Now that the Indians Gone – You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty Anymore.   

(Please listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie’sNow that the Buffaloes Gone”)

war protests1964.  A time of increased social consciousness:  Civil Rights marches.  Women’s Rights marches.  Free Speech marches.  Protests in the grape fields.  The Indian Movement.  The Free Love Movement.  The Whole Earth Movement.  Anti-war marches.  Lots of social commentary and inspiring folk songs written during this period by musicians such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Buffy St. Marie, Sixto Rodriguez, Richie Havens, Leonard Cohen, Country Joe McDonald, Peter, Paul and Mary, not to mention hundreds of others.   (Many others came before these, like Paul Robeson and Woody Guthrie.)

Can you remember the times
That you have held your head high
And told all your friends of your Indian claim
Proud good lady and proud good man
Your great great grandfather from Indian blood came
And you feel in your heart for these ones

hippies1The Baby Boomers (I sadly must include myself in this category) were going to change the world.  But now Bob Dylan does commercials for General Motors.  Jane Fonda married one of the richest capitalists in the world and makes a fortune on her exercise videos.   Rennie Davis became a venture capitalist.  Lenny Bruce died of an overdose.  Abbie Hoffman committed suicide.  Jerry Rubin became a business executive.  To quote Mr. Rubin: “I know that I can be more effective today wearing a suit and tie and working on Wall Street than I can be dancing outside the walls of power.”   Countless other “counter-culture heroes” joined the “establishment” and de facto “sold out.”

old hippiesFor my part, I never trusted any of these “revolutionaries.”  It is easy to be counter-culture when you’re “daddy’s rich and your mommas good looking.”  I knew I would have to earn a living and while my sympathies lie with the sentiments of these “revolutionaries,” my stomach lie with eating three meals a day.  They say an army marches on its stomach.  I guess a revolution will also rise or fall on the bellies of the revolutionists.  My mother being a part-time store clerk at Woolworths and my father being a post man (In the sixties there were no post-people) did not leave a lot of table scraps left over to feed my revolutionary spirit.

Oh it’s written in books and in song
That we’ve been mistreated and wronged
Well over and over I hear the same words
From you good lady and you good man
Well listen to me if you care where we stand
And you feel you’re a part of these ones

I sold out.  Joined the military.  Served honorably.  Got married.  Got a job with a major corporation and have lived happily ever after.  Except for the guilt, at not manning the barricades, my life has been pretty normal.  No jail.  No drug offenses.  No charges for treason.  No flag burning.  No tear gassing.   How much do I have to pay for taxes this year?

Nevertheless, I do get twinges of guilt from time to time (noted above).  I feel sorry for the Indians.  I feel sorry for the poor.  I feel sorry for the underprivileged.  I frequently donate to selected charities, which I suppose helps to assuage my guilt.  I would do more but I am too busy trying to pay my bills. Toys, cars, homes, vacations, clothes do not pay for themselves.

capitalistI know I am like many others.  I regret how we treated and still treat the Indians.  But I don’t want to give the country back to them.  I regret how we treated African Americans but I don’t want to pay any penalties for slavery when I never owned one.  I would love to do more for the environment but I find it very difficult to remember what plastic pails to throw out and which ones go in which bin.  I want to help the global drought but I like my showers each morning.  I am sorry we put Japanese Americans in internment camps but I don’t know if I would have done anything differently if I had been president in 1941.

When a war between nations is lost
The loser we know pays the cost
But even when Germany fell to your hands
Consider dear lady, consider dear man
You left them their pride and you left them their land
And what have you done to these ones

Lynching_of_Laura_Nelson,_May_1911On my way to my exercise club (LA Fitness) this morning, I was listening to some radio commentator talking about how unfair it was too have put so many Japanese American citizens into what he called prisons for the duration of the war.  He called it a “tragic mistake.”  I thought about all of the “tragic mistakes” we have made in this country from slavery, to lynchings, to Jim Crow laws, to segregation laws, to water rights laws, to reservation laws, to the Trail of Tears, to anti-gay laws, to broken treaties, to anti-immigration laws, to laws protecting the rights of corporations over the rights of citizens.  We have made dozens if not hundreds of “tragic mistakes” throughout American history.  The good thing is we always feel really bad about them later on.  Usually when it is too late to do anything about them.

indian-casinoTrue, we screwed the Indians royally but now every Thanksgiving we can feel bad about it when we remember that they gave us corn on the cob and helped feed us until we could sustain ourselves.  True we made a big tragic mistake when we told them they could have all of the land west of the Mississippi.  Then we made another tragic mistake when we told them they could own the land and mineral rights which we gave them when we put them on reservations.  Today, we are rapidly realizing that it might not have been such a good idea to give them Casino rights.  This is a “tragic mistake” that is being rectified in many states as I speak.

