The VigilanceVoice

Saturday... February 9, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 151

The Indians & The Terrorists
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City--I'm watching the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, thinking about the Indians and Terrorists.
        My wife doesn't agree with me as I comment how ironic it is the five Indian Nations are delivering messages of peace and prosperity to the Olympians.
        A couple of generations ago, the Indians were being Terrorized by the White Men--their villages were burned, their cultures decimated, their children cleaved from them and put in boarding schools in the east in an attempt to starve their cultural links from one generation to another.  Civilized America attempted to assimilate their youth, convert them to the "White Man's Ways."
       It almost worked. Fortunately, the Indians clung to their individuality.  They became nations with a nation.
       Few are aware the 556 federally recognized tribes in the United States comprising nearly 2 million (just less than 1% of the U.S. population) are sovereign governments inside America.  They are Indian Nations.
       They have their own laws, their own ways of life, separate and distinct from that of the United States. They enjoy their own Constitutions, in many cases prosecute their own criminals.  This "nation-within-a-nation" concept was the United State's way of separating  land from its rightful owners.  It took and gave--offering the Indians reign over their own soil--even though it was unproductive, barren soil in many cases
       The price for sovereignty was high.   On the "Trail Of Tears," thousands of Cherokee Indians died of starvation and disease as they were marched under the 1830 Removal Act from their homelands in the Southeastern United States to Oklahoma and reservations life.  Terrorism was their price for Freedom.
      Times have changed.   Today, the once worthless land the Indians received is rich with resources--over 40% of U.S. uranium deposits lay under its soil, 30% of Western coal reserves and over 50 million acres of forest, range and grazing land, and crop land are controlled by Native Americans. 
        Plus, there is the gambling. In 1998 the National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported nearly 300 casinos operating in 31 states. The oppressed have evolved to the dominant in many ways, and, most impressively, retained the virtue of their ancient traditions despite civilizations' attempt to crush them.
       Over the past years of conflict in the Middle East, I likened the Indians' plight to the tension between Israel and Palestine. It was reinforced yesterday when I was on my way to K-Mart to get some drilling tools for my Dremel.   I'm carving a totem pole, a small but intricate us of my creativity to maximize my spare time.
       En route, I ran into my Israeli friend, Joe, at Starbucks.   I hadn't talked to him for a while, so I pried into his opinions about our policy on Terrorism.   He held fast to his position that America had been warned many times, and reminded me the president of Russia, when asked by Barbara Walters how he felt after September 11, replied that he was "ashamed."
      For years Russia had warned the Clinton Administration about the Terrorist threats, and pressed it to heighten national security.  But those warnings fell on deaf political ears; negotiating priorities took precedent over defense spending.    Joe's recurring point is: had we been more Vigilant prior to Nine Eleven, we might have thwarted the holocaust.   He was concerned President Bush was trying to achieve years of Vigilance in a single swoop of America's Eagles' Talon.  Joe wasn't sure it could be achieved in such a short span of time, since Terrorism's roots have been planted deep against the U.S. for supporting Israel and trying to "westernize" Middle East culture.  The "westernization"  was not unlike America's attempts to remove Indian culture in the 19th Century, he suggested.
      As we talked, a friend of my two daughters', Michelle, stopped to get a Starbucks' coffee.  She joined us in the conversation which continued for over two hours until Joe left.    .
      In his absence, she wanted to know what I "really" felt about Joe's viewpoint on Palestine.  I told her I hadn't asked because I knew Joe was a tough-minded Jew, a former Israeli intelligence officer.   He's for swords not ploughshares, I replied.
      When she asked me how I felt about the issue, I gave her my gut answer.  
      "Years ago, Michelle, we stole America from the Indians and Mexicans.   We terrorized them, their children, the old, the weak until they surrendered.   The Jews went into Palestine after World War II and took Israel by force.   They claimed a historic right to the land, just as Palestine does.  I had a Palestinian friend whose family was shoved off their land.  He told me about the day the Israeli's came into his village and shoved guns in their faces and herded them out of their homes.   I had never looked at his side of the coin before.  Terrorism in the Middle East, especially between Palestine and Israel, is like the American Indians when they attacked the pioneers who came to settle in their land.  They didn't want to give it up.  Who would?   We counter-attacked the Indians.  Who fired the first shot is a historic mystery.   So how can I have a righteous opinion on the Palestinian-Jewish state when I live in a nation that was just like Israel  not too many decades ago--a land taker?  
       "I understand that if you want your people to be safe, and your culture to prosper, you have to fight for your right to protect and preserve it.    Or, in some cases, to acquire it, as we did when we came to America and took over the Indians land a few hundred years ago.   America employed Terrorism against the Indians.  So I have to beg the question   On which side of Terrorism am I regarding the Palestinian-Jewish conflict.  I can't chose a side.  I can't make one side more right than the other.   Perhaps I can be outraged with certain tactics when the innocent are killed or wounded, but then how many Indian families did we massacre?  On this issue, I have to stand in the middle and duck."
       I didn't feel comfortable with my answer, but it was honest.   I had gone to college with a very good friend from Israel, Tony David.   He had fought in the wars to protect his land.   It was his home.   And then later in life, I met my Palestinian friend.   And as we grew close and he shared his background, he told me with equal passion that his home had been taken.  I liked and respected both men.   I understood both sides of the coin, but couldn't emboss one side over the other.
      When I came home from the discussion, the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony was starting.   I wasn't very interested in the commercialization aspects of the Olympics, and went to my computer where I can glance the television while working.   I stopped typing when the American Indians appeared.
      Regaled in feathers and the dress of kings of the wilderness, they paraded into the Olympic Stadium in Salt Lake City atop powerful steeds.  The five chiefs dismounted (including one woman) and presented offerings to the Olympians. Again, I squirmed in my seat.   Civilization had swallowed the Indians for many decades.   It almost evaporated their culture with alcohol and poverty.   My mind began to wander.  I knew the  number of Indian deaths in the struggle to "win the West"  far outnumber those of Nine Eleven, but in a far more insidious and destructive way.  In those days America was not only attempting to strike fear, intimidation and complacency, but also trying to destroy a whole culture, to perform cultural genocide.   It had been a large taint on our history of providing "democracy" to the world.  But, now the Indians were back, sitting proud, offering their blessings before billions of viewers around the world.  I felt part of them.
       I grew up in Oregon with Indian culture taught in schools as historic reference to the land from which we all suckled its fruits.   I gave great respect to the Indians, considering their bravery, honor and respect for nature among the highest of qualities.
      Tonight, watching the chiefs bearing gifts for the Olympians, I felt the roots of those traditions coming to life.   While civilization may attempt to mask itself as "the better way," there was something powerful about the costumes the Indians wore, and the fact they haven't strayed from the roots of their culture.  Famous American author Henry David Thoreau in his book, Walden Pond & On The Duty Of Civil Obedience, wrote this passage: 
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.  Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have
seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.  Who made them serfs of the soil?  Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt?  Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?  They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can.  How many a poor immortal soul have I met
well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty,
its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot!  The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.


