Gary Horton: Surprise veterans alliance protects minorities

Marine Corps veteran and Northern Paiute and Pit River Native American Audie Noneo, of Susanville, Calif., holds the Marine Corps flag at the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday it won't grant easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota. Associated Press

Did you see what just happened? One of the biggest national stories this year was barely covered by the mainstream media. And until recently, mostly negatively.

Per the press, a “Whole bunch of Indians” have been blocking the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through Standing Rock, North Dakota.

A standoff has been ongoing for months. Protesters have withstood rubber bullets, water cannons in freezing cold, and all sorts of intimidation by dozens of law enforcement agencies.

Until last week it looked like our Native Americans were going to lose yet again against Uncle Sam under orders to remove themselves Monday. Then an unexpected event occurred.

This event might just be a harbinger of good things to come given our unpredictably, dictatorially bent new president-elect.

Two thousand U.S. armed forces veterans joined the amassed Native Americans in protest against the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe.

All of a sudden, authorities and “law enforcers” weren’t posing to move against simply a band of “ragtag disgruntled Indians” but were potentially moving against a block of men and women not subject to the same bigotry as Native Americans.

U.S. veterans are venerated at the highest levels by the American public, and violence against the same simply won’t play from Peoria to Waikiki.

Could the Army Corps of Engineers plausibly move aggressively against 2,000 of their own kind? Could U.S. marshals and police militantly remove 2,000 soldiers?

No way, Joe. U.S. veterans represent a solidarity force of public respect that cannot be challenged without triggering public outrage should they be injured or killed.

Visuals of police killing U.S. veterans doesn’t play well on any channel.

Within days of the veterans’ arrival, the Corps of Engineers declared an about face, stating it would not issue a permit for the pipeline to cross the disputed areas. Further study on alternate routes would instead begin.

The Native Americans and veterans won – for now. Meanwhile, back in the gold leaf comfort of his Trump Tower, Donald Trump tweeted he’d overturn the Standing Rock decision as soon as he hit the Oval Office chair. Let’s just see about that.

Here’s the deal: We just witnessed, perhaps incidentally or accidentally, what might turn out to be the greatest force against any upcoming oppressive policies of the Trump Organization – err, administration.

Minorities have long protested far and wide on causes large and small. Sometimes, they’ve won, like voting rights and civil rights, and at great cost.

But more often, they’ve lost hard – as the U.S. sitting on what was entirely Native American lands plainly demonstrates.

Minorities face bias, bigotry and prejudice that make victory in protest challenging, if not impossible. However, U.S. veterans have been elevated to a nearly sacrosanct status.

Herein is the key: U.S. soldiers and veterans are increasingly minorities, with roughly half active duty being of minority ethnicity.

These are the same folks who otherwise would face the usual bias and violence during public demonstrations. But today, they put on their old uniforms and as a group they become almost untouchable.

Part of the U.S. effort in militarizing our nation was the elevation of soldiers and veterans to revered status. Witness the “Hometown Heroes” banners up and around Santa Clarita.

And these veterans are much more likely to be concerned with the plight of “everyman” than the fellow billionaires Trump has already appointed to his Cabinet.

Take 2,000 of these Hometown Heroes – or 20,000, or 200,000 Hometown Heroes – and have these veterans join just about any cause just about anywhere, and they will simply win, hands down.

Done deal. Riot police won’t shoot Hometown Heroes. The National Guard won’t fight against their hero brothers. This might become an awesomely unstoppable movement.

Veterans joining the fight against oppressive U.S. government action (or inaction, as it often is) might just become the “silver bullet” a vulnerable population needs against a potentially tyrannical and dictatorial U.S. presidential regime.

Trump thinks he’s going to overturn Standing Rock? What happens when 20,000 veterans show up?

Sorry, Trump – we don’t have prisons that large, and police won’t fire rubber bullets or tear gas into veterans. They are, as they say, “bullet proof.”

Seeing success at Standing Rock may further energize minority veterans, an incredibly politically powerful group.

I, for one, feel great relief in their success at Standing Rock. These men and women defended us before. They just defended us again.

They may just rise to defend us against a potentially reckless president.

We built our military to protect us. Interesting how this may play out in our own homeland.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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