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Archive for August, 2010

Yesterday,  I was passed by a pickup truck that had an interesting sticker on its back window. It read:

WELCOME TO AMERICA

NOW SPEAK ENGLISH

An interesting point of view, and in my younger, less experienced days, I might have thought that this was a reasonable statement. Yet, the more I see and learn and think about our country, the more I wonder about things I was taught in school, things that I just learned as part of our culture, and things that just seemed like they were part of the unquestioned “normal” – things like English being our de facto national language. And then I start to think about just whose country this is anyway. I mean, why shouldn’t the sign say,

WELCOME TO AMERICA

NOW SPEAK CHEROKEE

or Nipmuck, or Mohican,(OK, not Mohican ’cause they’re all gone),  or Apache, or so many others. Why do I say this? It’s because the native Americans owned this place, this continent – in fact. They were living in both North and South America for at least 10,000 years, (yes, think about it. Ten thousand years.) maybe more, before the Europeans arrived a mere 400 years ago.  Of course the Europeans promptly announced that they had discovered America, because the native Americans didn’t count.  Which is why Sir Walter Raleigh didn’t notice that North Carolina was already taken and already had its own name.  Of course it was the English who “discovered” the East Coast (disregarding the Vikings who were there 500 years earlier,but they also don’t count) – except for Florida, which the Spanish “discovered” years and years before the Pilgrims ever dreamed of setting sail to the New World. And let’s not forget the French. They were all over North America, exploring and claiming a far greater part of the what is now the USA than the English ever did. But, we bought the French-owned areas cheap when they needed money for their wars in Europe,  and we fought with the Spanish and just took the land they claimed in the Southwest places like Texas and Arizona and New Mexico. We bought Alaska from the Russians, who also figured the native Americans didn’t count.  And Hawaii? Well, we just took it because we wanted it.  The Hawaiians didn’t count either. (By the way, when I say we, I mean the English settlers of yore – not you and me, of course. We had no part in their crimes, we are simply the innocent beneficiaries of their theft.  Feel better?)

I suppose it was all very convenient.  The land was there for the taking, except for those pesky native Americans.  Of course, they didn’t have the guns the Europeans had.  And the Native Americans soon learned, to their regret, the high price they would pay for resisting the avarice of the Europeans. It was nasty old President Andrew Jackson who ordered the “removal” of the native Americans from the eastern U.S.  He sent them off to the hinterlands, beyond the Mississippi.  We needed their land so…..  so it was OK.  Right? Sure.  Will of God.  Manifest Destiny. The Elect were simply doing God’s will. So the Cherokee and others were forced westward along a devastating march they called the  “Trail of Tears”. But I don’t think many of the English settlers who took their lands were crying.

Which brings me to Arizona. Not that the Cherokee went that far, but there are other native American tribes there now.  On reservations.  If you ever drive across the Southwest there is one thing you will find striking – unless you already live there because then it will just seem normal.  It is the starkly barren, landscape. You can pass native American reservation land and hardly see a blade or grass, or anything else green. It’s all sand and rocks. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Why would these Native Americans choose to live in such God forsaken places when there is so much beautiful land in America?” Indeed.

Which brings me to that ugly sheriff in Arizona who goes around arresting all the illegal immigrants and shipping them back to Mexico. I’m talking about the Hispanics of course. There are plenty of other illegal immigrants in the U.S. in other places. There are thousands and thousands of illegal Irish immigrants who quietly live as maids and caretakers for the children of the wealthy – mostly in the Northeast I believe. There are plenty of other European “illegals” too who we just quietly welcome and employ because they work hard for us (illegally) and cheaply and we don’t have to pay Social Security tax or anything else for them and they blend in and they look sort of like us and they talk like us, sort of, and they go to the same churches we do.  (I don’t mean you and me, I mean the rich folk.)

So what is happening in Arizona? Haven’t all these Mexicans come up for years and worked for next to nothing in agriculture and  in the house building trades? Didn’t they supply a huge and very cheap labor force where their employers didn’t have to provide any benefits or Social Security or anything except a wage that was a small fraction of what they would have had to pay a white man of European descent – you know, a real American? Could it be that the jobs are now gone and the Mexicans are no longer needed so they get the royal boot?

But why all the virulence from that ugly sheriff?  These are Hispanics right? And aren’t the Spanish people also Europeans too? Why are they so unwelcome now when no one complains about all the other illegal Europeans? What’s that you say? You say the Mexicans aren’t Spanish? Come to think of it, they don’t look much like Penelope Cruz, 0r Salma Hayek, or Antonio Banderas, do they? In fact, there seem to be a lot of them, not just Mexicans, but people from all over Central and South America who look sort of, well, like native Americans, don’t they?

