Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

American Genocide

By Jed Morey in Indian Issues on

Writing a column is sometimes an arduous process. When a thought is in the embryonic stage, yet deadlines require it to prematurely take shape on the page, it can be utterly frustrating. There are times, however, when the column gods smile upon you and organize your experiences in such a profound and unambiguous way that the act of writing is a denouement of sorts that reaffirms one’s faith in the process.

On Monday of this week I was reviewing materials related to New York’s cigarette taxation policy on Indian territories—a frequent topic of this column—in preparation for an interview with a friend upstate named John Kane, who discusses Indian issues on his weekly radio show in Buffalo. While I was organizing my notes, John sent me a message asking if I had seen a recent news report about welfare and Indians in America by John Stossel. I had not.

Full disclosure: I had no idea who John Stossel was prior to viewing this report. It didn’t take long, however, to arrive at the conclusion that this reprobate masquerading as a reporter is a modern-day sophist who obviously sold his soul to the devil a long, long time ago in return for fame, fortune and the worst ’70s porn moustache this side of Geraldo Rivera.

Last week, this veteran television “journalist” broadcast a segment titled “Freeloaders” on Roger Ailes’ ongoing anti-intellectual jihad known as Fox News. It’s a subject Stossel has “investigated” before. Only this time he directs his vitriol at American Indians, a group he refers to en masse in his introduction as “wards of our state.” Stossel then proceeds to churn out quite possibly the most one-sided, racist commentary on TV news since Dodgers’ executive Al Campanis told Ted Koppel in 1987 that black people don’t have “some of the necessities” to manage in baseball and lacked “the buoyancy” to be good swimmers.

Stossel’s report is packaged as an investigative news feature and passed off as real journalism despite the complete absence of veracity. Stossel prevaricates so often in attempting to prove that every Indian in America is poor, stupid and lazy that this piece almost feels like satire. Only it’s not. He blames outrageous government subsidies for poverty on Indian territories, not the fact that over four centuries, the Indians who weren’t extinguished and disposed of were herded into the remote, resource-poor areas of our nation and stripped of their land, rights, dignity, habitat, game and whatever else our government could steal.

But for Stossel, enough is enough. It’s high time Indians pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start making money without the assistance of the federal government or revenue from casino gaming. Declaring “Capitalist Indians achieve,” Stossel sets out to prove that the American dream is available for Indians too, if they would just stop being so poor, stupid and lazy. In fact, not only can they still be Indian, they can be rich. Like the Amish.

No, that wasn’t a joke. He actually asks a pro-native advocate during an interview, “How come the Amish got wealthy?” While his guest is attempting to recover from the idiocy of this question, he steps in with his own conclusion: “Maybe they weren’t relying on government rules and Indian trusts and lawyering that teaches Indians to be helpless.”

Every conclusion that Stossel arrives at is based upon absolute lies. He holds the Lumbee tribe in North Carolina out as the ultimate success story, insinuating that they are all thriving because they choose to ignore government subsidies and don’t let the United States control their land like every other tribe in America. He uses this example as the benchmark against which every Indian nation should be compared and ignores the fact that the Lumbee Indians exist in perhaps the strangest Indian purgatory with a status exactly unlike every other tribe in America.

First of all, there is no Lumbee reservation. Moreover, Lumbee is just a colloquial name given to an amalgam of Indian tribes who are federally “recognized” as having authentic Indian roots though hailing from a large and disparate geographic area. This condition is vastly different from being “federally recognized.” The distinction is of no moment to Stossel, who goes on to falsely claim that the U.S. government actually controls Indian reservations. Footage of poverty-stricken reservations out west provides the backdrop for venomous lies such as this: “Because the government owns most Indian property, individuals rarely build nice homes or businesses.”

I have neither the time nor the inclination to detail the copious ways in which Stossel lies through his cheesy moustache in this shameless “report.” I’ve wasted too much effort on this lowlife bastard already. Instead, I leave you with the perspective I gained from witnessing the perfect counterpoint to his dripping filth.

Tuesday night my wife and I attended an event at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County to hear Eli Rosenbaum speak. Rosenbaum, who hails from Westbury, is the director of human rights and special prosecutions for the U.S. Department of Justice and has the distinction of being the longest-serving prosecutor and investigator of Nazi criminals and other genocide perpetrators in history. His presentation was brilliant and captivating. But it was the courageous testimony of Eugenie Mukeshimana, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who spoke before him, that broke the hearts of every person in attendance.

