By David E. Wilkins
That youngster’s sharp comment coincided with thoughts I’ve been having on the recent Geronimo/Bin Laden pairing. The tsunami of newspaper columns and editorials across Indian country—though practically nowhere else—complaining about the U.S. equating of the great Apache leader, Geronimo, with the notorious fugitive, Osama Bin Laden, has given me pause to ponder and reflect. For as a native, I, too, felt an initial surge of deep irritation and frustration at the U.S. military’s poor choice of terminology.
But as I’ve given this more thought I realize now that I should not have been surprised, given the checkered history of interracial and intercultural relations between Native nations, who have lived on this continent for untold millennia, and those who arrived only a few hundred years ago and who have yet to develop a clear and consistent cultural identity as “Americans,” and have not yet been able to forge a fair and humane relationship with the resident indigenous peoples or the lands, waters, and flora and fauna we are all dependent upon.
Why do we as aboriginal nations with such a lengthy and far more mature tenure on these lands insist on expecting that our much more immature non-native neighbors and their policymakers at the local, state, and national levels understand and appreciate the manner in which we remember our important historical figures?
Is it because we see occasional, if brief, glimpses of qualities in the American character that we admire–an intense passion for the moment; a knack for technological inventiveness; a strong belief in personal liberty; and a periodic recognition that justice, fairness, and perseverance matter?
Or is it because we remember the sincere entreaties of some of our ancestors who insisted that we show patience to our non-native junior treaty partners by helping them get situated in our homelands as acts of generosity and humanity, while at the same time taking it upon ourselves to teach them about the land, liberty, and freedom because they, too, were human beings?
As I noted in a debate on Western civilization, the Egyptian and Chinese civilizations have been around for thousands of years. So have Native civilizations. Compared to that, who cares what the whiny baby has to say about anything?
For more on the subject, see Indians, Terrorists = US Enemies and Conservatives Want to Nullify Laws, Indians.