Oh. You mean they had Indians in Mexico and South America too? Yep. And it seems that a sizable number of people from south of the border have a sizable amount of Native American blood, unlike us pure-blooded people here – which accounts for the fact that they don’t look Spanish, even though they sort of speak it.  I suppose it isn’t an accident that the Statue of Liberty faces Europe and not South America or Asia.  What are the words? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.” Right. Thing is, the Golden Door is in New York City, not certainly Phoenix. But it is still open – for the right people. And it looks like people from south of the border aren’t the right kind of people.

SPEAK ENGLISH the sign said. SPEAK ENGLISH. Right…good idea. Let’s all just forget our native tongue (God knows the Irish did) and speak English – after all, it’s our national language, isn’t it?

And by the way, all you native Americans – WELCOME TO AMERICA.

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It’s sort of like the Emperor’s New Clothes, isn’t it?  Everybody pretends that we have waged a successful war. Mission accomplished!!  It’s like we don’t want to admit what surely everyone knows: the whole thing was a fraud.  Remember the reason we went to war? I do. Weapons of mass destruction – that was it. Old George Bush told us the Iraqis had them. He was sure of it. They had nukes. They had yellow cake from Niger. Colin Powell dragged out the high altitude photos – just like the Kennedy administration did before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Remember how the U.S. had taken photos with U-2 spy planes of the Russian ICBMs that were being set up in Cuba? I do. So there was old Colin Powell doing the same thing, showing the world the photos taken from spy planes or satellites. “Look.” he said, “biological warfare equipment!! Chemical warfare equipment!!”

The sabres rattled.  The stern warnings were pronounced. Saddam Hussein loudly protested that he had no weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t have any nukes, he said.  He didn’t have any biological warfare labs. He didn’t have any chemical warfare labs. “Hah!” said George Bush. “You’re a liar, Saddam. A rotten liar.” we all said. (We meaning the U.S. collectively – not necessarily you and me.)  Saddam kept protesting and old, sly George just rattled the sabre more loudly. The we launched. Shock and awe. Death from above. That would do it. Those Iraqis would surrender in a few days, right? No. They didn’t.

Then, as we were constantly told that victory was imminent, this new entity comes along – Al Qaeda in Iraq.  Whoever heard of them anyway? Saddam hated Al Qaeda. You never heard a peep from Al Qaeda when Saddam was in power, but when the U.S. drove him underground (literally), they surfaced. And then the U.S. found that if they  were looking for a fight, well they found one.  And so, the war on weapons of mass destruction (which never existed and old, sly George and old, sly Colin, and old, sick, sly Dick probably knew that all along – from day minus one even) was quietly forgotten and the war in Iraq became a war against the terrorists – who were happily saying goodbye to our troops in Afghanistan who were leaving to fight the war against terror in Iraq.

Well, I am glad to report the war on terror and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is over. Yep. The last of our combat troops are gone. President Obama was true to his word and now we can all sleep better, knowing we don’t have to worry about those Iraqi “nucular” missiles.

Here’s the thing I don’t understand: as of the end of 2009 there were 4287 Americans killed in Iraq and 30,182 wounded. Where are the protests? Doesn’t anyone get it? This wasn’t a patriotic war. Iraq didn’t attack us. They didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. George Bush just decided he was going to eliminate Saddam Hussein and he did, all based upon trumped up “evidence” that was shaky on the day it was created.  Where is America’s outrage? Where is the Tea Party when you need them? Where is Sarah with her indignation? Doesn’t she get it?

When I look back at Vietnam and the riots in the streets and the civil disobedience, I wonder why we were so indignant then about a war that had a very tenuous justification and now we are OK with a costly war in both human lives and our treasure. But now I know why. It’s the draft. Or, more precisely, the lack of a draft. See, in the old days when Uncle Sam beckoned you had to go. Now, you don’t because Uncle Sam doesn’t beckon – he just pays good money to people, many, many of whom can’t hope for a job that pays as well as being an Army grunt. We have a professional military these days. (Thanks to Tricky Dick Nixon) Some would say we have  a mercenary army. So why should anyone be outraged about all the unnecessary deaths and ripped apart bodies? They’re all volunteers aren’t they? And that is really it, isn’t it? There are no demonstrations in the streets because if you don’t want to go you don’t have to go.

So what about, you know, the ethics of the whole thing? You know. The lies, the fabrications, the complete ignoring of international law. What about that? Who cares? Or so it seems, anyway.

So, as we celebrate our glorious victory in the name of Pax Americana, our legions return home from the lands of the foreigners. They go to their bases and prepare for their next war. Professional soldiers.

Meanwhile, sly George smugly sits and gloats while sick Dick lurches from hospital to hospital and Colin is still trying to figure out what happened to his career and his reputation. And the American people? What do they think?

Tea Party People!  Please enlighten me!  Was the whole thing just a big mistake? Was it a secret plan crafted by geniuses in the White House basement? Was it all for nothing? Are we wrapping up a glorious era or a gory error?

You can Go ask Sarah, I suppose, but I don’t think she’ll know. (My apologies to Grace Slick.)

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