May 15, 2009

American views in Geronimo

Continuing the discussion of Geronimo, the fourth episode of PBS's We Shall Remain series:

When Geronimo was running loose, Americans considered him a vicious killer. But once they caught him, their attitudes changed. The following quotes tell the tale:
  • In a few short years, Americans came to view Geronimo in an entirely new way. When he had first arrived in Florida, crowds gathered at the prison to gawk at the wickedest Indian who ever lived. Eight years later, as Geronimo was being taken from Alabama to Oklahoma, crowds gathered again. This time they came to cheer a national hero.

    What had changed was America itself. Geronimo’s surrender had ended the Indian Wars that had raged for nearly three centuries.  (Narration)

  • Once that moment is perceived to be over, there is almost an immediate turn to a kind of nostalgic sensibility. Boy, you know, those were the days, right when we faced off against these challenging, dangerous Indian opponents. Gosh, I miss those times.  (Philip J. Deloria)

  • Once the despised savage, Geronimo was now the valiant warrior who had held out against impossible odds.  (Narration)

  • By the 20th century, Geronimo comes to stand for some of the values we hold most dear in America. The lone battler, the champion of his people, the guy who never gives up, the ultimate underdog.

    He becomes an icon, a sentimental icon, of what was once a real enemy. And there’s something amazingly American about that transformation.  (Historian)

  • While other Chiricahuas were kept under guard, Geronimo was allowed to travel. He attended expositions, and appeared in Wild West shows.  (Narration)

  • Geronimo adopting, or seen to adopt, American culture represents a major symbolic victory. American civilization has arrived. Even Geronimo is now embracing it.  (Historian)
  • Comment:  Bingo! This basically encapsulates our reasons for appropriating Indian cultures and symbols.

    1) Indians joined our culture (albeit unwillingly). They're part of us now. We've proved ourselves superior, so they saw the error of their ways. Now they're civilized instead of savages, just like us.

    2) Indians were fierce and warlike--a "challenging, dangerous" foe. We had to be even stronger and tougher to defeat them. But we did it. Our victory over these "honored warriors" proves we're the greatest warriors of all.

    As I said in Smashing People:  :The "Honor" of Being an Athlete, if we really wanted to honor ferocious fighters, we'd honor those who almost defeated us: the Nazi blitzkreig, the Viet Cong, the jihadi terrorists. But these warriors showcased our weaknesses as well as our strengths. We didn't get to parade them to show how much better we were than them.

    In other words, they punctured the myth of America's invincibility. They demonstrated that determined foes can beat the American fighting machine, at least temporarily. Hence they can't be our mascots. They're not tough in a primitive, outdated sort of way like our quaint li'l Indian savages.

    Think of the macho type of man who walks down the street with a Doberman or pit bull on a leash. This is exactly the mentality embodied in an Indian mascot. "I have a mighty dog on my leash" is the same as "I have a mighty Indian on my logo." They're both ferocious creatures, but we tamed them. Now they belong to us.

    For more on the subject, see Apache Views in Geronimo and Review of Geronimo.

    Below:  "Honoring" Indians as noble losers.


    Stephen said...

    "When Geronimo was running loose, Americans considered him a vicious killer."

    Which he was; Chief Joseph on the other hand is a better example of a Native hero.

    "we'd honor those who almost defeated us: the Nazi blitzkreig, the Viet Cong, the jihadi terrorists. But these warriors showcased our weaknesses as well as our strengths."

    Islamic terrorists didn't almost defeat us; 9/11 and other terrorist attacks haven't exactly crippled out military. Also speaking of terrorism you revealed just how moronic you are with quotes like these:

    "hy didn't anyone suggest that another right-wing nut like Tim McVeigh might be the terrorist? Why didn't anyone declare "war" on terrorism back when the murderers were white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants? Perhaps because the 9/11 massacre was much worse...or perhaps because we have a racist, xenophobic cowboy mentality. Perhaps because a home-grown killer is "a boy gone wrong" while a foreign killer is "evil incarnate."

    Apparently you aren't familiar with the fact that we've been attacked by non-White terrorists before; the terrorist group FALN for example or the first attack on the world trad center by Ramzi Yousef. That and the nonsense you've spewed about hitler prove that you are not erudite you'd like to think you are.

    Stephen said...

    Not to mention the fact that you agree with churchill take on 9/11.

    Rob said...

    I'm still waiting for you to present a shred of evidence about Geronimo's crimes. Your blowhard opinions on the evils of non-Westerners don't count.

    Re "Apparently you aren't familiar with the fact that we've been attacked by non-White terrorists before":

    Apparently you aren't familiar with the concept of a non sequitur, since you just committed one. My comment about white right-wing terrorists doesn't preclude there being other terrorists who weren't white or right-wing. Your stupid mistake if you didn't understand that.

    I agree that Churchill had a point about 9/11. Not that he was right about everything he said. That may be too nuanced a position for a whiner like you to grasp. ("Boo hoo...Rob is picking on white people again!")

    You're as incapable of proving my "ignorance" about Hitler as you are about any other subject you've tried. But go ahead and try, mouth. Stop crying like a spoiled little brat and start making your case. Put up or shut up.