We made another tragic mistake when we told women they would have control over their reproductive rights.  However, many noble Americans have taken to bombing abortion clinics and shooting abortion doctors until our noble politicians can rectify this tragic mistake.

There is no getting away from the fact, that we freed the slaves.  This might have been a tragic mistake compounded by giving them the vote and letting them marry whom they chose.   Of course, we have many loyal Americans doing all they can to help keep the “Negro” in his or her place.

welcomeimmigrantsbuttonthumbFinally of course, we let all those dam immigrants into the country.  From the Indians point of view, this has been the most tragic mistake of all history.  We let the British, Dutch, French, Irish, Scottish, Germans, Swedes and Italians in.  Then we let the Somalians, Hmong, and Russians in.  Did I forget the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and Filipinos?   Don’t worry, I have not forgotten the Latinos.  It is just that this last tragic mistake is one that many noble Americans are still trying to rectify.  Right down here in Arizona, it is practically a right to help capture would be Latino immigrants and send them back over the border.  Some other loyal Americans are trying to help build a large retaining wall to insure that they stay south of our borders but the wall must be porous enough to allow us to visit Mazatlán, Cancun, Acapulco and other great South American vacation sites.

Has a change come about Uncle Sam
Or are you still taking our lands
A treaty forever your senators sign
They do dear lady, they do dear man
And the treaties are broken again and again
And what will you do for these ones

It is a good thing to be able to learn from your tragic mistakes.  I have a friend whose motto is:  “there are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned.”  So what are the lessons, we could and should have learned from all of these “tragic mistakes” that we have made.  I will suggest three lessons.

First Lesson:  Be sure to make your tragic mistakes with people who have less power than you do.  If you are going to screw someone, be sure they do not have a gun, slingshot, bow and arrow or any other kind of an equalizer.  As Samuel Colt said:  “God made men, but I made them equal.”

Second Lesson:  Always look to the past before declaring a tragic mistake.  Never look to present actions that might imply current tragic mistakes because there might still be time to rectify them.  If you only look at past tragic mistakes, you can express sympathy and remorse and not be overly inconvenienced with issues like giving the country back or financial remuneration.

Oh it’s all in the past you can say
But it’s still going on here today
The government now want the Navaho land
That of the Inuit and the Cheyenne
It’s here and it’s now you must help us dear man
Now that the buffalo’s gone.

Lyrics by: Buffy Sainte-Marie – Now That the Buffalo’s Gone

Third Lesson:  Always try to deny responsibility and get the injured parties to move on.   Make it clear that all of this stuff was in the past and they need to get on with life.  Talk about how things are different now.  We have no more racism because Obama is president.  We have no more Indian problems because we let them run the casinos.  We have no more women’s issues because we gave them the vote.  We have no immigration problems because we have lots of immigrants already in the country.  We have no more Gay problems because they are all getting to marry who they want now.

So you see, it’s clear all the problems that people had during the sixties have gone away.  What about Global Warming you say?  No problem, the Republicans are in charge of both houses now and they don’t believe in it so it will simply disappear like the mirage it probably is.  Did you say, Oil Depletion Allowance, Solar Energy?  No problem, the Oil companies have it under control.  You can trust them to insure that the environment will stay clean and oil will remain affordable.  (Please God, don’t strike me dead for lying!) 

Time for Questions:

What policies are we pursuing today that we will regret 50 or 100 years from now?  Does guilt and remorse matter if we do not make substantive amends?  What groups do you think we need to make amends to?  Why or why not?  What kinds of amends would you suggest we make to African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Gays, Native Americans?  How can we avoid having to say “I am sorry” in the future?

Life is just beginning.

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”   ― Voltaire

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Denny Sinnoh
    Apr 27, 2015 @ 14:44:35

    RE: “we put Japanese Americans in internment camps”
    Whenever someone of the spoiled-rich-leftest-crybaby-persuasion brings this up, I mash my teeth and murmur “Damned Roosevelt …”

    Reply

  2. ggorman10
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 13:31:34

    I believe the single most regrettable policy we have currently is that we take away the right a franchise from felons when you knew these people are still citizens and are responding according to their best ideas to the society in which they live their response is needed to fill out the democratic gestalt that brings true representative ideas to a government. Given the size of our prison population these people could be decision-makers in many of the elections and the points of you with that have to be respected
    Secondly the laissez-faire attitude of the government toward industries use of natural resources will be seen as a horrific misuse for extremely short Term goals
    Thirdly the influence allowed banks and financial institutions in the government which restricts middle-class growth and creates oligarchic point of view of life for the people of America and the world
    Finally this is connected my third concern is global warming if the result of global warming even remotely resembles what has been predicted we can all feel the guilt of not doing enough to stop this change

    Guiltily and remorse matters if the negativity is turned into positive action the wringing of hands and feeling bad accomplishes nothing

    I believe the most effective amend to be made is to except all people as equals and have legislation in place that ensures its continuation

    Reply

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