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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Old Chicken Snake

I was fairly noncommital about Bush & Co. until the beginning of the war in Iraq. Sure, I didn't particularly like him --- but he didn't strike me as any more odious or threatening than your typical run-of-the-mill politician --- well, somewhat, but nothing too startling --- until Iraq.

I'm not exactly sure what snapped in me, whether it was the sheer injustice and lunacy of the invasion or the craziness of its supporters or what. But snap something did, as though someone had opened a big can of whoopass on me, as the saying goes. I simply couldn't scream NO! loudly or often enough --- I was that crazy with disbelief and horror.

Not to mention, the strangest thoughts kept popping into my mind --- there was something so familiar about all of this, and it wasn't Viet Nam. Instead, I kept railing on people that Iraq is composed of tribal people, this is colonization pure and simple, no different than what the government did (and is doing) to the American Indians, that not only were the premises for the invasion absurd, not only was it wrong in every possible way, but you don't do this to tribal peoples, you don't do this, there is no possible way for Westerners trained in Western warfare to win against tribal people and how many hundreds of years did it take the U.S. government to conquer the American Indians, after all, and all our huffing and puffing is going to backfire in ways we can't even begin to imagine.

More peculiar, I found myself thinking the goals of the government were to turn not simply the Middle East, but the United States into a giant reservation. And I don't mean the tinfoil hat variety of secret reeducation camps and whatnot. I mean the broken promises, the pervasive poverty, the lies.

Crazy, yes, I know. But bear with me a bit.

I'm not a Native American historian. Nor am I a specialist in colonial theory or post-colonialism or whatever they're calling it these days.

But I do know some about the Southeastern Indians, especially the Cherokee and the Keetoowah and the Muscogee Creek.

And I know enough to know what was going on during the early part of the 19th C., when half the world was cheering the accomplishments of Elias Boudinot and Sequoyah and the extraordinary Chief John Ross. Oh sure, in retrospect, it's easy to say they were sellouts, particularly Boudinot for signing away the Cherokee's rights to their lands in the east.

But what choice did they have? The Cherokee had enjoyed exceptional protection by the government for a period of time, thanks in large part to the work of Sequoyah and Boudinot and others.

And then Andrew Jackson was elected. And Jackson, known as Old Chicken Snake to the Cherokee, opened the lands of Georgia to crazed settlers looking for gold. And these weren't kindly, gentle settlers, either. These settlers freely raped Cherokee women and girls, pillaged homes, murdered and stole, all without punishment of any sort from the United States Government. In fact, it was the Cherokee and their supporters who were imprisoned, and all for the sake of Jackson's band of thieves.

George Bush reminds me of Jackson. I've never sat myself down and delineated the similarities. But the events of the early 19th C for the Southeastern tribes and those of today for the Iraqis --- and for us --- feel very, very similar.

How is it any different opening the lands of Georgia --- lands which were Cherokee --- for plunder in what was essentially an invasion and invading Iraq? Especially given all the speculation concerning oil?

And how is it any different plundering our treasury for the sake of a few?

How is the government's stated goal of betraying our most fragile citizens, the elderly and the infirm, and doing so through lies --- how is it any different from Jackson's betrayal of the Cherokee?

It isn't.

One of the problems with colonialization is that the process is internalized by both the colonizer and the colonized. Now, there isn't much about colonial and post-colonial theory which particularly interests me, except the concept of internal colonialism --- not just small colonized areas, or ghettoes, within a larger, dominant country, but what happens when people literally internalize the processes of colonization and begin doing to one other what the colonizers originally did to them. In the most basic of terms.

It's essentially a kind of cannibalism. And I've spent enough time in Indian communities to know that it's a reality --- not for all. But for many of these communities, it's a simple reality --- they no longer need the government to destroy them --- there's no longer any need for armies or abusive legislation or physical shackles. Instead, they now do it to one another and to themselves.

Meanwhile, the government sits back and waits. And by the time people realize what is happening, it is already too late. I've seen it over and over again here in Indian Country. And it feels to me a bit too much like what is happening to us today.

There's much more to say, but it's going to have to wait. This is already much, much too long and I have to wake early in the morning and bedtime is calling. But I'm quite certain the parallels are there and somehow, what was done to the Indians, what we are doing to Iraq, somehow it is also happening with all of us.

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