Quotes of Thomas Paine

I am not currently up to the task of either summarizing or analyzing “Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine, which I read recently.  A few quotes, very few given the number of powerful and entirely relevant passages available in this work, follow.

“It suits his purpose to exhibit the consequences with their causes. It’s one of the arts of the drama, to do so. If the crimes of men were exhibited with their suffering, stage effect would sometimes be lost and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they commiserate.”

“Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, or to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured.”

“Man can be kept ignorant, but he cannot be made ignorant.”

“When it is laid down as a maxim that a king can do no wrong it places him in a similar security with that of idiots and persons insane and responsibility is out of the question.”

(Italics on that last quote are mine, I’ll tell you that I added them because it seems as though Thomas Paine was talking specifically about the insane idiot that is currently the president of the United States, just in case that wasn’t clear).

 

 

“Miller’s Valley” by Anna Quindlen

I picked up this book for essentially no reason at all, it was in the “Staff Picks” section of the library, which is never a driving force in my selection process. Not that I don’t think librarians would pick good books, it’s just that I pretty much ignore recommendations from anyone in regards to anything. Unless I don’t, which is frequently the case. At any rate, I grabbed it, checked it out alongside a stack of cds, and took it home.

I’ve been reading on the bus a lot lately. I got a summer job at the baseball stadium in the big city, and so I ride in on the bus from my suburban town a dozen miles from the city limits or so. I sit in my seat, listen to my headphones, and submerge myself in some book or another. Not only does it serve the purposes inherent to reading while listening to music, whatever those are, they also stop people from talking to me. I’m not antisocial, except for when I want nothing to do with societal interactions, which is frequently the case. This book drew me in swiftly. I’m also listening to The Dark Tower series via the library app, named Libby, on my Ipod (yeah, I said Ipod) on the recommendation of a friend, a recommendation I did not ignore. That series has a possessive force over my life, and, yet, I continuously chose to read this book instead of diving back into the gunslinger’s world. I mention this only to underline how much I enjoyed this book.

Here’s the deal, not much happens in Miller’s Valley. There’s a girl, she’s young, over the course of the book she grows up. Her mom is a nurse with little patience for nonsense, her father runs the farm and fixes the machines of Miller’s Valley. She has a brother who is much older and moderately successful in his field, another brother who goes to Vietnam, and suffers some significant repercussions. She has a nice friend and a mean one, a shut-in aunt, some stuff is happening in the town. Some people die along the way, in the end some interesting events come to light, raising a few interesting, and unanswered, questions.

So? Who cares? I had about 30 pages left of this book and I realized if it was an autobiography, which is essentially the style in which it was written, I might be embarrassed for the author, thinking their little life was worth writing a whole damn book about it. However, since it was fiction, instead I enjoyed the hell out of it. What gives?

Like The Old Man and the Sea or Women or many countless others, this is a story which shows that the way a story is told matters much more than the content of the story. You can go and fight dragons in outer space, but if you don’t have a feel for timing revelations, or framing characters, or simply the language in which you write, it’s probably not going to be a very good story. Miller’s Valley is just the opposite, a relatively simple story told very well. I might have to hit up that “Staff Picks” section more often.

“The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury

“‘What could I do? Argue with you? It’s simply me against the whole crooked grinding greedy setup on Earth. They’ll be flopping their filthy atom bombs ups here, fighting for bases to have wars. Isn’t it enough they’ve ruined one planet, without ruining another; do they have to foul someone else’s manger? The simple minded windbags. When I got up here I felt I was not only free of their so called culture, I felt I was free of their ethics and their customs. I’m out of their frame of reference, I thought. All I have to do is kill you all off and live my own life.”’

So spoke Jeff Spender to Captain Wilder in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. In this brief passage Spender speaks to the conundrum faced by so many people in so many times, the possession a such a powerful hatred of the ignorant violence perpetuated by our species on our species, and the rest of the planet, that it urges violence in return. The idea that these people are evil for killing innocent people, or allowing them to die despite the overwhelming resources available to help them, and so they ought to be killed in return. 

The Martian Chronicles was first published in 1950, comprised of stories written in the years before, years during and after World War Two. WWII is often noted as a just war, something that seems to make it distinct from the many other wars that have been fought in recent history. After all, the Nazis, who were and are vile putrid scum of the earth, were defeated, what’s not to love? 