What struck me most as I sat down to pen this column, and what the column gods undoubtedly intended me to experience in this period, was not as obvious as you might think. The obvious parable is the dichotomy between Stossel’s blatant racism and transparent hatred and the purity of Rosenbaum’s work and the tragedy of Mukeshimana’s story. But it’s John Kane’s perspective that broke through to me, and perhaps saddened me the most.

No matter what I write here or how many dots are ever connected in people’s minds about life in Indian Country, there will never come a time when the majority of Americans recognize the genocide hidden in plain sight: the American holocaust. This is how Indians like John Kane refer to it, and casually so, because for them it is living history, an ever-present reality. But it isn’t spoken of or acknowledged in white circles. There is no one for Eli Rosenbaum to prosecute. There is no Indian Mukeshimana who can testify to the atrocities.

As Americans we view ourselves as liberators, and in many cases throughout history, we have been indeed. We go so far as to blame ourselves for not intervening in places such as Rwanda but our national guilt ends there. And while I was simultaneously bursting with pride last night listening to Eli Rosenbaum—a Long Islander, one of us—and breaking with sorrow for Eugenie Mukeshimana, I must admit to what is perhaps the grossest of human emotions: envy.

I was envious that there are good souls in the world who value human life enough to listen, understand and learn. Envious that there are people like Rosenbaum who selflessly dedicate their lives to justice, no matter how belated it may be. Envious because neither exists for the invisible indigenous people of our nation considered by Stossel (and I’m sure many others) as “wards of our state.”


John Kane said...

I sometimes battle with identifying my role in the Native communities and with the Native people I have had the honor to connect with. I clearly identify myself as a Warrior and I don’t mean metaphorically. I have stood the line against stacked odds in several communities embroiled in battles with outside authorities over the years. But I am equally committed to educating. I do my radio show to be a voice, not a voice thats speaks for Native people but one that speaks of Native people and the issues we face. Providing an intelligent dialogue that can become conversations not only among my people but across cultures is my goal. I don’t want to be the last word on any Native issue but rather the beginning of a conversation that continues without me.
This article by my friend and most recent guest literally choked me up; not necessarily a useful weapon for a Warrior. Whether it is age, grandchildren, wisdom or the sensitivity that comes with it all that moves me more to my role as a teacher and a speaker and closer to retirement as a fighter, I’m not quite sure. But I am grateful to Jed Morey for continuing the conversation.

Cheryl said...

I thank you for your words and your voices. There are many like this Stossler, who do not know the many injustices that our native peoples have faced. His words of cruelty and ingorance are like a disease. Those words of negativity, they seep into our culture.
These are the kind of men who first came to our lands, they did not see the beautiful peoples that we were. In our teachings, we talk about love, respect and honesty. We believe that we are interconnected with each other and with our mother earth.
There are many positive changes happening today, young natives are attending colleges, becoming doctors and lawyers. Some are coming back to their own peoples to help make a difference. I myself am a young native, I am a member of the Haudenosaunee people out of Western New York. I go to school and I work a full time job. I do not do drugs nor do I drink. Sometimes I play bingo with my elders and I enjoy the occasional ciggerette when reading.
I spend my down time learning the ceremonial ways of my people so that I may further the culture of my people, as my ancestors did so many years ago. I have not forgotten who I am, and I will fight to help others to remember!
Mr. Stossler will have his day with the creator, and to me, it seems that it is a sad life that he lives. I feel sorry for him, his negative mind keeps him from seeing the beauty in our world. It is funny to me, I think the most "poor" thing in my life is my "rez" bomber, haha but I am even greatful for that, and in that gratefulness I am so much more richer than our friend Mr. Stossler.

Anonymous said...

I believe Stossler's twist on the facts is for the sake of greed! Greed for recognition. Greed for money for a story of twisted facts that will sell. Stossler should do a story of the "secret" sterilization of Native American women in the U.S. "Secret" because they did not know the US federal Public Health Services hospitals on the reservations were performing them. Let's see how he "twists" the facts on this.

Rezradio said...

Stossel had some good points about the continuing destruction of Indian Country at the hands of the welfare/warfare state. I think he did not research all available data when referencing various groups, and did not delve deep enough into the ideas of sovereignty and self determination. He presented a more generalized view, one that holds a lot of truth to it, if one takes a rational, objective look at the state of affairs. Detractors are missing the point that this article was not directed at Indians, but at the a general public who continues to clamor for solutions from an organization which cannot provide those solutions. We are the example of government management, and when looking at IHS, Housing, Tribal Councils and all the rest of the trash, I have to agree with many of his sentiments.