      There was another great set of words expressing the Terror of civilization spoken by Chief Seattle in 1854 when his land was taken by the government.   Rather than reprint its entirety here, I provide this link to his full speech.   He too felt the pain of change, and the flaws under which the civilized viewed the "uncivilized."  Here is part of his talk to Congress.  The link above includes full text.

"There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.

 Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better."         excerpt from 1854 Chief Seattle Speech  full version link--

        As I watched the lighted faces of the young Indian boys and girls dancing to the drums'  tattoo, it reminded me of Walden Pond's and Chief Seattle's messages-- civilization lives on thin ice.  A September 11th can wipe out the most advanced icons of modern man and woman in virtual minutes, striking fear and intimidation into all who live under its fallout.   But the legacy and traditions of a culture are far harder to decimate if courage overpowers fear,  conviction dominates intimidation, and action conquers complacency.  These are the keystones of Vigilance, the spine of it, the shoulders upon which it carries all the pain of suffering of fears, intimidations and complacencies through the storms of change.   Those ill-prepared for its burden, fall under its weight.  They have not expected the unexpected; they are not "ready of anything counting on nothing."
     To me, the pride of the Indian Chiefs displayed presenting the Olympians with their native welcomes rang louder than the Liberty Bell.   It was a tribute to their perseverance, to their ability to sustain themselves in traditions while modern man and woman tosses out yesterday's wisdom in his or her frantic search for the newest, most glittering life available, i.e., Windows XP is more important than Windows 98, and the quill pen sits collecting dust.

