"Men who fear to make the sacrifice of love will have to fight."
-- Toyohiko Kagawa
For over a hundred years, well into the 1980s, "more than half of all American Indian children were coercively transferred from their own families, communities and cultures to those of the conquering society." (1) There was a severe foster home/adoption program put in place by the federal government of the United States, excluding native homes, designed to deny children knowledge about their roots. Was this in the name of assimilation? Dissolution?
According to the second article of the United Nations 1948 Convention on Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide such a transfer of children is considered genocidal.
No one was punished. In fact, to date no one has even apologized.
Forty percent of all Indian women of childbearing age were subjected to involuntary sterilization for a number of years. (2) This covert program of The Bureau of Indian Affairs' "Indian Health Service" came to light in 1976. Another violation of Article II of the Genocide Convention.
Again, no one was punished.
In fact, with Alaskan Inuit children receiving Hepatitus-B vaccine innoculations (banned by the World Health Organization) in the 1990s (3), it's not even clear that the IHS practice above has been discontinued. The IHS was transferred awhile ago to work under the auspices of the Public Health Service, but you know what kinds of changes did NOT take place when The School of Americas was renamed; we simply don't know who's getting shot up with what these days.
And if we did, would it make a difference in policy? In public attitude? In your life?
Why are so many people on the Left caught up with whether or not they can hold Bush accountable for Crimes Against Humanity? They do a good tap dance around our ongoing genocidal practices respecting Native Americans, making sure that "genocide" is only used with reference to Nazi practices of the past. Very convenient for pulling a red herring respecting our own abominations. But the practice flies in the face of the fact that we have not been honoring the very standards we adopted at Nuremberg. In addressing the justification Americans used to put others to death in 1946 at the trials in Germany, U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson underscored that ''only as this standard is accepted, supported and enforced that we can move onward to a world of law and peace." (4)
Our own lebensraumpolitik with regard to Indians, our daily genocidal policies continuing into the New Century, are overshadowed by more sexy onslaughts abroad, ones that don't require lefties to acknowledge their complicity in crimes here at home. American citizens living today did not start the well-documented Red genocide, but they certainly enjoy the fruits of what their ancestors have wrought.
However, whether it's the fact that we violated international law in escalating our war with Iraq, in mining Nicaraguan harbors, or in decimating the Native Ameican population, we are not living in a nation of laws. Have not been for quite some time; the only difference since 9/11, perhaps, is that it's now bone clear to the vast majority of people in the world.
I'm afraid the only alternative to the absence of law is violence. And we are begging for it.
Of course, there IS the Gandhian option.
"We have to court death without retaliation and with no malice or anger towards those who bring about disorder." --Gandhi
"So long as we have not cultivated the strength to die with courage and love in our hearts, we cannot hope to develop the ahisma of the strong." --Gandhi
These are not particularly well-known quotes of the Mahatma's in the West. They don't play well with pop notions of non-violence. I think it might have something to do with Americans being overweight. Regardless, as Thomas Merton says, satyagraha used "for pragmatic ends instead of living by it as a spiritual creed" is not in the spirit of Gandhi. (5) It's simply hard to remember instances of progressives discussing non-violence in this light in prep for protest. The entire notion of satyagraha and non-violent action -- to have Ghandian integrity -- is contingent upon thinking about it as the culmination of inner unity already achieved, not as a means of achieving unity or accomplishing some political goal primarily.
But very seriously, there you have our choices. Self-sacrifice of a sort, or sorting it all out with what you have left. From the Civil Rights Movement one could easily see how "the institutions of this country respond only when there is a threat to their property, or when disorder in their lives forces them to confront problems that have not been solved for generations." (6) Surely some kind of confrontation which accomplishes that is what's called for now.
People from all over the country ask me daily what I think should be done, what can be done. They know I hold no hope for electoral politics as currently practiced; my formation of the organization Anyone But Bush or Kerry was a sick joke, of course. And they know I'm not down with the march-ons and talkathons. Ditto for Dean-like and MoveOn-like marketing techniques. And that, of late, I'm being very critical of even writings such as this which are essentially on the safe road to reform, playing with words for radical change. Words whose only requisite is the felling of forests.
What to do short of acting violently?
