By Jonathon M. SeidlIt was an 8 minute prayer that referenced everything from Father Sky to things that “slither.”
Last night’s Tucson memorial service opening blessing from Native American Carlos Gonzalez had some raising their eyebrows and many scratching their heads. What exactly was it? A prayer, a blessing, a personal information session on Carlos Gonzalez? All of the above?The Attack on a Native American Blessing
By JasonYesterday, a memorial service was held in Tucson, Arizona for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting this past Saturday. While President Obama’s speech was almost universally praised for its heartfelt honoring of those involved, and “elevating the political debate,” other aspects of the evening were not received as warmly. Most notably, there’s been a wave of criticism regarding the opening invocation by Dr. Carlos Gonzales, a Pascua Yaqui Indian and associate professor at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine.Some of these attacks:Native American gives rambling speech while holding a feather. His remarks are frequently interrupted by whoops and cheers. He gives a shout-out to his son serving in Afghanistan. Brags about his ethnic Mexican background. Babbles about two-legged and four-legged creatures and the feminine energy that comes from Mother Earth. Mercy.
As for the "ugly," I’m afraid I must cite the opening "prayer" by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to "the creator" but no mention of God. [...] In any event, the invocation could have used more God, less Mexico, and less Carlos Gonzales.
[N]o Catholic priest, Baptist minister or Jewish rabbi was included in the program. What was included was a rambling "Native American Blessing" at the outset of the program. This blessing provided a stark statement of pantheistic paganism, including forthright declarations concerning "Father Sky," "Mother Earth" and the "Creator."
Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner
In fact, a whole weird vibe was set at the very beginning of the memorial with pseudo-Native American medicine man Carlos Gonzales. He began the off kilter scene with his pseudo-blessing of rocks and trees, northern doors, and--well, whatever he was blessing, anyway. His self-referential promotion was also quite off-putting.
More sensible people offered a rationale for Gonzales's blessing:Gonzales was a fitting choice for several reasons, says Patty Talahongva, who is Hopi and past president of the Native American Journalists Association. The tribal reservation is in the district of gravely injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. And he’s a symbol of Arizona’s diversity—part of the university president Robert Shelton’s ongoing campaign to bring all streams of thought, culture and tradition into the campuses. (Hence the title “Together we thrive” on the funeral programs).
Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today
It is fitting and proper that Dr. Carlos Gonzales offers a prayer at tonight’s memorial for the victims, survivors and their families of the shooting that left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition. Dr. Gonzales is an associate professor at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine. He is a medical doctor. He is also a Pascua Yaqui Indian who embraces his culture and is learning the ways of traditional healing.
Dr. Gonzales will aid in the healing of this community, this state and indeed this nation in the wake of such violence.
Patty Talahongva for Youth RadioJason explains what's wrong with the protests:What’s troubling about this wave of criticism towards Dr. Carlos Gonzales is that it shows how little tolerance there is in some corners for any expression of religion that isn’t Christian or some flavor of ceremonial deism. Even during a memorial that many felt was uniting and uplifting, the wave of scare quotes, snide remarks, and insults against indigenous religions couldn’t be held back. This is the same impulse that led to the disruption of Rajan Zed’s Senante invocation, the ignorance and arrogance that only comes from almost total religious and cultural power and privilege. These hectoring voices darkly reinforce the attitudes that continually place Arizona’s recreation over the sacred land of its indigenous peoples. They are a sour note in what was, on the whole, a moment where our country, in all its diversity, came together.Comment: The conservative crybabies actually have a couple of valid points:
1) Should there be any kind of religious ceremony at a government function? As an agnostic, I'd say no, in general.
2) Eight minutes of any prayer or blessing is about 7.5 minutes too long, as far as I'm concerned.
But these conservatives really weren't concerned with those points. They were offended because someone invoked the Native Creator rather than the Christian God--as if they're different entities.
Note the snide attacks on Native religion: putting "prayer" and "creator" in quotes, calling Gonzales a pseudo-Native, etc. What did they expect: Chief Sitting Bull in full regalia? Thanks for demonstrating your ignorance about Natives, conservatives.
Clearly these people wouldn't have been happy with anything except a Christian priest invoking the Great White Father in the Sky. And don't bother taking their talk about the First Amendment seriously. I'm confident the hypocrites have never denounced Christianity in government: prayers in Congress, "In God We Trust" on currency, "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, etc.
What it means
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Denigrating Native prayers = denouncing immigrants and Muslims for taking over America = massacring "savage" Indians. It's a historical continuum of thought and action.
Two hundred years ago it was "Kill the savages." One hundred years ago it was "Kill the Indian and save the man." Now it's attack and insult the Indians while encouraging people to bring guns.
Pity the poor, put-upon "real Americans." Won't the brown-skins ever stop picking on them and their god? It sure is getting hard to stay on top if you're a white male Christian. Boo-hoo!
Confirming the notion that white Christian conservatives can't stand the thought of being merely equal to others, these people also protested the "Together We Thrive" t-shirts handed out at the event:
Conservatives protest liberal message of unity. "How dare you talk about togetherness when we're trying to take down this Nazi-style dictatorship?" said one madman brandishing a gun.
Conservatives denounce togetherness as a liberal political message. "We're trying to overthrow the Constitution," said one rabid rightist. "We're not interested in togetherness with the blacks, the Jews, and the liberals."
As a Navajo I find Lionslayer44's comment pretty funny. Course I've had people talk like that to me offline, that site is crawling with racist bigots.
The talk about "feminine energy" was weird. I'll give them that. Of course, it's primarily because, as I understand it, the feminine is so degraded in the West. If a kids' show creator wants to make a feminist statement, for instance, they'll have a woman behaving in a masculine manner (Think Princess Leia.), but never a man behaving in a feminine manner.
Should a government function have any religious symbolism? I say no. Religion is wonderful for art, but horrible for government.
They want Indians who fit their own beliefs, at best. Of course, polytheistic cosmologies are, ipso facto, more complex than monotheistic cosmologies. One big reason the Crystal Dragon Jesus that is the Great White Father is so popular with Indians in Westerns.
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