      I thought of Enron's collapse as another symbol of "civilizations' fragility."  In the Nine-Eleven aftermath of Economic Terrorism, many lives were ravaged by the loss of their retirement wealth, by their faith in others to "protect their financial lives."  Thousands counted on others to provide security for their families and were as shocked as America was on September 11 that "Complacent" and perhaps "Evil Terrorists" had flown a jetliner into their "Twin Towers" of economic securi8ty.   Enron tilled the soil of thousands, and turned up weeds rather than rich harvests.  Now those employees and stockholders are walking their modern "Trail of Tears."   Should George Bush declare war on them as he has the Taliban?  Is their violation of American security on the same plane as the Terrorists of September 11?  Did they "murder" and "kill" people's faith indiscriminately, with malice?   I wondered what Thoreau or Chief Seattle would say.

Chief Seattle

     As  I watched the Indian Chiefs proudly and majestically dismount from their stallions and approach the Olympians with their eagle feathers standing dignified--feathery Statue's of Liberty rigid in a world of shaky tradition--I realized their courage and bravery to "expect the unexpected" gave them the ability to withstand the worst of times.  
        Spellbound by the dignity of their entrance, I wondered if our modern bombs and advanced military technology in the war against Al-Qaeda were destroying or reinforcing Terrorism?  Were we building enemies of the future by trying to erase a culture who fought to live in a world we didn't accept, that we considered "primitive,"  or,  were we simply trying to obliterate a culture to gain access to the land, the resources, the rights of commerce?
      My mind wandered.  I questioned what would have happened if all our cities had been destroyed in Nine Eleven, if our children ripped from our arms and taught the anti-culture of the Taliban. Would we be able to stand proudly decades later and offer symbols of peace to those who had oppressed and tried to destroy us?  How many of us would have survived the "Trial of Tears" had we been forced to march out of our homes to some desolate grounds no one else wanted to live our lives in the shame of what we had once been, and the knowledge of what we had become.  Would we become alcoholics too? 
      Despite the yokes of cultural enslavement, the Indian Nations have survived with dignity and renewed power.   They haven't been assimilated as was the Great Plan.   Instead, on the eve of the Olympics, they stood Vigilant, grasping  tightly to their history in the face of great winds of change, evolving without the loss of their heritage or traditions.
      They symbolized for me the strength of Semper Vigilantes--Always Vigilant.  They survived annihilation.  They prosper in the shadow of the Giant.

      I hope the lesson of the Indians & The Terrorists won't be forgotten.  For me, the lesson was to maintain a state of Vigilance about what I hold dear, and, no matter who tries to take those beliefs or convictions away, to cling to them.  I owe it to my grandchildren, and to my grandparents, and their grandparents, and to my children's children's children to preserve them.  They are the foundations of the Vigilance of Value.
      To achieve this, I decided to become an Indian of Vigilance.  Like my mentors, the Indians, I must proud in the midst of storms, fighting fear with courage, intimidation with conviction and complacency with action.
     My beliefs in America's traditions of Freedom will be my treasure, and my grandchildren's gifts.  I can't buckle under the misuse of that power by men and women who don't treasure its meaning.   I can only assume the power of Freedom far exceeds the hands that attempt to administrate it.  I must believe in the saying, "this too shall pass" so I don't grow frustrated and   turn my back on the true values of Freedom.   Instead, I must dig deep into the marrow of democracy and pass its principles on by fighting for its preservation and promulgation.  

Indian Lunging Bear storytelling

     I cannot allow the Rights of Freedom to be told to me.  I must know them myself.  I must not accept what others tell me they mean. I must know what they mean so I can pass them on to future generations through my lips, through my actions, as the Indians have passed their beliefs on from the lips of grandparents to the children, from the magic of their dances, from the power of their traditions.  
      Under the Constitution of the United States, it is my responsibility to be a Citizen of Vigilance, not the governments, not the next door neighbor's, not Enron's, not the President of the United of States or the head of Home Security or the Supreme Court.  I must take personal responsibility for the preservation of my future and my family's future.  I must be an Indian of Vigilance.
     I learned this lesson last night from the Indians of Vigilance--the ones who truly deserve the Olympic Gold Medal for fighting Terrorism of their culture, and winning.

Go To Diary--Feb. 8--Terror Of The Pregnant Woman's Refrigerator

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