In the direct aftermath however, as evidenced by the 45 years of officially fearing total nuclear annihilation known as the Cold War, and the following 28 years of, well, continuing to fear total nuclear annihilation known as the present, the focus wasn’t squarely on that defeat. It was the case, after all, that while the Nazis were defeated on the battlefield, it was the country of Japan, whose atrocities were not quite so distinct, that was defeated from six miles in the sky by two planes, and two nuclear bombs. In short, while there was much to celebrate, there was a lot to be somber about as well. 

The Martian Chronicles is written with this apprehension writ large. People flee the Earth to escape the constant drumbeat of war, the news from Earth is always in regards to the threats against its habitability, and eventually, those threats become reality. Violence on a massive scale is not the only theme however, and Bradbury also reveals a progressive understanding of race relations that is beyond contemporary, at least as far as politics in the United States would suggest. The parallels between the invasion of Earthlings to Mars mirrors, and is pointed out almost explicitly, to the invasion of Europeans to the American continents. This includes the violence against Martian culture, and the near extinction of the Martians due to their exposure to Earth-born disease. It was this travesty that lead Jeff Spender to murder. 

In a passage titled June 2003: Way in the Middle of the Air, the population of Black people in the South, having secretly pooled their money, had rocketships built, and are suddenly departing for Mars. A handful of old white men sit on the porch of a hardware store, watching the exodus.

“Between the blazing white banks of the town stores, among the tree silences, a black tide flowed. Like a kind of summer molasses, it poured turgidly forth upon the cinnamon-dusty road. It surged slow, slow, and it was men and women and horses and barking dogs, and it was little boys and girls. And from the mouth of the people partaking of this tide came the sound of a river. A summer-day river going somewhere, murmuring and irrevocable.” 

One man sitting on the stoop of the hardware store, Samuel Teece, becomes enraged. He screams at the people going by, he stops a man named Belter and demands that Belter pay him a fifty dollar debt, or stay and work it off, something that would take two months Teece gleefully suggests. A crowd gathers and an old man among them passes a hat, quickly collecting the debt, which Teece tries to refuse, to no avail as Belter leaves the money on the dusty ground at his feet. Teece tries to intervene once more, stopping a young man who worked in his store and demanding he fulfill the terms of his contract to work there for another two years. Another of the old men on the porch offers to take his job, and the young man leaves off, shouting back behind him, “Mr. Teece, Mr. Teece, what you goin’ to do night from now on? What you goin’ to do nights, Mr. Teece?”

The following scene shows that Samuel Teece was a perpetuator of murder by lynching, something known in the town, but without any consequences for Mr. Teece or his fellow murderers. Science fiction authors have a penchant for prescience, in this case it is quite unfortunately the case. Bradbury not only predicted that the relationships between people with varying levels of melanin in their skin would still be fraught with tension in the new millennium, at least in some cases, some places, but that violence by white people against black would continue to go largely unpunished, and even seem to have some semblance of legality behind it. A story further in time has an Earthling shoot a Martian who attempted to hand him a scroll, mistaking it for a weapon. Later he talks to his wife about it. 

‘“I’m sorry what happened,” he said. He looked at her, then away. “You know it was purely the circumstances of Fate.”

‘Yes.’ said his wife.

‘I hated like hell to see him take out that weapon.’

‘What weapon?’

‘Well I thought it was one!…’

He doesn’t claim to have been afraid for his life, but it is implied. 

This book is not quite so dour as I have made it seem. Though it is dark throughout, there is levity as well. In the early missions a Captain and his men make it to an inhabited Mars, but instead of being greeted with surprise and celebration, they are greeted with bored passiveness, being ultimately referred to a Mr. Iii, who turns out to be the local psychiatrist. In another, after Mars has been all but deserted, a young man desperate for company meets perhaps the last young woman on the planet, and after a few days decides he didn’t mind being alone after all. Another story, not quite funny but interesting and light, has a Martian meet a newly arrived Earthling who seem to be experiencing entirely different periods of time, and they cannot determine who is living in the past, who in the present. There is the story of Benjamin Driscoll, the Johnny Appleseed of Mars by his own description. There is also a passing reference to the world of Farenheit 451, through a man who recreates the House of Usher to the dismay of the local Investigator of Moral Climates.

