is especially concerned with the state legislature’s grant of eminent domain to TransCanada.   “The Keystone XL is not a public use facility, and eminent domain in this case is unconstitutional.”  I asked him whom he contacts in his everyday work.

“Whenever it’s eminent domain, I team up with radical right-wing property groups; whenever it’s the environment, I team up with radical left-wing environmental groups.  As near as I can tell, they have the same set of values.  The distinctions between those two, and the knee-jerk reactions in opposition on an ideological basis, I think is all divisive and fictional.  I don’t think that division has any merit.  If you look at what’s going on and say ‘Is this good? Is it just? And if it’s not, why are we doing it?” 

“Environmentalist want to protect the environment generally and landowners want to protect the environment specifically.  They want to protect a particular piece of the environment, and I think that’s how you do it.  If you can’t get those people to protect their land then your attempts to protect the environment generally will be thwarted.  If you want the government to protect the environment… well, that ain’t going to happen, because the government is largely influenced by corporate interests.  Corporate interests are by law the financial interests of their shareholders.”

            “But something like the climate – the atmosphere,” I interjected.  “Cannot be specific.  It can only be general.  Do the climate effects of the XL pipeline ever enter into your conversations with people about the pipeline?”

            “As a practical matter, I never talk about climate change… unless I’m doing it to create conflict.  I’m somebody who’s relatively concerned and interested in the impact of carbon on the climate, but I don’t talk to anyone about it because there’s nothing to be gained.”

“:Do you expect any actions to oppose the pipeline? 

“Well, there might be a few people.  But, generally speaking, no.  Not in Oklahoma.  This state is the reddest of the red.”

The question was a conversation stopper.  The “environment,” as a state of mind, simply does not exist here.  The issue here, to the extent that it exists at all, is the heavy-handed approach of TransCanada in its dealings with landowners. 

“They act like they’re from a British Colony,” Harlan said.  “They act like the power resides in the sovereign.”

            “George III.”

            “Yeah.”

            “Didn’t we win that war?”

            (Laughs).  “Yeah, I thought we settled that!  But you let a dispute like this go on long enough and you end up fighting a war over it… Yeah,” he paused, re-thinking,  “You are going to have people opposing it.  When somebody comes here and tries to take away their rights you’ll have left-leaning people who are well trained in direct action and you’ll have some right-wing people who aren’t.  They’re gonna have guns.  If you’re preparing to do this stuff you ought to understand this possibility.”

            “I would tend to say to them ‘Good for you for standing up, now let’s figure out how we can do this effectively.’”

            “That’s the ultimate failure.  As a lawyer, I have to say that lawyers are the alternative to guts and soldiers.  Even direct action or non-violent protest is a failure of the lawyers.”

            “I think you’re absolutely right that the legal system is the way we avoid confrontation, yet often it’s through confrontation that consciousness changes, whether that’s violent or non-violent.  In the American Revolution, which was violent, we became Americans; we became something different from what we thought we were, and in the civil rights movement, which was accomplished non-violently but through direct actions, we changed what America was.  I remember thinking at first that civil rights meant we should be nice to colored people, but then, over time, as I watched what people were doing, I started thinking “I’m the same thing as those people sitting at the lunch counter.  That’s me sitting there!”

            “Exactly.  I think I got goose bumps there… That’s exactly right.”

            “So sometimes confrontation, even outside of the law – if it’s done properly, and with wisdom as to how to engage, can create a different sense of who we are.”

            “I look forward to that, and I think it will happen.  We’ve got a real poor concept of who we are.”

            I drove east and met Rosemary Crawford at Shawnee.  The area east of Oklahoma City is Indian country: Cherokee, Shawnee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Kickapoo.  With dark, straight hair, but light complexion, I did not at first see Indian in her face.  Her mother is Cherokee and Choctaw, while her father is Dutch.  She was raised in this area, but spent many years in California.  She returned eight years ago for family reasons, but misses California.  “People here don’t think outside the box.”  She went to work for Harlan in 2010 on the power plant issues, and later on the Keystone XL  “I still try to help him when I can, but I’ve been in respite for a year now because I have not been pleased with the negative side of the fight.”

