Online Journal Contributing Writer
Let me start off by saying I am no scholar. I am simply what most Americans would consider a fairly "average" wife, mom, sometimes writer, artist, pretty good friend, middle class, white, suburban (though much less clueless than my SUV driving counterparts) involved in the kiddos' schools (and as a result will be homeschooling as my youngest approaches middle school age), married to a guy who's worked hard to get to middle management. Very little college here, the decision to become a full-time mom meant postponing some things, and now, as I have become a grandmother, I realize I can and have become quite good at gaining an education outside the confines of academia. I may not be intellectual, but one thing I am not is stupid.
So much has been written lately about the "inflammatory" writings and speeches of Ward Churchill that I almost feel it is redundant to add anything further—especially when this site contains the writing of far more scholarly minds with a better recollection of details and formal education than I could ever hope to attain at this point in my life. This lack of credentials sometimes makes it difficult to get someone who has those credentials to take little ol' me seriously.
All I can say to that is I am writing this from the heart of suburbia and it's my understanding that where I am and how everyone around me lives is pretty much "average America." It's where everyone believes in the "American Dream" that's woven all through this country's mythology. I think that kind of gives me a fairly good sense of perspective as to where most people in the U.S. are, generally speaking, as they buzz around making a life for themselves.
However, as I have read through the various essays, news reports, watched various video and listened to various audio clips, one thing is, for the most part, missing. Churchill's current trashing in the media is not about free speech anymore; that ship sailed quite some time ago. The "land that I love" has become seething with hatred and anger, and it's part and parcel of a collective obfuscation of some pretty fundamental truths.
I have long been interested in the history and current struggles of and been supportive of American Indians and indigenous nations of peoples worldwide. Since I was a young girl, it seemed to me that the history and events surrounding the American Indian, those taught in my school and what little I could find as a kid outside of school, were woefully devoid of any point of view from the Indians themselves. This bothered me, and when something sticks in my head like that (my mom calls it stubbornness), I generally don't leave it alone.
My search for the full picture began with rereading Dee Brown's classic, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," as an adult. I had been assigned it in a class in high school, but being a teenager, I also didn't take the time to really absorb the info (I wanted to graduate early to take a job and skated through the last of my classes). About five years ago I really read it again, in doing so I began a whole new journey, just as I was turning 40. I found myself not only physically ill (to the point of vomiting as I processed the horrific details laid out by Brown), but deeply saddened, crushed under the weight and magnitude of the horror. As I read, I realized that Wounded Knee was only one of literally thousands of such "incidents" all over what is now commonly known as North America (though it certainly does not stop or end with this part of the globe). I realized that damn near anywhere my feet hit the ground that this land was soaked in the blood of generations of the slaughter of those "less human" than those conducting the slaughter.
This is the heart of what's really happening here. Denial. What Churchill dares to do is to stop denial, and this is why he's been raked over the coals. Instead of picking apart his "pedigree" (a ridiculous exercise when you consider that "what it means to be an Indian" does not always have a lot to do with how much bloodline one has. Imagine us requiring someone to prove how Irish, Italian, English, German, French, African, Asian, etc., they are on paper before we take them seriously. Requiring people to have pedigrees is to class them as animals, or should I say is part of that classifying). We should be paying closer attention to understanding exactly what the message is before we. as the American public, proceed to attempt to destroy any dissent.
The real bottom line question here is: Who decides who is human enough? Human enough to be considered more than possible collateral damage? Human enough to be able to raise their children on land that is not laid bare and permanently polluted with the most vile substances humans can create? Human enough to have adequate food, medical care, decent shelter and appropriate clothing, clean water? Human enough to live without the daily threat of death from bombs and guns? Human enough to be allowed to grow a small garden to help feed your family? Human enough to be just as valued and valuable as those who make the rules? What "requirements" have to be met so that those less valuable become more so?
I ask, dear readers, who is to make those decisions? Who has the right to? What are the criteria to be considered human enough? (Though truly the question, taken deeper, is who gets to decide the value of any Life? Trees, birds, fish, land, sea, sky, all of it.) A large part of Churchill's work invokes these questions in my heart, and, I am sad to say, that for the most part (speaking in numbers of my fellow "average Americans") these questions are being ignored or attacked when they are asked.
While the issue of free speech is at work here to a certain degree, what's lacking is common sense to look beyond that to see it's far deeper than what you say and your right to day it. Common sense to see that when anyone starts deciding that they are the world's compass, that they are more human than others (and thus more valuable), then it's inevitable that those "Others" will take issue with the value assigned to them by those doing the deciding. When one self-imposed group of "world leaders" decides who is expendable and therefore to be counted as "collateral damage" with no input at all outside their enclaves, is it really so outlandish to expect that those being dehumanized would respond, and not so kindly? What would you do?
Churchill asserts that when large numbers of not-so-white folks are not deemed "fully" human and are therefore expendable, we all suffer the consequences. Just as allowing an abuser to continue abusing is a sure invitation to escalating violence in a family unit, this transfers to the culture at large. Many of our "social problems" in North America are reflected back to us, magnified enormously, in the current "plight" of indigenous peoples worldwide. If, we as a nation began seriously considering all people as human enough and acted on that, walked the walk, so to speak, the "threat of terrorism" would eventually cease to exist. This is the crux of much of what lies in Churchill's work. My family, yours, are not more valuable than a mother and father's in the Middle East or on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, and unless, or until, we as a country take that idea and really act on it (with more than writing a check or protesting), we can be assured that the Revelationists' Self-Fulfilling and Self-Perpetuated Wet Dream of Armageddon is close at hand.
But here's the big threat: to do this, and do it for the sole purpose of restoring dignity and value to all peoples, will require sacrifices most pursuing the "American dream" are not willing to look at or give up. As the U.S., having about 5 percent of the world's population continues to use 25 percent of the world's resources (a large part of which ends up as "waste" in some form or fashion) resentment toward that way of living will continue to grow. If you think for one moment the people who work for mere pittances in horrid conditions to provide "goods" to the U.S. population (and who could never afford to buy the things they are making for that pittance) don't know where the fruits of their labor are going—to you, to me, to the shelves at our stores—is to show, again, a lack of humanity that leads to those "acts of terror" we claim to abhor (when they happen to "good Americans," that is). I don't need a degree or time spent in academia to figure that out. It rarely occurs to anyone claiming to "speak for America" that perhaps all the U.S. corporate entities established globally were not wanted by or seen as "progress" by those who were doing just fine without them.
The mere fact that debate is needed to decide what constitutes genocide, to decide who is human enough, to decide at what point something becomes vile or an atrocity, shows exactly how far removed we are from even wanting to know how to make it stop. Wouldn't common sense tell us that to stop the madness you have to stop the madness?
I realize this is not popular, and as a result I stand to get raked over the coals myself. And while I may lack the reference points, footnotes and so on, often required to be considered of merit, I am speaking from my heart, broken and shattered as it may be.
Mom Anonymous lives in the maddening drone and vapid wasteland of Metro Atlanta with her family. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for those of like mind, to share ideas and form connections..