This book takes place over the years 1999 to 2026. In the end it is only complete annihilation of the Earth, and nearly off it’s inhabitants, that allows the world to move on from the psychosis that has entrapped in a state of perpetual greed and violence for millenia. One family escapes in a rocket hidden from the governments of Earth. As the father, burns away sheafs of paper containing the legal codes of Earth, he talks to his family about why he is doing so, and why the radio transmissions from Earth had stopped.

‘“I’m burning a way of life, just like the way of life is being burned clean of Earth right now. Forgive me if I talk like a politician. I am, after all, a former state governor, and I was honest and they hated me for it. Life on Earth never settled down to doing anything very good. Science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in a mechanical wilderness, like children making over pretty things, gadgets, helicopters, rockets; emphasizing the wrong items, emphasizing machines instead of how to run the machines. Wars got bigger and bigger and and finally killed Earth. that’s what the silent radio means. That’s what we ran away from.’”

There are eight years between now and 2026, and perhaps the good news is we do not yet have another manger to foul. We have the Earth, and that is all. It is dispiriting, to say the least, to still be fighting to have it recognized that the color of a person’s skin has no more to do with their value than their height, or their shoe size. It is disheartening to have to battle against bigots and cowards, because of they don’t like that some men love men and women love women, or that people are no longer prisoner to the gender stated on their birth certificates. The environment continues to be destroyed by people who claim that it cannot be destroyed. A single person can possess enough wealth to feed the world, wealth built almost exclusively by underpaid labor and criminal working conditions, and be lauded for offering free delivery of knick knacks for a yearly fee. The fact that we are still in as much danger of nuclear war as ever, but that we seem to have simply gotten used to it, is hard to fathom. 

Perhaps though, just as The Martian Chronicles has more lightness than it seems on its surface, there is more hope on Earth than it would seem. The artist, recently risen to prominence, Boots Riley said on his most recent album, “They got the TV, we got the truth/They own the judges and we got the proof/We got hella people, they got helicopters/ They got the bombs and we got the/we got the/we got the guillotine…” 

Ray Bradbury wrote a cautionary tale, but just because the premises have bore out does not mean the ending will. We may not even need the eight years between now and the end of the book to begin to make the necessary changes. We don’t need to escape to Mars either, we don’t need to run away at all, and we don’t need to kill the people we disagree with. What we need, and what it would seem we have in abundance, is people in the streets, ready to take back to Earth. The work may never stop, but all that means is neither should we. 

 

“Columbus and Other Cannibals” by Jack D. Forbes

The deal with doughnuts is this: the doughnut was invented by removing the center of an existing pastry. That thing that is removed resembles a nut, like an almond or a walnut. A hole is left by removing this nut. Yet, for some reason, we refer to the nut of dough as the doughnut hole, and the hole left by the nut as the dough nut.

Anyway. Here’s a thought, Jack D. Forbes’ thought specifically, “the willingness to destroy human beings lives indicates a mental disorder”.

You might be thinking, “Jack D. Forbes, whoever he is, isn’t the first person to have that thought.” You are correct, but Forbes has done an excellent job demonstrating that this thought is true even if that willingness is shared by a nation’s worth of people. It is true even if that willingness stems from the desire to expand a country’s borders. It is true even if it leads to the establishment of new cultures. Those people that are willing to destroy the lives of others have a mental disorder, and that disorder is a kind of cannibalism Forbes refers to as Weitko.

Your first thought, Forbes anticipates, will be that this is meant metaphorically. Not so. A cannibal is someone who will consume a person’s life to benefit themselves with no consideration of the person he is consuming. This definition of a cannibal is a literal description of Christopher Colombus. He consumed the lives of the people who lived on the islands he stumbled across, and not in the sense of having forced those lives into slavery or in some other ways stripped them of their autonomy, though he did that too, but in the sense that he murdered people.

The colonialists that followed, in North America, South America, Africa, islands across the oceans, consumed the lives of the people they found as well. Colonialists justified incredible violence and savagery, the raping and murdering men, women, and children as they removed the survivors from the homes they had occupied for thousands of years, through the position that their, the colonialists’, race and culture was more deserving of the land on the basis of being more civilized. If you don’t agree to the diagnosis of cannibalism, it is hard to argue there isn’t something schizophrenic about this kind of thinking.

So clearly stated, it’s hard to see why this isn’t an obvious belief in our society. The people that fought for the continuation of slavery were insane. The members of the Klu Klux Klan are insane. So, the people who landed on a distant shore and then murdered everyone they could find must be just as insane.

