Saturday... February 9, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 151
The Indians & The Terrorists
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City--I'm
watching the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, thinking about the Indians
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
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
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
When she asked me how I felt about the issue, I gave her my gut
"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
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
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.
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
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
"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."
from 1854 Chief Seattle Speech full version link--http://www.halcyon.com/arborhts/chiefsea.html
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
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.
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
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.
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.
To Diary--Feb. 8--Terror Of The Pregnant Woman's Refrigerator
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