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.
If one buys into the silly idea of legitimizing nations/nationalities only on their age, then one provides a tool for those who say that the Palestinians are not a nationality at all (you can already identify them by the quotes they always put around Palestinian).
"As I noted in a debate on Western civilization, the Egyptian and Chinese civilizations have been around for thousands of years."
As for that, you will need to speak to Taiwan about being an ancient Chinese civilization. That is where it remains. The current regime in mainland China spent many years trying to crush as much of the civilization and traditional Chinese character of mainland China as they could, using the worst European ideas possible (i.e. socialism). And they are also doing this in a non-Chinese nation (Tibet) that they have occupied for much of that time.
Egypt? Well, the current civilization in Egypt has a lot more to do with the empire that invaded and occupied it in the 7th century AD, crushing any indigenous culture, than it does the ancient Egyptian civilization that everyone talks about.
That map is slightly off, since, you know, Lakota is slightly farther east. Also, I would've used a pipe as the symbol.
dmarks: Yeah, modern China is laissez-faire capitalism (Friedman even said China was more free than the United States, which is quite damning of both China and Friedman.) with Confucius' "if something's wrong with society, it's you" notion. (Which, of course, takes what good there is in capitalism and deletes it.)
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