Mind you, I don’t mean “insane” in the same way commentators describe a mass murderer, so long as that mass murderer is white and christian, as “mentally disturbed”. I, and I can’t imagine Forbes either, do not offer this as an excuse for their behavior, but as an appropriate way to describe the mindset of the people who founded the countries of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, etc. etc. etc. through the means of destroying the lives and societies of the people who already lived there. If you don’t believe it, consider it happening to you. Here, I’ll help.

You come home after a hard day’s work and notice your front door is open. Your heart rate increasing, you step inside.

“Hello?” you call.

A man steps out from the hallway.

“This is my house now. I’ll give you this blanket in exchange for it.”

You call the police, but the police are on the man’s side. Still, you refuse. So he kills you. The neighbor is killed as well, by a different man with the same offer, they’re everywhere. Nothing is being done about it. The word travels, and people start taking the blankets. Some people try to fight back, they and their families are overwhelmed by firepower. As an act of consolation these men tell you there is an abandoned parking lot outside of town, you and everyone in your neighborhood can go live there.

It’s a good book, well written and concise. Beyond laying out the obvious insanity of imperialism he states other things I’d never thought of as though they are obvious, and they are. He refers to Native Americans, North, South, and Central, as Americans. He states that religion has nothing to do with prayer or your beliefs of the afterlife, your religion is what you do. If you do everything you can to accumulate money, that’s your religion. If you sit around and play video games all day, that’s your religion. The building you go to for an hour per week is irrelevant compared to the actions you take throughout your days.

Lives are still being destroyed by colonial forces, by sweatshops and slave labor, by the decimation of homelands, by the banishment of certain languages and cultures, by mass murder and genocide and nonstop never ending world wide warfare. This computer I sit in front of only exists through the subjugation of African and Asian individuals and societies, I am complicit in this disease. To not be would be to reject all modern technology, all modern political and social institutions, to retreat from society altogether, that is the degree of malignancy enjoyed by this disease, so deeply ingrained in our society through generations upon generations of years of normalization. People beat cancer, and sometimes they only do so after the cancer gets so bad they can’t ignore it anymore. They finally go get the diagnosis, they suffer through harsh treatments, they come to the brink of death, and then, through determination and hard work and a little bit of luck, they start to heal.

This society needs to actually acknowledge its past, and recognize that we destroyed countless cultures each thousands of years old in the process of creating it. There needs to be compensation, and not just in terms of returned wealth, but in the acknowledgement of genocides and near genocides and a commitment to bringing back the means and resources necessary to support those cultures that have hung on despite every attempt at eradication. When do we want it? Now! When will it happen?

 

“The Sermon on the Mount” by Me (and Jesus)

So I was driving around the other day, just letting the old noggin wander, and I had the thought, “The Sermon on the Mount was good though.”

Then, from a different corner, a voice called out, “How do you know?”

And I thought, “Oh yeah, that’s right. I’ve never read it.”

I tried to read the bible once or twice, but it never stuck. You know how some books are like that? You pick ’em up, put ’em down, then just don’t pick it up again? That’s been my experience with the bible. However, in college, for no reason at all, I mastered in classical Greek. It’s not the same language as the original New Testament, but it’s pretty close. So, I figured, I’d translate the Sermon on the Mount, and if it was good as Kurt Vonnegut (and probably some other people) say it is, I’ll try the rest of the book out again.

The fact is, my Greek is bad. It’s been a while since college, and a couple years at it really doesn’t amount to much. Armed with my grammar books and dictionaries, it’s my best effort, but there are definitely mistakes. I’ve only just begun, but here’s what I got so far:

And behold, before the crown he climbed onto the mount. The sojourners of him, his students, were sitting there. He opened his mouth and they were taught by his words.

Happy are the poor, it is of them that is the kingdom of the sky. Happy are the mourning, for they will be encouraged. Happy are the considerate, for they are the heirs of the world. Happy are those cut in two by thirst and hunger for they will be satisfied. Happy are the sympathetic, for they are the free. Happy are the pure of heart, for they are the ones seeing God. The peacemakers are happy, as they will be summoned by the son of God. The justifiably angry, the ones who have been prosecuted, it is of them that is the kingdom of God. Happy are those who are insulted and persecuted and ordered around by the evil liars, because of me. Rejoice and be overjoyed, for the reward for having been persecuted in this way is in the sky, as it was for the prophets before you. 

