We are not great.

Usually, I’ve got something pithy or trite to say here, some recycled feel-good about the holiday season. Today, most of us are sitting down with our families to celebrate what we’re thankful for. Most of the time, those things are derived from possession of some form of wealth and privilege. Others, they’re as a result of the giving nature that many of us possess.

To Barack Obama, Donald J. Trump, my Senators John McCain and Senator Jeff Flake, and my friends:

Many miles away, there are people, in America, your America, my America, standing up for themselves because they believe, like I believe, that clean water is a right.

As much as I may advocate for technology and the advances we’re constantly making, there’s grim reality here: Everything breaks. On average, there are 120 pipeline leaks a year. That’s one every three days.

When it comes to oil and its products getting in the water, here’s the science:
“There is a correlation between the proximity of the subject to the contamination and increased cancer rates. Along with studies done on cancer rates, there have been reports from locals of skin rashes and pregnancy complications (Armstrong et al, 2002). In addition to these problems, a 1993 study by a community health workers association found increased morbidity, spontaneous abortion, dermatitis, skin mycosis, malnutrition, and mortality rates.”[1]

And this isn’t new. Oil companies are wealthy, and like any entity with a profit motive, exploitative where they can get away with it:
“An average of 240,000 barrels of crude oil are spilled in the Niger delta every year, mainly due to unknown causes (31.85%), third party activity (20.74%), and mechanical failure (17.04%). The spills contaminated the surface water, ground water, ambient air, and crops with hydrocarbons, including known carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and benxo (a) pyrene, naturally occurring radioactive materials, and trace metals that were further bioaccumulated in some food crops. The oil spills could lead to a 60% reduction in household food security and were capable of reducing the ascorbic acid content of vegetables by as much as 36% and the crude protein content of cassava by 40%. These could result in a 24% increase in the prevalence of childhood malnutrition. Animal studies indicate that contact with Nigerian crude oil could be hemotoxic and hepatotoxic, and could cause infertility and cancer.”[2]

That’s a lot to read, so let me sum it up in simpler terms: Cancer. Abortion. Infertility. Death.

So here’s where the rubber meets the road. One thing I see, a lot, from many of you, *my friends*, is how great our country is, how Christian we are (I’m looking at you, ‘War on Christmas’ people), how pro-life we are, or should be. How good and moral we are, how free, how ‘right’.

Point blank: People in the one of the most advanced countries in the world, our country, are fighting for clean water. It’s not happening in some country you can’t find on a map, filled with people in a foreign culture you can easily pretend don’t exist. It’s happening here, in the land of the ‘free’. Attack dogs, pepper spray, hoses, LRADs.

Imagine if that was you, your parents, your kids, your spouse being affected with cancer, the inability to carry a child to term, or the inability to even conceive, for doing no more than drinking water, for wanting clean water.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the freedom to voice an opinion like this, and not have an LRAD pointed at me, or a hose turned on me in freezing temperatures. I’m thankful that we’re all intelligent enough to look at the risks, and the science, and what’s happening, right now, and have the self-awareness to say, ‘That could just as easily be me.’

Water issues affect all of us. We’re dead without it. If you think, “It’s far away, it doesn’t affect me”, you’ll be singing a different tune in five years, I promise. Without substantial effort, a significant portion of America will be dealing with water issues *this decade*, and that’s if we don’t pollute it first.

But this is something that can be ended today, and it requires us to speak out to our public servants, who often need to be reminded that’s what they are.

No one chooses poverty, and no one chooses oppression. We’re Americans, and I say this to you now, because this is happening, and so long as it continues: We are not great. There is no national pride to be found here. There is no argument to made for this that I can accept. This is the bedrock of morality.


[1] https://web.wpi.edu/…/Health_Effects_of_Oil…
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3644738/