Taking a Stand for the First Time – at 40

Today I took the first step towards supporting the Native Americans protesting the Dakota Access pipeline.

This is a little out of character for me. Beyond signing the occasional petition I rarely do anything to get involved. Part of that is probably due to laziness. Part to fear of what repercussions may result from choosing a side. And part to the belief that nothing I do or say matters.

I know, I know. Every vote counts. Sitting on the sidelines benefits no one. “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein. But for as long as I can remember I’ve felt like what I say doesn’t matter because no one is listening.

I’ve begged the school for years to check my son for dyslexia and they never have, so I just work with him myself in the areas where he needs help. I’ve sent notes to the school board, and to the local news station, objecting to abuses and mismanagement at the board. I’m still waiting for a response. If no one pays attention to me at the local level, where at the very least I should not be a faceless, nameless entity, why should I believe the federal level is any different? The answer – I don’t. So why get involved this time? Money.

I don’t have enough of it to donate, run a campaign or influence any outcomes. But what little I have I control, and I can use it to speak. Major banks like Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America have helped fund the pipeline, and where do you think they got the money for that? Our deposits. So if you don’t like what your bank is investing in, move your money.

I’ve been with a big bank for years, simply because its the closest branch to me and I can withdraw money for free. But my husband insists on taking money out anywhere regardless of what the fee is so I’m really not saving anything by using the closest bank. Plus, their rates aren’t better than any other bank (in fact they’re worse), their policies aren’t as forgiving, and their security isn’t as good as the credit union I just switched to. So what was the point of me being there at all?

Nowadays banks are like ghost towns, no one goes there. We don’t need to. We can get cash from virtually any point of sale terminal, we can deposit checks on our phones, and we can get mortgages online. Its somewhat hard to say this – I used to work in banking and feel slightly guilty advocating for other options, but I’m tired of doing what’s convenient not what’s right, both personally and morally.

I personally wasn’t benefiting from using a banking giant. (In fact I might have even been losing a little considering the interest rates I have at my  new credit union). My money wasn’t staying in the local community, supporting people and businesses that could create local jobs. And while I have no way of knowing where my actual dollars went chances are it was to support projects like the DAP that I object to. (And I know not everyone sees this as an environmental issue like I do, but whether you agree with the business model or not I think you have to question the moral ambiguity displayed by DAP supporters).

Moving my money won’t make a difference in the whole scheme of things, I know that. But unlike emails and phone calls that can be easily ignored, I think if enough people speak with their bank account the banks themselves will start to take notice.

I spent years in my former career advocating for banks and the banking industry, and during that time I came into contact with some genuinely good people who wanted to make a difference. But they paled in comparison to the number of people who just wanted another way to make more money, and while that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, it can be if you don’t care how you do it. There are a lot of people, not just bankers but politicians, business people and professional investors, who only see dollar signs. My measly little protest won’t register to them, but I do think it will have a greater impact than an email, particularly if lots of people join in.

So for the first time I’m not just getting off the sidelines, I’m talking about it. I’m telling you what I believe, and I’m accepting that while some people may applaud others will scoff. That’s ok; I’m happy with my decision and proud to have done more than just sign my name or like a Facebook post. I’m still a little nervous about repercussions when it comes to getting involved, but I really can’t expect others to bear a burden unless I’m willing to share it with them. (And for the record its not turning 40 that has me thinking this way – its writing a blog and needing to hold myself accountable for what I believe).






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