You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt is proven stupid, who will be called? You are never strong unless you throw out the ones trampling upon the people. You are the light of the universe. A city is not strong lying hidden on top of a mountain and neither are they who release the light of a lamp little by little, instead of putting it on top of a lamp stand to shine everywhere in the house. Whoever of the people who have received our light and see our good works will believe our father is in the sky. 

You may believe that my coming will destroy the rule, or the prophets, but my coming will not destroy, but complete. 

For truly I tell you, if you are the receive the sky and the earth be a serif of an iota. You will certainly not receive it through legal means, unless you become in every way like this. Thus, when you have loosed the smallest of your chains by these commands, and instructed others to do the same, in this way the smallest will be called into the sky. It is the ones who make this happen and teach this greatness that will be called into the kingdom of the sky. 

I say to you, the best of you, the just ice of the registers are full of Pharisees* and they will certainly not be carried into the kingdom of the sky. 

You all heard that I said to the old ones, Do Not Murder. 

Cliffhanger! Some very interesting things going on here. That is a solid list of people going into the kingdom of the sky, which I take to be a good thing. I like that he doesn’t phrase everything in that regard however, instead mentioning that the mourning are happy because they will feel better, and that the hungry will be happy because they will eat. I believe it was meant literally, but it could be understood as a comment on the fact that without pain and toil, happiness and satisfaction would be less significant. That “You are the light of the universe” line is pretty amazing, seems like it should be right after the first bit though.

It isn’t enough to be strong, you need to be apparent about it. As a general rule that seems false, but if the intent here is to spread a particular message it makes sense. It isn’t enough to believe in a message strongly, you have to act on that message. Then those who see those actions will come to the same beliefs regarding that message.

The serif of the iotas receiving the earth seems like mixed messaging though. I guess it could refer to the idea that the powerful folks at the top are not the ones who will be changing the world, but the laborers and workers, and in those times slaves and serfs, who will hold the power. If they use that power, in addition to making the world a better place, they get into the kingdom in the sky.

Pharisees, (and I wouldn’t bet a paycheck on this definition or anything), were Jewish folk who believed themselves to be the holiest. Seems pretty specific, it isn’t those who are most concerned with faith that get into the kingdom in the sky, but those who act to bring about positive change. Faith isn’t irrelevant, but Jesus hasn’t said anything about needing it to get into heaven, instead he seems to be arguing that by bringing about good in the world people, in addition to being admitted into the kingdom, will come to believe in God.

“You all heard that I said to the old ones, Do Not Murder” definitely seems like it has a ‘but’ coming! We’ll have to see…

Oh, donuts. We’ll talk about that soon, I promise.

We Live Amongst 10,000 Years of History – A Review of “Chinook Resilience” by Jon Daehnke

In an alternate universe there is a broadcaster reading the evening news, turning to sports she says, “In football today the Jackson Niggers lost their division playoff to the Baltimore Chinks.” 

While some people in this universe find these names objectionable, no one really does much about it. After all, that has been their names for a long time, and plus, “I know a Black and/or Chinese person, and they don’t care, so it must not be racist.”

The Twilight Zone twist is this, we live in that alternate universe. It’s the Washington Redskins instead of the Jackson Niggers, but the sentiment, and the justification, is the same. An organization that generates millions of dollars in 2018, and is celebrated on every media platform, does so under an overtly racist name. It is a name that denigrates groups of people who have already suffered attempted genocide. This is one of the more blatant examples, but racism against Native Americans is, comparatively, common. It is the people whose ancestors have lived on this continent for 10,000 years or more, who had their entire way of life destroyed in under 200 years, whose children were kidnapped and stripped of their heritage, whose languages were forbidden by law, whose women were sterilized against their will, for whom racial epithets and cartoonish caricatures, in sports, on sit-coms, in commercials, are still socially acceptable. 

A fundamental aspect of this racism is the romanticization of Native cultures (assuming in the process that they are all identical). Think Disney’s “Pocahontas”. The ideas that Native Americans lived in perfect harmony with nature, knew no boundaries, and didn’t have the concept of ownership were intrinsic to the rationale that they were primitive, uncivilized people who were undeserving of the resources inherent to where they lived. This line of thinking was, in part, how colonization was justified. It’s also false.

