Tuesday, December 31, 2013
This weekend marked the lamentation of the Holy Innocents (children killed by Herod’s henchman), the feast of the Holy Family, as well as the anniversary or the massacre at Wounded Knee. If you are actually interested you can look all that up on wikipedia. Even though I wrote another of my insipid and usually passed over 1500 word responses like I have been doing every year to blog here or post on facebook, I decided not to post it or any graphic pictures of frozen corpses of dead Lakota children either. I am just too weary of all of this kind of discourse. Sure many of my limousine liberal friends would “like” and share in my ineffectual moral outrage. And most of my conservative friends would politely roll their eyes and say to themselves “well there goes Daniel again whining about dead Indians or dead whales or Yemeni children killed by drone strikes or whatever....” and of course nothing and no one changes. The waters rise and children die, and the seeds of our next war or genocide are already germinating, sprouting, even as our last two hot wars wind down and all those dead, wounded, and maimed are quietly forgotten. No amount of logical and reasonable argument or witty memes or bible verses seem to have any actual effect on us--especially bible verses.
I don’t know if it is even possible for an american like me (white, privileged, male, hetero) to read the bible or recognize the movements of the divine Spirit with any understanding. We children of the empire are so insinuated into it’s consciousness and ideologies how could any words of life possibly break or seduce their way into our hearts and minds? Our suffering and oppressed liberationist sisters and brothers have said as much and I believe them...I mostly want to believe them. I wonder if that is why I read and others compose so much cleverly brilliant theology. Is it in order to compensate for a lack of any transforming understanding and to buffer any encounter with meaningful and revolutionary truth? How much of the spiritual/religiously labeled stuff that I do (including clogging up the facebook newsfeed with my rants) is an attempt to fill up or escape from an unbearable silence, or to hide from and even more threatening soul changing encounter with such profoundly simple words such as “Blessed are the poor,” or “Love your enemies,” or even “love...thy self.” These phrases are so domesticated and distorted I despair that I can ever begin to know what they mean. But I have stood by the mass grave of the murdered at Wounded Knee many times and I know this much; those words should never mean that.
We americans have perfected an entirely new post-modern genre of fiction called “reality.” And the ‘real’ fictional characters of this imaginary “reality show” that we pattern our lives after seem closer to us, more desirable and substantial, than some aphoristic and surreal character from a tragic bible story. But the empire, the principalities and powers of this world, never stop hunting for Jesus and so all those mostly poor and dark skinned Rachels never stop weeping for their dead children. I just stop caring or listening.
P.s. Just in case anyone does want to actually study Wounded Knee further let me offer this review/mash up of quotes etc, of this excellent book “Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre.” by Heather Cox Richardson (New York: Basic Books, 2010). It is one of the best on Wounded Knee and the politics of genocide. Once one understands Wounded Knee the insights gained from that incident can be applied to most of the genocides/colonial wars of america’s past, present, or future and those of most other countries as well. This particular massacre though occurred under the administration of pres. Benjamin Harrison, who believed that his presidency (like so many others) was ordained by God, and he was an ardent supporter of the interests of big business and western expansion. The ”Illustrated Newspaper” owned by Frank Leslie was the main propaganda tool used by the republican party and by the early 1880’s (think of it as the “Fox News” of it’s day and how Fox (as well as the NYT) was instrumental in promoting the war in Iraq) and it seemed that a triumph of republican industrial economic ideology was possible. But Harrison needed western voters in order to maintain republican power and they hoped that supporting statehood for western territories would produce republican majorities there. So Harrison opened up Dakota reservations to white settlements in the early 1890’s and of course the railroads and settlers poured in. for years Harrison and other party operatives continuously exaggerated or invented stories about the Indian threat to settlers in order to incite whites to demand more soldiers to be sent to the territories. More soldiers and forts brought capital from the east to the territories and was instrumental in winning support for Harrison. A similar strategy was used effectively by democratic Pres. Andrew Jackson and his ‘Indian Removal Act” of 1830 which was effected in part to win southern voters to the democratic party, a policy that along with support of slavery consolidated democratic control of the south until the civil rights era of the 1960’s.
In the fall of 1890, the administration of the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of six Sioux Reservations in South Dakota, fell to Republican agent Daniel Royer. The new Ghost Dance Religion, a kind of gospel preached by the Northern Paiute mystic Wovoka of an imminent millennium that would deliver Native Americans from the sufferings imposed by the whites was spreading and Royer was worried that Sioux bands would incite an uprising and called for more military assistance. As winter approached troops flooded across the Dakotas and on December 15 Sitting Bull, the famed leader of the Battle of Little Bighorn, was killed when agency police attempted his arrest. Sioux bands feared that the whites were planning additional arrests. Reservation leaders asked Big Foot, leader of the Minneconjou Teton Sioux, to come to Pine Ridge Reservation with his followers in hopes that together they could restore the peace. Intercepted by the Seventh Cavalry commanded by Colonel James W. Forysth on December 28, Big Foot's band made camp for the night about five miles east of Wounded Knee Creek. On the following morning as the soldiers attempted to disarm the Indian camp of their few remaining hunting weapons the gun of one man who refused to give up his rifle went off and the fearful and inexperienced soldiers opened fire. ‘At least 150 Sioux men, women, and children were killed in the ensuing massacre (along with a still undetermined number of soldiers killed by friendly fire). Babies were shot while still in their cradleboards. The army's Hotchkiss canons tore through wagons filled with fleeing human cargo of women and children, their bodies torn apart by the cannon's volleys.’ In the aftermath the massacre, Republican politicians attempted to clean up their mess. Through portraying the massacre as a "battle," exonerating Colonel Forsyth from wrongdoing, and awarding twenty of the soldiers with the Medal of Honor.
I ardently recommend this book for anyone who might want to know more about how power manifests itself in this world. And yes I know that I have written an awful lot today about what i was not going to write. Forgive me and much obliged.