1. Acknowledge in your heart and mind that the United States of America must be destabalized, must disappear, for there to be justice. Prepare mentally for harsh times ahead. I know that's not as sexy as putting up a poster, and not seemingly doable*, but there you have it. That's the first step, or at least one of the fundamental beginning moves. Ward Churchill's From a Native Son: Selected Essays on Indigenism, 1985-1995 can provide a basis for adopting such an attitude. It served as the primary inspiration for this piece, so much so that I feel I've barely walked the fine line of plagiarism with a slim margin of success.
*Doable and desirable if lefties will only take the time to consult Churchill's "I Am Indigenist: Notes on the Ideology of the Fourth World" in the work cited above. But no one's making the time to do so; guess they're busy watching re-runs of Attenborough's Gandhi.
2. Start telling other citizens why you're no longer saluting the flag. I recommend sneakers in case you're not in the mood for a physical confrontation on a given morning.
3. Stop agreeing to any sentiments that "the troops deserve our support" in any manner, shape or form. And spread the word. They no more deserve support in this age of No Draft --regardless of the economic circumstances (clarified at Nuremberg!)-- than George Washington's image deserves to be on our monetary units, than Christopher Columbus deserves to be celebrated, than Kevin Costner deserves to be applauded for his "cinematic tribute to Indians." Dances With Money, for one and all, on these hallowed, hog-tied disappearing shores.
4. Give up the telly, chocolate, Earl Grey tea, leaf blowers, gold, animal by-products, The Sunday New York Times, Amy Goodman's interviews with Tim Robbins and Michael Moore, NPR, or non-organic food. Pick one. Don't stress yourself to death; we need you. But do circulate the notion that for the first time in history we're going to have to fight for the right to get by with less. There truly is no alternative here.
5. Have a special sit-down talk with any neighbor who both owns and uses an SUV and a leaf blower. Give an ultimatum that includes the possibility of ending your relationship.
6. Take two more steps directed toward making family members take sides, all due respects to Mother Teresa (particularly since poor souls driven to distraction by our policies abroad just robbed her successor Sister Nirmala).
7. Encourage everyone to take their children out of the public school system or demand that your community have a say in something significant that transpires in the classrooms...other than what you've been granted to have a say in to date. This is my one gesture toward traditional community organizing, leaving the content to your imagination.
8. Consider what you might have done if you were trapped in '30s Germany and could not find a sympathetic ear with which to move against the Final Solution.
9. Then get back to me, scratching the wax off your copy of John Lennon's #9 before you do, as we get weddy to watch Awerica wa(y)ne wit Baba Wawa; hold on to your sense of humor. Democratic defeatists, comfy Independents and rapacious Republicans need not apply.
Recognize that this is an attitudinal problem at first. Don't worry about organizing numbers among Americans, people who mostly want to adopt beliefs that require little personal change. Start with yourself, remembering that self-help begins with helping others, but doesn't require banging your head against American bricks.
You don't want to wake up one morning and ask, like Beckett's Vladimir, "Was I sleeping while the others suffered?". (7) You probably don't want to wake up on the proverbial tomorrow and ask, "Was I writing while the others suffered?" either. Substitute reading, vigiling, postering, posturing or self-educating at will here. One doesn't build a career --as one's primary (dare I say exclusive?) activity -- during wartime. I'm not speaking of America's; there's a difference between yours and theirs, I hope.
There was a piece posted recently somewhere by someone who has been a longstanding fan of a football team called the Kansas City Kikes. Or maybe it was the Gainsville Gimps. Or, perhaps, the Pittsburgh Polacks. Ooops! No, in fact it was the Washington Redskins. It was a sympathetic piece, but it's clear -- the italicized commentary at the end notwithstanding -- that the writer thought we could get by allowing such racism to exist. Everyone knows that few in the country would support -- in any way -- a team called the Fresno Faggots. When it comes to Indians, however, different rules apply.
No, the standards established at Nuremberg are invoked arbitrarily. Readers can tear into the above comments about naming teams, mascots and murderous helicopters after indigenous people all they want. They can enter into a futile exchange respecting how blatant racism is really just in fun or actually an honor bestowed. But the facts remain, our fate clear. And it has a lot to do with the inconsistencies cited. The above is just a drop in the Red Blood Bucket that continues to be our history, our story untold, our rudder.