The Chinook people populate the land to the North and South of the lower Columbia River, from the mouth to around The Dalles, and have for thousands of years. As Jon D. Daehnke describes in Chinook Resilience, “Five hundred years ago Chinookan villages line Iyagayt’l imat – now called the Columbia River…A voyage along the river at night would be lit by hundreds of fires burning brightly along the banks…Voyagers would be well aware that there were not alone on the landscape, as thousands of people lived along this stretch of the river, making it one of the most densely populated areas in North America at the time.”

He continues, “Furthermore, the people of the river were part of an established large-scale trade network that ran well into the interior of North America and north and south along the Pacific coast…theirs was a cosmopolitan existence.”

What Daehnke describes are cities. Cities that 500 years ago, before Vancouver or Juan De Fuca ever sailed up the coast, centuries before Lewis and Clark, had already been established for generations. While it was a multicultural and multilingual society, the Chinook themselves had such control over the trading forces of the Pacific Northwest that a form of their language was the official trading language from modern day Alaska down through the Oregon coast. This disturbs the idea of a transient and unstructured band of hunters and gatherers. The Chinook were part of a vast interconnected society, consisting of nation states throughout the continent, that operated largely on the principles of trade. What occurred throughout this continent was not the development of culture, but an attempt at the replacement of it. Chinook Resilience is the story of a culture that persevered. Daehnke structures the historical aspect of the book as a series of opportunities for the destruction of the Chinook heritage.

European settles began coming to the region in large numbers in the early 19th century. After thousands of years of building a culture along the lower Columbia, the Chinook saw the influx of Europeans as an opportunity, not a threat. “Relying on their long-standing expertise in trade and commerce, Chinookans were initially able to use the influx of new trading partners as a way to increase their already considerable wealth and maintain their positions of power on the river.” However, as the settlers began to establish permanent homes, the British and United States were fighting over the Northern border of the United States, and territory that had belonged to the Chinook for thousands of years was suddenly being claimed by these two other nations. Just as the Chinookans were working to maintain control over their territory, disease, malaria and others, struck. The Native Americans, having no natural immunity, perished in great numbers.

“Both the Hudson’s Bay Company and Lewis and Clark estimated a regional Native population of somewhere near 15,500 in the early decades of the 19th century. By 1841 thus number had been reduced to 1,932, a decline of nearly 90 percent.” With houses empty colonialists moved in, and in 1850 the Donation Land Claim Act was passed, with significant help from Thurston County’s namesake Samuel Thurston, and with that the United States government declared that a couple squatting in Native American territory for four years was sufficient for ownership. The Chinook were largely dead from diseases introduced by foreign invaders, and were now having their land usurped by the same people in their absence. 

In 1851, their numbers still greatly diminished, several nations of the Chinook signed a treaty with the United States government. This treaty was blocked, however, by Thurston as he objected to the fact that it allowed the Chinook to stay on their land and that the Chinook would be paid for the land they did relinquish. With no treaty, the Chinook signed several others but none were ratified, the Chinook were unrecognized by the federal government as a nation and so had no real title to their lands, which is their situation to this very day. 

In the late 19th century Chinook children were rounded up and sent to boarding schools, the goal of which was to “‘kill the Indian [to] save the child’ (a policy phrasing attributed to Carlisle Indian School founder Richard Pratt) and so Chinookan children were forbidden to speak their language, forced to dress in white clothing, and often prevented from seeing or visiting their families.” This was a policy that lasted 40 years, into the 1920s.

The Chinook have been brought almost to extinction by disease. They lost generations of youth to boarding schools. Currently, the people of the Chinook suffer in unusually high numbers from drug abuse, alcoholism, and poverty. They are working to bring their language, ubiquitous in this land only 150 years ago, back from the dead. They have been denied federal recognition over and over again, after briefly receiving it by the outgoing Clinton administration in 2001 it was reversed by the Bush administration in 2002. With an ancestry of 10,000 years in the same location, the Chinook are federally unofficial.

This is not a happy story, but, in the end, it is an optimistic one.

In chronicling the hardships faced by the Chinook since European colonization Daehnke writes with the air of a seemingly objective anthropologist. He does not claim to be so, in fact he connects the practice of anthropology with colonialism early in the book, but he simply states the facts as they relate to his thesis, which is that the Chinook faced many challenges and yet continue to exist. In the final two chapters of his book, before his brief concluding remarks, Daehnke is focused on the excavation of the Cathlapotle plankhouse and its re-creation near by, and the reintroduction of canoes to the Chinook culture, respectively. In these chapters Daehnke lowers the veil of objectivity. This is to his credit, for objectivity in the study of human beings isn’t a real possibility, and a subject such as resilience deserves a subjective voice. 