“The negative side of the pipeline or the opposition to the pipeline?”

“Both sides.  I was feeling internally as if I just wanted to escape.  I was doing everything at the Center: talking to landowners, talking to media, driving around – there wasn’t anyone else to delegate to.”

            “Up in Nebraska, people are bouncing off each other a lot.” I said.  “Sort of like my group in Louisville, they have a strong sense of community.  They party…”

            “And I was never able to form a community.  I’m kind of out of my element here, but I believe I was placed back here because there is a need.  There’s an awaking that needs to take place.”

We climbed in her SUV and headed for the Red Mound Ranch where the XL will cross some time this fall.  Jack Landrum and his wife own a hundred acres or so on either side of Interstate 40 north of Wewoka in the Seminole Nation.  Jack is a former oil worker.  After retirement he bought the land to start a cattle-breeding business.  The pipeline will run diagonally across his land and within 100 feet of his house, with a large equipment yard up by the road.  The easement will compromise the utility of the land to the point where he would have to move the operation, which he is too old consider, so he will simply close it down.  When I asked if we could talk to him, Rosemary said that he was under a “gag order” by TransCanada.  Apparently, as part of the settlement agreement, he was not allowed to speak to anyone about the company or the pipeline.  He had made a statement on TV last year opposing the XL, and was reprimanded by company representatives. 

“Their dreams are gone, their spirit has been taken.”

            Rosemary became emphatic as she recalled Jack’s reaction when he found out they were going to take his land.  “He’s in his 80s, and he’s in tears because a private company from a foreign nation has come in and taken away his ability to have free speech in the United States of America.  This is what we believed in, this is what we were raised on, and I have seen people shaken with this to the core.  This goes against who he is, to the point where he’s not going to choose to be here any more.  He was an oil worker; he believed in oil companies.  He believed in progress.  Jack showed his emotion to me one time when we were standing on a little hill outside his home.  He was looking at the cattle.  He was talking about his life, about being a steward of the land.  I was telling him that this was what it meant to be an environmentalist – loving the little piece of joy and heaven that you have here.  ‘You’re a steward; I’m and environmentalist,’ I told him – it’s the same.”

            We drove through the Seminole nation and into the dying town of Wewoka.  Rosemary.  Buildings were boarded up on either side of the main street.   Rosemary spoke of her childhood.

“I was raised here.  My ancestors walked the Trail of Tears.”  Her grandfather was a Choctaw and grandmother a Cherokee.  Her great grand mother, Amanda Glass, actually walked the Trail of Tears from Tennessee as a child and arrived in Oklahoma at the age of seven.  Not all of the family survived.

            “This is the courthouse.  This great big tree you see here is called ‘The hanging Tree.’  One time when I was little I walked by here with my grandfather and he kind of shuffled me along past it.  Years before a local judge had ordered a lot of Indians hanged right here.  He said, ‘Now don’t ever tell anyone you’re an Indian, ‘cause they might hang you.’  I was born with fair skin.  His side of the family was dark skinned, but my grandmother was Cherokee so her skin was lighter and her eyes were lighter, and I was born with blue eyes.  They paraded me around this town like I was a prize.”

            “You were able to pass.”

            “I was able to pass.”

            On the way back to Shawnee, Rosemary was anxious to say more.  She wanted to get her story out. 

“We are moving towards a new paradigm,” she began. 

            “Did you now that word was in the title of my book?”

“No… well, I remember it now in the proposal, but I wasn’t thinking of it.”  She was getting pumped up, so I backed off and let her have the floor.  “And I believe the shift in our consciousness as a planet is moving us truly into the Age of Aquarius and into a feminine – more masculine-feminine – balance.  There has to be a major shock happen in some form for the masses to get it, and this is a part of it.”

“You mean the pipeline?”

