The Critical Journey From Apathy to Empathy: A Case of Misplaced Blind Faith

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by Shelley Bluejay Pierce
Saturday, 31 May 2008

These famous words from the 1776 Declaration of Independence sound good in theory but in actuality, at the time they were written, the evident truth was that only a select few humans were deemed “equal.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Equality did not include black slaves, most certainly was not bestowed upon the “heathen, savage, Indians” and did not include women or other minorities. Perhaps more accurately, the “self-evident” matter of equality for all human beings was a decision made by a small minority of European immigrants to this new land.

The actual definition of the term, self-evident is, “Evident without need of proof or explanation.”

The legal definition of the term unalienable is, “The state of a thing or right which cannot be sold….The natural rights of life and liberty are unalienable.”

As the founders of this new government began to set in motion the legal bulwark for the United States of America, they created such guiding documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Amendments. As these lofty goals for the new union were set upon paper, perhaps these men were seeing what the future held for this country rather than the actualities of the time they lived in. For if in fact, these new leaders truly lived in accordance with these new guidelines, they would not have behaved in the ways that they did or treated their fellow human beings in the manner that history recounts.

If it were truly “self-evident” that such things as the natural world and all that was dwelling within or upon it could not be bought or sold due to its being an “unalienable” right as the very source for all of mankind’s survival, then the stealing and mass “ownership” mentality would not have prevailed. The ravaging of these new lands, long inhabited by the Indigenous people, would not have occurred and the abuse of the natural resources would not have proliferated.

If “all men are created equal” then the mass genocide of millions of original occupants to this land would not have been allowed. The decimation of entire cultures and thefts of the lands they dwelled upon for centuries would have not occurred because the original authors of this text would have seen that the land itself was an unalienable right, not for sale or transfer, because it was the land itself that offered the human race its means for survival.

The pervasive attitude carried by this European culture was one of “taming the wilderness.” Those inhabitants who had lived in harmony with these lands were forced off of them or annihilated so that “modern and civilized” expansion could take place. Perhaps in truth, the European mindset was nothing more than a grand opportunity to perpetuate all the destructive behaviors that had surrounded these people prior to them leaving Europe in the first place. Looking at the ongoing rape and ruination of the lands and natural resources makes it clear that the pervasive mindset has changed little over the last 200 plus years.

Over many decades of internal warfare, foreign wars, upheavals and massacres, we arrive into a new era that brought perhaps the greatest period of change to our United States of America. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, protests and civil unrest boiled over into all segments of the population. The “peace and love” movement grew to monumental levels and such civil rights as those fought for by Dr. Martin Luther King and others gained enormous momentum.

During this period of time there was a demand for change and for the first time ever in this country, true equality and access to those “unalienable rights” was a goal for ALL people, not just a select few. The changing times brought with it, a demand for a cleaner, safer environment that in turn brought the creation of new governmental agencies such as the Federal Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Both of these agencies were created to provide protection for all citizens in the United States and for the protection of the environment that sustains them.

The general population placed enormous public pressure upon the government and its leaders. Demanding peace, civil rights and increased environmental protection, the citizens of the USA brought to the forefront, a radical change in the way this country functioned. However, with this blossoming potential for radical change, there festered a dangerous mindset that would take decades to be acknowledged.

With alterations to the status quo came an increased sense of trust and peace of mind within the mindset of the average citizen. Each of us became dependent upon and truly believed that we would be protected by the leadership. We as a people trusted our military and first responders to care for our safety, both as a nation and as individuals, in our times of need. We trusted our new governmental agencies to ensure that we had access to all the unalienable rights such as clean water, safe food supplies, access to safe living conditions and medications to treat our illnesses.

That initial trust grew into a state of what may be more likened to “blind faith.” Failures discovered within this government have previously been responded to so that faults in the system could be addressed and corrected. Over the past decade, we have silently watched as all governing systems have seemingly taken on a life of their own and the enormous impact of its layered deception has brought this country to its knees.

The enormous and cumbersome size of the agencies set in place to “protect” us has become unapproachable even by the most studied citizen. The overwhelming amount of contradictory information available to each person leaves most individuals daunted by the task of being socially aware of the issues. The “information over-load” has hit every sector of this society to the point where the average citizen often chooses to ignore the information coming in from all directions and focuses simply on the personal realm they inhabit each day.