Lewis and Clark rowed through Catlapotle in 1805, many hundreds of years after it had been settled by the Chinook. At the time Lewis and Clark estimated the population of the town around 900 people. About 50 years later it was abandoned, its residents lost to disease and displacement. In the 1990s the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, “in consultation and collaboration with the Chinook Indian Nation” began the process of excavating it. Among its principle discoveries was the site of an ancient plankhouse. A plankhouse was a multi-family building designed not only for sleeping and storage but for dances, ceremonies, the drying and curing of food, and much more. They were deemed unsavory by the United States, as they were pushing for Native Americans to adopt the single family residence model, and so many were destroyed. The plankhouse discovered by this archeological effort seemed to be around 500 years old when it ceased being used in the 1800s. 

With the bicentennial of The Corps of Discovery mission, which had briefly visited Cathlapotle, on the horizon it is proposed that a new plankhouse be constructed. The Chinook see this as a positive development, a way to demonstrate their continued existence, but, as Daehnke points out, it is not without issues.

“Like most tribal nations along the Lewis and Clark trail, the Chinook Indian nation was concerned about its representation in the Lewis and Clark story, the undue weight given to a temporally brief expedition rather than the hundreds of generations of occupation by Native peoples, and an accurate portrayal of the devastation that this expedition ultimately represents.”

In the final chapter, “The Return of the Canoes and the Decolonization of Heritage” this story of the Chinook indulges itself in a happy ending. Daehnke describes in detail the craftsmanship of the Chinook canoes, of the mastery of their handling, how impressed Europeans were by the Chinooks ability to control them in high seas and rough waters. These canoes, like so much else, had disappeared. In part because of advances in technology, which the Chinooks took advantage of as well, but the absence of the canoes also represented a spiritual loss. Canoes were painstakingly crafted and decorated, they were the highest form of currency (to the degree that Lewis and Clark were unable to buy one from anyone, and so resorted to stealing one instead). They were considered living beings, members of the family. So their disappearance was more significant than just the result of outboard motors. 

In the 1970s Tom Heidlebaugh and his colleagues refurbished an old canoe to visit Native historical sites around La Push. In the 1980s Bill Reid carved a a fifty foot long canoe based on the measurements of a Haida canoe in a museum collection and paddled it to the World’s Fair in Vancouver, BC. Then, in 1989, the Paddle to Seattle, organized between the nations around Hoh and La Push, as well the Tulalip, Lummi, Heiltsuk, and Suquamish, brought a flotilla of canoes to Golden Gardens State Park. These same groups agreed to meet again in four years, and in 1993 23 canoes, and around two thousand people, gathered in Bella Bella. Four years later they met again in La Push, and after that it became a yearly tradition that has become known as Tribal Journeys. 

The loss of canoes was indicative of the lost culture of the Chinook, and so Daehnke uses their return in the late 20th century as an indication of the revitalization of that culture.  Daehnke points to the healing aspects of participating in Tribal Journeys, particularly in regards to drug and alcohol addiction. Finally, according to Daehnke, Tribal Journeys represents decolonization. 

“One of the goals of colonization was to strip away all of those things that made people Indian-a viewpoint embodied in the famous dictum, ‘Kill the Indian, and save the man.’ Whether it was through the institution of of boarding schools and efforts to remove Native children from their families, the attempted separation of tribal communities from their lands and languages, or direct efforts at eradicating Native populations, colonialism worked to kill the Indian. Tony Johnson (chair of the Chinook Culture Committee and later elected tribal chair) argues however, that Tribal Journeys and the return of the canoes provide a path to decolonization, a way to remind people of the Indigeneity and resilience: ‘Nowadays, one thing we say is “Feed you Indian.” I mean, canoe journeys, Tribal Journeys, being in the canoes, the Salmon Ceremony, things we do-they feed your Indian. You have to find ways to do that.’”

Daehnke points out early on issues with anthropology as regards a living culture, particularly when it is anthropology conducted by the member of one culture on another. The story of the Chinook is not his story, and so his telling of it is necessarily distinct from the story itself. It’s an important point, but not an all encompassing one. The story Daehnke tells is of a culture that faced direct attacks by a racist and oppressive government. A culture systematically prevented from economic development. A culture decimated by disease and addiction. A culture that is still openly mocked and belittled in mainstream society. Mostly, however, it is the well-told and information rich story of a culture that has persevered. 