“Not just this pipeline, I mean the extraction of fossil fuels as a whole in such mass – tar sands, oil, mountaintop removal, fracking – and that the people who are benefiting financially are in denial.  They want to continue to be the rulers of the world.  They think they are in control. But nobody’s in control.  Our existence on the planet is not going to be any longer controlled by those people who have manifested the largest amount of money.  At the end of the day, how much money you have means nothing.  To come back into balance on the planet, where this Earth is not screaming at us, and we’re not living in a place of constant duality, this shift has to occur and occur now.  It is by design; none of it is by accident.  My personal work is to raise the conscious level of the masses – the people who are not of high level wealth and who suffer the consequences of the extraction of fossil fuels, the burning of the coal, the fracking – the people who are suffering and are considered of no value.  They are expendable, they’re on a spreadsheet somewhere and their lives don’t count.  I believe it’s those people that we awaken and bring into consciousness that they are as important – as a spirit and a soul – as the man with a million dollars who thinks he’s better than they are.  By doing so, by waking up and equalizing the male-female energy, we will bring our planet to the place it needs to be.  I may be naïve, and I may be the only person who believes this, but that’s what I genuinely believe and that’s what I’m here to do.  I believe I was sent back her to do this work. 

            “Opposing the pipeline – that’s essentially negative, it’s opposing what somebody else wants to do – it’s not really creating any new consciousness.  So how do you see a new consciousness – a new paradigm – developing from this struggle against the Keystone XL Pipeline?”

            “I don’t.   That’s the reason why I was so uncomfortable.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “I was part of the negative energy.  I was attracting negative energy by focusing on the negative side of the problem.   By doing so, I was increasing the problem.   I became in turmoil.  I had this constant frustration and anxiety: all those low-vibration energies just consuming me every day.  I was focusing on what I didn’t want, which is what I was attracting.  The universal law of attraction says what you focus on is what you get!  So I’m attracting the pipeline because I’m out verbally speaking my truth, telling the universe these “n” words and the universe doesn’t know these “n” words, so it’s going to attract what I’m saying I don’t want.  The universe is going to read that I do want it.

            “What are “n” words?”

            “No, not, don’t, can’t… all of that.  The universe doesn’t know what they mean.  So I needed to shift what I was doing.  I felt internally the tipping point has already been crossed – in the 80s – it’s not just tipping, it’s dumping, over the edge.”

“My three grandchildren, as long as they have a body, are going to need food to eat, water to drink, air to breath, and right now that is not possible if we keep going down this road.  My great grandparents, when they got to Oklahoma, had no money – they had each other and they had air and water and land.  But my grand children won’t have that.  The basics of survival on the planet are being destroyed if we don’t make some conscious decisions to change that.  As we have a body, we have to feed it, nurture it.  Our minds, our bodies, our souls: all are one, and we are all collectively as one.

            “Let me go on from there.” I interjected.  “I follow what you’re saying – but in your attempt to manifest your awareness of what’s happening to the Earth you’re tapping into some negative energy.”

            “Yes.  It’s huge.”

            “I’m wondering if that has to do with you’re feeling like you’re not doing this in community.”

            “Yes, that’s exactly right.”

            “You’re feeling it individually; you’ve got your own shield out there, protecting yourself individually, but you don’t have people on either side of you with shields.” 

            “So I have been doing visualizations – visualizations that the pipeline is not built, that it is stopped, because we have enough Earth energy that shifts to a place where digging a hole in the ground and laying a pipeline is no longer profitable, or conceivable.  And I do visualization of going up above the planet and backing myself out from the planet, and seeing the planet spinning clearly with clean water and clean air, and vegetation.   I visualize new worlds and new growth and a new spring for the planet, and the people who are still living on the planet understand the needs not only of themselves, but of the Earth, and that the seed – as you put it – continues to grow.  Everything goes back to being whole, healthy, and complete.  How many thousands of years it takes for her to revert back to the way she was, I have no idea.  The duality of male and female energy will cease.”

            “The Yin and the Yang.”

            “The Yin and the Yang.”


July 21, 2012