As we look at just one issue, the Iraq war, most of us are incapable of deciphering the facts from the propaganda. We cannot grasp the enormous expenditures involved with this one issue because the monetary figures are incomprehensible to most citizens. Perhaps examining a smaller “bite” of the full plate of issues is necessary for us to clearly see what is happening to us on the broader, national level. If the statement, “the sum of all parts makes up the whole” is true? Then a targeted examination may give us a good snapshot into our country as a whole.

Let’s choose an area of the country that most people assume as a peaceful country setting. There are no mass transit systems and the crime rates are not what you encounter in the large metropolitan cities across the USA. This is a small town consisting of farmers, ranchers, homeowners, shopkeepers and such things as one would expect to find in the mid-section of this country. Wide-open prairie lands, expansive horizons and peaceful surroundings are what brings many occupants to this community.

Zero in on Marty, South Dakota for this targeted investigation. This is a community situated within the boundaries of the Ihanktowan Nation, better known to most people as the Yankton Sioux tribal lands. Like many communities across the USA, there are limited or no zoning restrictions here due to the fact that they have never been required. The land itself and the environment in which the people dwell have dictated the lifestyle and activities of the occupants.

The unimaginable becomes your new daily nightmare if you are a member of this community when the agencies assigned to protect you, actually turn against you. These agencies approve the permits for a new resident moving in amongst you and you find out that your newest “neighbor” is a large, commercial hog farm, which will house as many as 3000 sows and produce as many as 75,000 hogs per year. Commonly referred to as a CAFO operation, (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) these industrial sized farms are usually located at a distance from human habitation and city services due to their potential impacts upon the “neighbors” and the environment.

We as citizens of the USA have come to “trust” with “blind faith,” that our governing agencies will protect us from harm and ensure a safe environment in which to exist and prosper. However, in this case, the EPA and other agencies have approved this CAFO hog farm even with the knowledge that it will be situated in the midst of human occupation, culturally historic, and environmentally sensitive areas.

Looking at the facts about CAFO’s, documentation abounds detailing the foul smells and the reported higher rates of respiratory problems in people living near large-scale animal operations. Proof exists at all levels regarding the fact that the waste from this many animals harms the environment and human health. Water and ground pollution often occur when the waste containment systems fail or when the CAFO owners gain permission from local farmers to spread the “waste” across their fields as a means of disposing of the tons of manure produced each day. Gently referred to as “free nutrients for your crops,” the overwhelming evidence shows that too much of something is not a good thing. This includes “free nutrients.” According to the 1998 National Water Quality Inventory conducted by the EPA, 30 percent of surveyed rivers, 44 percent of surveyed lakes, and 23 percent of surveyed estuaries were contaminated with unsafe levels of “nutrient” pollution.

Manure from CAFOs may degrade soil quality over time and since heavy metals are often added to animal feed to promote growth in the animals, the manure may carry such things as arsenic, copper, selenium, and zinc. The high concentration of manure in CAFO lagoons often enables heavy metals to accumulate in the surrounding environment which later leaches out into nearby soil, surface waters, invasion of local private wells used for drinking water, poisoning wildlife, and polluting groundwater. The area in which this South Dakota hog farm is located will provide “nutrients” for the Missouri River and all areas downstream due to run-off of surface water. This potentially effects millions of people located a great distance away from this one hog farm.

Additionally, the property values that you as a homeowner depend upon for such things as resale value and home equity loan value plummets. No one wants to buy property in close proximity to a large-scale animal production facility. The land you dreamed of being your little piece of paradise instantly becomes valueless. You fear that no one in leadership is listening to you as you bemoan your recent fate. All you can do as an individual is cry out for justice and protection from the sources you once believed were brought into existence to “protect you” and your unalienable rights to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” All you find is a justice system meant to benefit others but not you, the private citizen.

The question now becomes, “How in the world did we get to this state of being in this country and why is no one listening to me?”

Follow the money trail and you will find, on a much smaller scale, the same problems as we find within the quagmire of the Iraq war and its funding processes. The government allots multi-millions of tax dollars to the rich farm corporations in the form of farm subsidies. The enormous tax funds are directed to those operations which make the biggest money and that includes CAFO’s. Why are these big tax-donated funds important? Why, to care for and repay the MILLIONS of dollars that these special interests group donate to the political campaigns for those officials that will support their causes once in office of course!

