I was born and raised in New Jersey, just outside of Manhattan and I grew up hearing about the Hamptons. It was where all the rich and famous people went on vacation; normal people like me went down to the Jersey shore, but people who drove Lamborghinis and Porches instead of Camrys and Grand Ams went to the glamorous Hamptons. I went there once, when I was 19, on a moving job with a friend and wasn’t that impressed. Sure, there were all sorts of fancy cars and multimillion dollar homes, but this was nothing I attained to. I’d heard stories about the way the rich people – after realizing the beauty of the place – moved in and slowly kicked all the farmers out, but since I didn’t learn this until I had already moved thousands of miles from New Jersey, I never followed up on it too much. The extent of my activity about the Hamptons consists only of scoffs at my aunt when she vacations there. Today I read an article about an Indian tribe that has been living there and has gotten fucked by the rich people. I know, what a crazy one in a million event. This tribe, the Shinnecock nation, was finally granted sovereignty after a 32-year court battle with the federal government. They are not their own country, but have been given rights of a semi-independent people.
The Shinnecocks, who live in shacks and have a very high unemployment rate, are surrounded by million dollar houses and ludicrously rich New Yorkers. The Shinnecocks are happy for this victory, but still have their sights set on more land- mainly a spiritually important mountain just down road – but one of their main sources of happiness, it seems, comes from the fact that they now have the right to build a casino. The Shinnecock people are poor and discarded and to think building a casino would help them out at all, is a joke. I have driven around this country for months at a time and have passed through many an Indian Reservation, most of which featured a casino of some sort. I did not see nice neighborhoods with paved roads and working street lights, instead I saw that same things that were taking place at reservations without casinos, only worse. Instead of a high population of unemployed, poor people, many of whom have drinking problems I saw high populations of unemployed, poor people, many of whom have drinking and gambling problems. Who are the casinos benefiting?
Even if the average Indian living on a reservation was able to live a more comfortable life from the existence of these casinos, is it worth it? These people have been lied to, killed, and stolen from for hundreds of years, and the way to make things right is to give them the right to destroy more land in order to build big gambling houses? There are approximately 1,300 Shinnecocks living in the Hamptons with no land. Next to them are thousands of rich USers who have plentiful amounts of land that the use on occasional weekends throughout the spring and summer. Other indigenous communities, most notably (for me anyway), in Central and South America have scoffed at the idea of being federally recognized or having the right to build casinos. Instead, they have reclaimed the unused land of their neighbors and began using the land for what it was intended for- the production of basic needs. The choice between gambling and self-sufficiency should be an obvious one.
I am no fan of statistics (except when it comes to sports, and even then I don’t give them much weight) but I believe in what I see. If we drive through this country of ours we will see the same thing time and time again. We can drive through rich neighborhoods and see big houses on large chunks of land; the houses (the one’s that are used year round and not just as vacation homes) are often times much bigger than necessary for the amount of people living in them. Beyond that, more times than not, these houses will be in front of large patches of land; land that is often used to let horses graze, to play a few holes of golf on, or for nothing at all. Driving the town, we can see Whole Foods, farmer’s markets and other healthy options for the residents. Keeping that in mind, we can drive (usually no more than a couple of miles) to the not-so-rich part of town. Here we will see small houses – usually not nearly big enough to fit the amount of people who live there – with little to no land. If we can manage to find a grocery store hidden among the liquor stores and gun shops, we will find sparse overpriced food mixed in with cheaper (but still not as cheap as a grocery store in a nicer neighborhood) processed junk.
It seem pretty obvious what should happen in a situation like this- we have thousands of people living in houses that could house millions, on land that can feed us all. Across town we have millions of people living in houses that should only be home to thousands of people, without enough land to even feed even a small percentage. Begging the Federal Government (who helped create this situation we see) for recognition or a few more months of unemployment benefits just doesn’t cut it. Sure, the ruling class has more weapons – police, the military, the media and so on – but we have the numbers and the heart. It’s time to take this shit back. Hopefully this little victory for the Shinnecocks will open their eyes as to what’s possible.