Stop being thin-skinned busybodies
By James Giago Davies
People can say incredibly stupid things about Indians; Bill Maher thinks they have no sense of humor. He saw some Hollywood westerns and ignorantly accepted the stoic Indian as fact. All he had to do was sit in his green room and talk to flesh and blood Indians but I guess he was too busy dismissing them as an anachronistic insignificance.
A woman down in Hot Springs once told my mom she should be grateful for White culture: “At least we stopped you people from eating each other!”
When everyday people say stupid things about Indians, it generally never goes further than a small circle of acquaintances, although that woman’s remark obviously took a half century to make this column. However, people with power and influence, should be held socially accountable, but here’s the sad part—we generally ignore public people who actually did say something terrible and stupid about Indians, like we did Bill Maher, and fuss over those we claim did, when many meant no such offense, like recently happened with Mike Huckabee.
Why would we do that? Because that is what a victim mentality busybody does. He revels in being offended, because his thin-skinablity is motivated by feelings of personal inadequacy, not an internalized commitment to principle and justice.
Huckabee would make an awful president. He is ignorant and he is dangerous, but he was not guilty of what he was recently accused of, comparing Indians to jihadists. Fourteen minutes into a half hour speech Huckabee said: “When I hear our current president say he wants Christians to get off their high horse so we can make nice with radical jihadists, I wonder if he can watch a western from the ‘50s and be able to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys really are!”
Indian Country Today reporter Simon Moya-Smith reported that on 5/6/15 as if Huckabee could only mean Indians, and the article is missing a quote from the Huckabee campaign. That is Bad Journalism 101. Most westerns where good guys fight bad guys are like Shane, or High Noon, or Gunfight at the OK Corral; the bad guys are not Indians, they wear cowboy hats and spurs and they are bad cowboys.
Westerns are full of horrifyingly inaccurate and unflattering representations of “bad guy” Indians, but unless a candidate connects his comment to that aspect of westerns we have zero latitude to connect his remark to Indians. There is zero evidence Huckabee implied Indians, but plenty of evidence people recklessly and unfairly inferred he did.
In every western the bad cowboy is a bad guy, regardless of the color hat he wears, but in many westerns, the Indian is actually the good guy, but even then we bend over backwards finding offense.
Johnny Depp’s Tonto was a good guy, but considered an insulting caricature of Indians. Granted, this was an awful movie, but movies are chock full of insulting caricatures of all kinds of people. I heard criticisms of that movie like, “No Indian would dress or act like that!”
No white man would dress or act like Ironman, either, but it’s a super hero fantasy. The Lone Ranger is a fantasy, a cowboy super hero—it isn’t supposed to be realistic, anymore than Forest Gump was a realistic portrayal of the idiot savant, or the developmentally disabled.
Instead of focusing on every perceived slight, why not pour all that energy into the actual nuts and bolts reality plaguing almost every reservation—violence, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse. Face these ugly truths, fight these ugly realities, honor the actual heroes, point fingers at the actual villains, and then if you have any energy left, and you damn well shouldn’t have energy left, knock yourself out being all offended over Johnny Depp’s Tonto.
Acculturation has left Indian America with deep, debilitating wounds, and these wounds compel Indians to hurt other Indians, to create bogeymen to hate and attack so they don’t have to face the man in the mirror. There are plenty of actual evil people hating on Indians, we don’t have to fabricate fresh ones to deflect our righteous indignation from the disheartening task of fixing what’s actually broken.
Indian culture has been oppressed to the point Indians no longer need the Wasicu to beat them down. Indians have spent the last century becoming experts at beating themselves down. Time to man up and start living in the 21st Century. Time to develop the skills and knowledge to protect the culture from destructive outside forces like Rand Paul, who wants to abolish the BIA, and even more destructive internal forces, misguided spiritual leaders, corrupt tribal administrations, bad parents neglecting and terrorizing vulnerable children.
If we could just spend one year doing that, then we would have the social gravitas forcing others to listen, then when Bill Maher said another stupid thing about Indians...well, he never would again say such a stupid thing, because it would be common knowledge all you crazy Indians are as funny as all get-out.
(James Davies can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copyright permission Native Sun News