Case in point, in the 2006 election year, Agribusiness industries are reported to have contributed $44,732,566.00 to campaigns for elected officials in the USA. The Governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds, reportedly received $36,250.00 for his 2006 electoral run from the agricultural businesses. Add to this figure all the agribusiness donations given to those Senators and Representatives representing the state where you dwell and you begin to understand why you now have a huge hog farm as a neighbor.

Money talks and bigger money speaks even louder in this country as history proves over and over again. The voice of the small, individual voter and citizen of this country means nothing in the bigger scheme of American politics. As one compares this localized scenario in South Dakota with the enormous Federal issues such as the Iraq war, similar layers of corruption are exposed. The farther up the political “food chain”one progresses, the less aid a single individual gets due to the larger amounts of political leverage gained by the contributions given by these special interests groups like agribusiness.

Lets take a look at some of the background issues surrounding the hog farm in South Dakota:

1) South Dakota Governor, Mike Rounds, cuts the Highway Patrol budget and states that he believes the agency “can get by with a $2 million reduction in its budget.” In early February 2008, a media source leaks a memo detailing how deep these budget cuts would hit the department.

2) One source states that the Highway Patrol budget cuts will take effect immediately and last only one year while another released memo states that the budget cuts will last “indefinitely.” (The citizens AND the Highway Patrol officers are left wondering what part media-spin is truth or fiction of course.)

3) One statement in the press says that this information comes from a written, authorized budget submitted by Governor Rounds but just a few days later, Governor Rounds tells the media that what is circulating was simply his “recommendations” for the upcoming expenditures and not the bottom line decisions. Once this memo was obtained by the media and circulated, Governor Rounds’ media-management team states that the memos were never meant for public circulation and that they were intended only for internal circulation. By February 15, 2008, the internal memos circulating in the State Highway Patrol were called a “miscommunication” by Governor Round’s office. (more media-spin and now the truth is even further from our grasp)

4) State Highway Patrol leadership released guidelines to their officers which I condense here. Startling issues begin to surface with these recommended cuts and leaves the average citizen in the coverage area wondering if there will be ANY response teams available should they need them. “Burning of overtime which will make it difficult to maintain current manpower requirements, especially on Fridays and weekends” is one of the department recommendations. Statements include the fact that there will be no new patrol vehicles purchased during the 2009 budget cycle. Governor Rounds states that troopers must save on gasoline requirements by having more “stationary patrols” where trooper will perform the “stare and glare” law enforcement techniques rather than actively pursue offenders. Other budget cuts will affect training for officers, Troopers will no longer help transport organ, eye or blood donations and search and rescue operations with the highway patrol airplane will be limited. Requests to assist BIA or tribal police with fatal crashes on reservations will be limited. Finally, the department acknowledges that because of these budget cuts, they will “more than likely be criticized by some agencies for their lack of manpower or response to incidents or accidents.” (Now the citizens in the area are really wondering about how safe they truly are in the event of an emergency.)

5) After the facts about this new hog farm came into mainstream media spotlight, Governor Rounds basically stated that he and his office preferred to let “tribal agencies work the issues out.” I am supposing that the Governor has forgotten that not ONLY tribal members are being impacted by this CAFO. The impacts are vast and have the potential to negatively impact many in South Dakota and all the way down the Missouri River.

6) Considering the fact that the South Dakota Highway Patrol is under major budget constraints and are told to limit all extra travel and deployment to scenes other than critical response areas, why did a reported 52 patrol cars roll onto the scene of a peaceful demonstration against the hog farm? Especially since the Highway Patrol leadership stated in their internal memo that, “requests to assist BIA or tribal police with fatal crashes on reservations will be limited.” (this was not a fatal crash, no one was armed with weapons and there were perhaps 50 or so protesters on the site…many of these were minors and children!)

Here is a picture of this small group of hog farm protesters that required 52 law enforcement vehicles (courtesy Yankton Sioux Tribe).

