August 21, 2008

Mile Post 398 and poor Indians

Mile Post 398 seems like a good response to the people who ask why Indians cling to reservations.

The movie presents the circumstances of what appears to be a typical reservation family. It's worth noting how limited the Indians' options are.

Cloyd and his wife are barely making ends meet despite working full-time jobs. There's no casino to lavish per-capita payments on them. Then Cloyd loses his job. Now what?

Remember, these people are poor to begin with. So what are they supposed to do? Do they use their high-speed Internet access to research job prospects in far-off cities? Do they hire a moving van (or perhaps a limousine) to whisk them across the country to a new home? Do they charter a cab (or perhaps a helicopter) to convey them to the college 50 miles away so they can learn a new profession?

No, they don't do any of these things because they're poor. They muddle through as best as they can. Perseverance helps, but so does luck. Cloyd manages because he tries, but also because he happens to meet Ray, who happens to know of a clerical job in a distant super-store.

Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is a lot easier when you're surrounded by wealth rather than poverty. When you have a good education and health care and thousands of jobs within a mile of you. No amount of "Get over it" slogans can compensate for a reservation's tough conditions.

No comments: