May 6, 2015 - Fear and Loathing, Fire and Brimstone, By Tracy Hauff
It may seem a tad early to begin political reporting on the 2016 Presidential election, but the list of candidates is steadily increasing, and I, like Hunter S. Thompson, cannot silence my fear and loathing of some embarking upon the campaign trail. This day, I am targeting Ted Cruz – the first person to announce his Republican candidacy.
He looks like a BMW car salesman with a perpetual condescending stare, delivers fire and brimstone speeches patterned after Evangelical ministers and geared toward Christian conservatives and angry Tea Partiers, and he is backed by the Koch Brothers. His political views are borderline fanatical, saturated with Christian supremacy and privilege. He is emerging as an unofficial leader of the religious right with strong ties to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). In 2007, during a ceremony in Texas, NAR leaders destroyed Native American artifacts in an act of spiritual warfare they say was intended to promote “reconciliation” between estranged groups of people.
In Indian Country we cherish our resources. Indian activists are in the front lines all across the nation fighting for clean water, fresh air, and treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather. In the beginning, before colonialism fractured the Lakota way of life, the creator took care of all survival needs and today we must protect all he has bestowed upon us. I was raised in the Episcopal faith as many on the reservation are, but the more I witness the destruction of Unci Maka, the more I appreciate Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit.
We should understand well that all things are the works of the Great Spirit. We should know that. He is within all things: the trees, the grasses, the rivers, the mountains, and all the four-legged animals, and the winged peoples; and even more important we should understand that he is also above all these things and peoples. When we do understand this all deeply within our hearts, then we will fear, and love, and know the Great Spirit, and then we will be and act and live as he intends. ~ Black Elk
Senator Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor who declared that his son has been “anointed by God” to bring righteousness to the presidency of the United States of America. Thanks to his father’s tutelage of “Mother Earth Worship” (the elder Cruz’s term for environmentalism);
Senator Cruz is a strong supporter of the Keystone XL Pipeline and a naysayer of climate change. In 2013, he co-sponsored the Federal Land Freedom Act which would “authorize a state to establish a program covering the leasing and permitting processes, regulatory requirements, and any other provisions by which the state would exercise its rights to develop all forms of energy resources on available federal land in the state.” This would allow states to lease energy rights on federal lands. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) determined “The use of trust lands is governed by the tribes, subject to certain federal restrictions, and the land is usually not subject to state laws.” Incorporating the word “usually” opens the door for debate on Sovereign Immunity and encroachment by the states of trust lands. Since 2009, oil production on state and private lands has increased 61 percent while production on federal lands has fallen 9 percent. The Federal Land Freedom Act proponents cite this statistic with enthusiasm. They do not want to see any potential oil field or mineral bed go untapped.
On Welfare Reform, Cruz is quoted, “Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility. 55 years ago, when my dad was a penniless teenage immigrant, thank God some well-meaning bureaucrat didn’t put his arm around him and say let me take care of you. Let me give you a government check and make you dependent on government. And by the way, don’t bother learning English. That would have been the most destructive thing anyone could have done. Instead, my parents worked together to start a small business, to provide for their family and to chart their own future. That’s the American dream.” This nice story about his family’s struggle is based on a Republican principle that everyone living in the United States who is “capable” of working and chooses not to, does so because they would rather live off government hand-outs. This flawed simplification of poverty does not consider the genocidal strategy and oppression that Indians have dealt with for hundreds of years.
The Senate convened for its first calendar session on March 26, 2015. Proposed amendments covered social issues of health, education, and welfare that would benefit the low-income population. The outcome of the voting reflects the power the Republican majority currently has. Below are just a few amendments rejected by the Republican Senate.
Amendment No. 432, rejected: To provide additional resources to create the opportunity for more Americans to obtain a higher education and advanced job skills by supporting two free years of community college paid for by raising revenue through requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. 55 votes against – 54 Republican, 1 Democrat – Manchin WV
Amendment No. 601, rejected: To create a point of order against legislation that would privatize Medicare, cut guaranteed benefits, increase out-of-pocket spending, or turn Medicare into a premium support plan. 53 votes against – 52 Republican, 1 Democrat – Warner VA
Amendment No. 828, rejected: To provide additional resources to save student financial aid and keep college affordable for more than 8,000,000 low-middle income students by restoring the $89,000,000,000 in cuts to Federal Pell Grants in the Republican budget. 54 votes against, all Republican.
Amendment 951, rejected: To establish and fund a new Federal-State partnership to expand access to high-quality preschool programs for children from low- moderate income families, offset with revenue from closing loopholes. 54 votes against, all Republican.
Amendment 1072, rejected: To provide additional resources to reject the Senate Republicans’ proposed $435 billion in cuts to Medicare. 54 votes against, all Republican.
It is important to note that The Keystone XL Pipeline Act is far from dead. The Senate has resumed consideration of this bill and it was the subject of lengthy discussion on the Senate floor on March 26, introduced by Senator Murkowski, Alaska (R): “Mr. President, we are back to continue debate and voting on amendments to this bipartisan Keystone XL bill.” With over 100 amendments currently proposed on the Act, President Obama’s veto is only one small step in stopping it. The Republicans are still determined to see it pass.
I’m not worried that Indian Country will vote for Senator Cruz in the unlikely event he should win the Republican nomination, but I am concerned about voter apathy. Like it or not, politics play a critical role in the coming times. The decisions that politicians make affect your future and the future of your takoja. Whether it is Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or Marco Rubio, Republicans do not represent Indian Country and they are now in the majority. We must not let the 2016
Presidential election become a repeat of the 2014 Midterm Elections when the Republicans swept the House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. This sweep gave the Republicans 54% of the voting share in the Senate and 56.6% in the House. Votes cast in Indian Country are extremely important; our voice is critical and it is not too early to get involved. Apathy has never furthered any cause or won a battle.
Tracy Hauff is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Oyate, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. You can visit her blog at www.pivotalortrivial.blogspot.com or her website at www.awomanofwords.com