7) The road leading into the property where Longview Farms is building their hog farm has been considered by the Yankton Sioux Tribe and their own law enforcement officers as being under BIA jurisdiction which means that no local or State law enforcement agencies are to deploy there except under extreme circumstances. When construction of the hog farm began in early April, the community attempted to block the completion when the Yankton tribal council passed an exclusion order against Long View Farms, of Hull, Iowa. The BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) was asked to confirm its jurisdiction over the road leading into the hog farm property, which would have denied Longview Farms access to the building site. Even though there was NO FINAL DECISION MADE about the jurisdiction of this road, law enforcement from outside agencies descended en masse upon lands where jurisdiction was still very much in question.

Here is a small group of the dispatched law enforcement teams to deal with this handful of unarmed, peaceful protesters.

The large mobile unit was a reported SWAT team. To the sides of where this picture was taken, was an entire hillside of patrol cars. This response for a handful of protesters? (photo courtesy of Yankton Sioux Tribe)

8) Several members of the Yankton tribe were arrested, jailed and released on bail money paid by the tribe. They individually have had to seek legal defense and are going through all the legal proceedings for what may turn out to be illegal arrests once the jurisdiction of the road is decided. The BIA, which is funded by taxpayers in the USA, has paid out millions of dollars since 1994 to maintain this very road and added it to its inventory following a signed agreement between all local agencies. However, on May 5, 2008, a commission in Charles Mix County voted to rescind the agreement in response to the BIA’s declaration of ownership. (I guess what we, the US taxpayers think of all this, is null and void?)

9) Go a step further and examine a rough estimate at the costs for this police response to a small group of peaceful protestors gathered along side of a road that is yet to be determined as to WHO has jurisdiction over it! Based on online available figures for average salaries and costs of such things as officers and patrol cars, we find that the average salary for a State highway patrol officer is $30 per hour. Multiplied that by the number of hours required for response, handling, and completion of each assigned duty location. Gasoline costs of $3.85 per gallon based on today’s average price per gallon of fuel across the USA. Add in equipment wear and tear, vehicle tires, radios, uniforms, uniform cleaning, paper used and miscellaneous expenses. Add in the salaries for radio dispatchers, and office staff costs and you have a very rough average of $180.00 for each unit to respond to the scene of a normal, easy-to-handle incident, which averages one hour from dispatch to clearing. That’s $180.00 per hour is for local calls only and does not include extra travel across long distances. This rough average cost multiplied by 52 police units comes to approximately $9,400.00 PER HOUR! SWAT or Mobile units as seen in the picture above are usually presumed to be double that cost due to extra equipment and training for their personnel so add in another $360.00 per hour. Protesters on the scene reported that Wagner Police, North Platte Police Department, and State Highway Patrol vehicles came in on this one scene. Any overtime pay is probably 1.5x their salaries and Highway Patrol cars may have traveled into the protest site from wide areas all over South Dakota. Add in the costs for arresting these protesters, jail staff, court clerks, judges and office staff to manage all of this? Beginning to feel similar to war expenditures at the Federal level?

But I thought Governor Rounds stated that there was this huge deficit in the budget and that every possible money-saving effort needed to be made inside the Highway patrol?

Really? All of the above expense and manpower to manage a small number of peaceful protestors?

Still confused about how this all impacts YOU and the potential impacts of a hog farm moving in to YOUR neighborhood? Still confused about how the Federal government and its agencies are layered with special interest groups, huge campaign financing and layers of deception?

By looking at one small issue in a rural location nestled inside the United States of America, perhaps the realities are sinking in. Just how far we have allowed ourselves to become blinded by “trust” is that festering wound I mentioned earlier. We have so blindly accepted the protection from our government and its agencies and leaders that we have missed the fact that we are now dependent and blind to truth. Perhaps the biggest “self-evident” fact before us as a Nation of individuals is that our trust is entirely misplaced. Perhaps the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness is truly an allowance for the elite after all. Perhaps it is history repeating itself but this time, ALL races are included in the destruction. The decimation of the lands and resources that sustain us all is at stake as is the very country we all call “home.”

Now… about that hog farm…. ready to become “neighbors?” Do you still believe it won’t happen to YOU?

Blind faith strikes again.

Shelley Bluejay Pierce is an investigative journalist covering political, environmental and indigenous rights issues. Her work appears in numerous written publications and online websites worldwide and is a frequent guest on radio shows addressing these issues.

(All rights reserved, permission to reprint this article must be granted by author, Shelley Bluejay Pierce by contacting


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