If any of the Democratic candidates had wanted to end robbery by the rich, they would have delineated a specific plan for doing away with tax shelters. And if any president in the history of this country had wanted to make a dent in racism in general --forget about the Indians, for the moment-- he could have done much, much more to make it happen. Waiting on legislation has zero to do with a prez pontificating at the plenary podium of planetary leadership. We follow suit, in spades. We are truly responsible for what's been coming down. It IS the people directing this show. And, as Ward and Malcom have reiterated, the chickens are coming home to roost.
There were no innocent bystanders, according to Nuremberg. Are we going to claim a status that we denied others who we legally terminated for doing the same thing we've done? That's the fence that everyone in this country is trying to straddle by claiming ignorance, impotence or x number of steps removed from the atrocities. It won't wash. It won't go down.
What is going down now is America itself: "Suicide bombers had not been an Iraqi custom before the American invasion and occupation." (8) Don't think you know what Mexicans will do next. Ditto regarding Indian-sympathizers. And so on. All bombs aside, though, the country's finished. We can't create real security be ignoring the victims, blaming the victims, victimizing the victims. And we can't do it by pretending we're Israel, putting up a wall here, an additional checkpoint there. That's our route by rote. For God's sake (No, I mean ours!), you don't have to agree with any of the above to agree with the thrust of what I'm saying; all you have to do is note that it snowed heavily in the Balearic Islands this week. A case can certainly be made for suggesting that, at this juncture, only indigenous people can get us back in harmony with Nature. But ecocide can divert our eyes from the genocide.
At present, it's just a matter of how you want us to go past the finished line. How much blood do you want on your hands?
We cannot avoid repeating and bettering the worst atrocities of world history in a land where legality has been dispensed with for all practical purposes. Citing that we have "the best system in the world" will only garner a red glare from the vast majority of the world's citizens, including the parents of that ten-year-old boy who was incarcerated for 17 months in Guantanamo. Yes, if human hatred doesn't do it, Mother Nature's madness will make sure a cockroach speaks ex-cathedra among the ruins.
Let's review our options:
1. We follow the example set by Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. Don't see the movie.
2. We follow the example set by Peltier's Gandhi. See Leonard's Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance (ed. by Harvey Arden).
3. Forgetting about Nuremberg, we claim ignorance, impotence and/or intense anger at the New Century Nazis, and do zilch.
4. We march in circles, as per Pattrice Jones.
5. We listen to Ward Churchill's AK Press CD "Pacifism and Pathology in the American Left" and take up an armed struggle.
Other options are welcome via email or by posting a comment.
This piece is not only motivated from moral concerns; not by a long shot. As Churchill notes, "The new colonialism is radioactive; what it does can never be undone. Left to its own dynamics, to run its course, it will, spread across the planet like the literal cancer it is. It can never be someone else's problem.... The place to end it is where it has now taken root and disclosed its inner nature. The time to end it is now." (9)
I push the indigenist agenda these days, in great part, because the left is too dispersed, and needs more of a focus for solidarity. Hard to find a better single cause in that light. Ending internal colonialism would seriously diminish the power of American rapists to impose their imperial web on any of the continents; indigenism has an international core of concerns, is international in every sense. Since such a termination would deny access to the sources of uranium to all the earth's powers, American Indians (if they got just some of their land back) could seriously delimit nuclear proliferation. Ageism, agri-business atrocities, homophobism, racism, and sexism are just a few of the issues we could put to bed, drawing on their traditions. And, to highlight just one more of many mutual benefits, solar and wind power would become popular, as our Red Brothers and Sisters, in control of other resources, would ensure the continent's conversion to renewable, nonpolluting alternative sources of energy. I run all of this by you with the full knowledge that none of it is as exciting as establishing Hate Free Zones in progressive communities throughout the country or making arrangements for the Fourth of July.
I have the documentation sitting on my lap right here as I work the laptop: One of the most enduring, damaging myths about Native Americans is that they were violent. But annihilation was not their game, neither with respect to people nor nature.
What to do?
Richard Oxman, Indigenist/Abolitionist, advocates saying bye-bye to America as it's presently constituted. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Richard Oxman
Churchill, Ward, "In the Matter of Julius Streicher: Applying Nuremberg
Precedents in the United States," in From a Native Son: Selected Essays
on Indigenism 1985-1995 (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1996), p. 447.