By Scott Kaufman
“My guess is,” Chomsky said, “that it’s a reflection of fear and desperation. The United States is an unusually frightened country, and in such circumstances, people concoct, maybe for escape or relief, [narratives] in which terrible things happen.”
“Fear in the United States is actually a pretty interesting phenomenon,” Chomsky continued. “It actually goes back to the colonies—there’s a very interesting book by a literary critic, Bruce Franklin, called War Stars. It’s a study of popular literature…from the earliest days to the present, and there are a couple of themes that run through it that are pretty striking.”
“For one thing,” Chomsky said, “one major theme in popular literature is that we’re about to face destruction from some terrible, awesome enemy, and at the last moment we’re saved by a superhero, or a super-weapon—or, in recent years, high school kids going to the hills to chase away the Russians.”
According to Chomsky, “there’s a sub-theme: it turns out this enemy, this horrible enemy that’s going to destroy us, is someone we’re oppressing. So you go back to the early years, the terrible enemy was the Indians.”
“The colonists, of course, were the invaders…whatever you think about the Indians, they were defending their own territory.” After a brief discussion of the Declaration of Independence, Chomsky notes that one of the complaints listed in it is that King George “unleashed against [the colonists] the merciless Indian savages, whose known way of warfare is torture and destruction and so on.”
“Well, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that…knew quite well that it was the merciless English savages whose known way of warfare was destruction and torture and terror, and taking over the country and driving out and exterminating the natives. But it’s switched in the Declaration of Independence,” Chomsky said, indicating that this is yet another example of Franklin’s thesis that oppressed people become, in the popular imagination of the oppressors, the “terrible, awesome enemy” bent on the destruction of America.
Related to this fear is greed. "We want it and they have it, so we try to take it from them. When they resist, we hate them and fear them."
Thomas King asks: What do whites want?
Taylor Prize nominee argues the issue that came ashore with the French and the English was—and remains—land
By Brian Bethune
The Lakota didn’t want Europeans in the Black Hills, but Whites wanted the gold that was there. The Cherokee didn’t want to move from Georgia to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), but Whites wanted the land. The Cree of Quebec weren’t at all keen on vacating their homes to make way for the Great Whale project, but there’s excellent money in hydroelectric power. The California Indians did not ask to be enslaved by the Franciscans and forced to build that order’s missions.
What do Whites want? The answer is quite simple, and it’s been in plain sight all along.
Whites want land.
Sure, Whites want Indians to disappear, and they want Indians to assimilate, and they want Indians to understand that everything that Whites have done was for their own good because Native people, left to their own devices, couldn’t make good decisions for themselves.
All that’s true, from a White point of view, at least. But it’s a lower order of true. It’s a spur-of-the-moment true, and these ideas have changed over time. Assimilation was good in the 1950s, but bad in the 1970s. Residential schools were the answer to Indian education in the 1920s, but by the 21st century, governments were apologizing for the abuse that Native children had suffered at the hands of Christian doctrinaires, pedophiles and sadists. In the 1880s, the prevailing wisdom was to destroy Native cultures and languages so that Indians could find civilization. Today, the non-Native lament is that Aboriginal cultures and languages may well be on the verge of extinction. These are all important matters, but if you pay more attention to them than they deserve, you will miss the larger issue.
The issue that came ashore with the French and the English and the Spanish, the issue that was the raison d’être for each of the colonies, the issue that has made its way from coast to coast to coast and is with us today, the issue that has never changed, never varied, never faltered in its resolve, is the issue of land. The issue has always been land. It will always be land, until there isn’t a square foot of land left in North America that is controlled by Native people.
Land. If you understand nothing else about the history of Indians in North America, you need to understand that the question that really matters is the question of land. Land contains the languages, the stories and the histories of a people. It provides water, air, shelter and food. And land is home.
Excerpted from The Inconvenient Indian. Copyright © 2013 Thomas King. Published by Doubleday Canada. All rights reserved.