Were Mr. Stossel to take a more in depth view, I would that he compare prosperous, sovereign minded communities such as the Haudenosaunee communities, vs the more "please help us Mr. Obama" crowds. It would be of interest as well to make a comparison of more free market oriented communities, such as Akwesasne and Kahnawake as opposed to more communized communities like Onondaga.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't the reservation system reached it's expiration point? Yes Europeans destroyed the native's lifestyle and committed atrocities for years and that cannot be dismissed, but the natives do themselves no favors by maintaining antiquated ideals while sucking at the teat of government. Do the Amish use welfare and medical assistance, or do they provide for their own? They may have better land, but natives aren't restricted from modern pursuits. Not trolling, but sick of the excuses.

John Kane said...

As per the last comment:
Your ignorance is of the type that creates the environment for genocide. I assume, for you, that silly Israel thing has reached its "expiration point" as well.
What are your excuses for all your political, social and economic problems that dominate the media and minds of your people? Oh, that's right. You likely prefer blame over excuses.
We simply want your government to stop meddling in our affairs and stop trying to make us Americans. You can keep your illusions of freedom, your racism, your propaganda and your pitiful excuse for a democracy.

Irene said...

With most of Our lands gone, The atrocious wrongs, After what was done, We couldn't continue to run, Somewhere safe? There was no such place, We were chased, Wit relentless hate, Try having your children taken away, All else laid to waste, Look at what We faced, Indians were a vanishing race, & In Alcohol We sought escape, As the Whiteman came to take Our place, Butchered & Mutilated Our race, Then next, With Our Spirit wrecked, Oppress, Cause & Effect, What do We have left? At Best, An empty shell of a Being, Addicted to destructive things, With the Old Days of Freedom rapidly disappearing, The END of Our Way of Life nearing, No one caring, No mercy sparing, Whiteman snaring, Those daring,... Yeah Our People still remain, But We will never be the same, YOU forever altered Our grain, Excessively washing Our brain, Souls THEY drained, As THEIR corruption reigned,... As this is thrust on Us, Do to greed, Countless generations now fukt on up, From the seed,... Try being a mere kid taken from your parents, By the President & His Tyrants, & If you weren't compliant, Your Whole Nation is dyin', Forced down Trails cryin',... Tried to give Us a new beginning, Which started with YOUR sinning, I see YOUR evil-ass grinning, Demeaning, Christian-like seeming, Pride-beaming, But what's there to be proud of? That YOU filled this land with blood, How YOU tried to eradicate Us,or That in YOU lies no concept of Brotherly Love, or How YOU poisoned Us with this insidious drug, To make Us not give a fuk, Or even have a clue, To what THEY were about to do, THEY knew, Alcohol is highly addictive, THEY purposely did it, Now I'm plagued with it, & It's not just the Drunks you see, Devastates Whole Families, Take it to the grave wit me, It's now heredity, Implementing Legacies,... This is a Historically Traumatic Mess, With devastating effects on the rest, Social Distress of Those left, Isolated on the Rez, Left for dead,... Our reaction to this threat to Our very existence, Can be considered persistence, But Whiteman called it resistance, Which began a long & ugly pattern of Indian Relocation, This or decimation, Locked in a Cycle of Poverty for several centuries, The only ethnic group in the U.S that MUST prove its ethnicity,... THEY leave Death & Destruction where ever THEY go, History shows THEY bestow Woe,... How can One not be enraged upon learning of this sad chronicle of events, Terrible tragedy, massacres & relocation suffered to a tremendous extent, perpetrated by the Government,... June 2, 1924, We were 'Savages' no more, We now became citizens of where We were born, Right Here, In the Land of Our Hearts Tear, Right Here!! Where We were involuntarily made part of the largest mass execution in American History, This Violent Encounter was called a "Great Victory", In a whole different account where a 15yr old Nez Perce boy named Kowtoliks, Depicts, "I saw little children killed & men fall before bullets coming like rain", Imagine seeing that same thing, Here is a testament from Wounded Knee, "When I look back now from this high hill of my old age...I can still see, Butchered women & children lying heaped, Scattered all along the gulch of the crooked creek, Or how about having your breast cut from your chest, Then tossed around, The soldiers sic game was not to let the slippery tit hit the ground, Germ-warfare & Genocide, The 'Fighting for Our Lives', TODAY would rather Die, Then be Alive, LOOK at Our high rate of suicide, Traumitized, Demoralized, Disenfranchised,... With the Governments paternalistic pattern of interaction, Now & Today it still happens,... We really need to Hear the Stories of the Past, How We were the First but recognized Last, How We were discarded like yesterdays trash, BECAUSE EVERYONE ONE OF US IS A PRODUCT OF THE PAST