“Today the Chinook nation has approximately three thousand enrolled citizens…” The Chinook, and hundreds of other indigenous nations around the country, are bringing back their languages, their rituals, their ceremonies. They are taking back their rights, with or without government permission or recognition. The story Daehnke has told is of a people who withstood tragic circumstances and, though diminished, and though there is incredible work ahead, have prevailed in important ways. This is the Chinooks’ story, not Daehnke’s, and it cannot be told in its entirety by a person who it does not belong to, but Daehnke has provided it a voice. It is the story of how the resilience of a people has led to their perseverance. it is a story that suggests that in any nation, under any government, if decent citizens continue to be resilient, then decency will persevere. It’s a story we all need to hear these days. 

The Limited Value of Patience

Sunday’s Evening Service: Emmanuel’s Dream is about a Ghanian named Emmanual who is born with a immature foot, rendering his leg below the thigh functionless. In Ghana, being born disabled is considered a curse, and by the magic of self fulfilling prophecies quickly becomes one. The disabled were expected to beg, assuming they weren’t left for dead by their parents as infants.

Obviously Emmanuel did not succumb to this fate. At a young age his mother had him doing chores, refusing to bring him things. By the time he was five Emmanuel was hopping from place to place on one leg. As a school boy he shined shoes to make ends meet for the family, and purchased a soccer ball for himself along the way. A soccer ball was a commodity in his village, and in order for his classmates to make use of it they had to include him in the games.

His mom gets sick, so at 13 he sneaks away in the night to Accra to cobble shoes, and sends home the money. His mom eventually passes, but before she does she tells Emmanuel to never give up, never beg, always strive for greatness. Emmanuel, having been in the city for some time, has seen how other disabled people are treated, and takes the improvement of their plight as his quest.

He decides he will ride his bike around Ghana to demonstrate that a disabled person is not an unable person. He goes door to door raising money, with plenty of those doors being slammed in his face. Emmanuelwrites to a charitable organization in the States,The Challenged Athletes Foundation, who respond by outfitting him with a bike, bags, and shorts. With his friends in taxi behind him Emmanuel takes off on his quest.

Emmanuel rides through his country, asking people to be conscious of the suffering endured by the less fortunate in their country, to astounding success. His message reaches across the Atlantic, he finds financial support, he is given a prosthetic. For the first time, he is able to walk, he can ride a bike three times faster than before, he receives endorsements and sponsorships. For many, it would have been enough.

Emmanuel, however, learns how to construct frames that can turn a cheap plastic chair into a highly functioning wheel chair, and brings this skill back to Ghana in the form of a charity. He arranged meetings with heads of churches, with the media, with the King of Ghana, who invited the disabled to his palace, an unthinkable act in the years before. In 2006 Ghana passed a Persons with Disability Act, proclaiming discrimination against the disabled illegal. Emmanuel found a group of people being oppressed, reduced to something less than human, and toured across his land asking people for kindness and understanding.

Some people are waiting for a Jesus to rise again, some literally, some figuratively. Others, like Emmanuel, don’t have that kind of patience.

Being Mindful of Awareness or Something

Rambling Sunday Sermon, 3-11-18
 
At the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel ‘Timequake’ Kilgore Trout asks Kurt to find two stars in the sky. He states that the light from those two stars would take thousands if not millions of years to reach each other, or to reach Earth. He then asks Kurt to look “precisely at one, and then precisely at the other.”
 
Kurt states he has done so and Kilgore asks, “It took a second, do you think?” to which Kurt says it did not take any longer than that. Kilgore responds, “Even if you’d taken an hour…something would have passed between where those two heavenly bodies used to be, at, conservatively speaking, a million times the speed of light.”
 
The thing that Kilgore Trout is referring to is Kurt’s awareness. This, he proclaims, is a new thing in the world, and one which physicists must take into consideration along side energy and matter, and, it is implied, one which renders the idea that the speed of light is insurmountable obsolete.
 
There is evidence for the proposition that awareness is a force in the world beyond this, fairly cute, fictitious anecdote. Heisenberg pointed out that it is impossible to, at the same time, measure both the velocity of a thing and determine its speed. Measuring one affects the other. Or is it effects? I never know.
 
A quark’s position is determined only when it is measured. The quark is not located, or it is potentially located anywhere, until it is observed, and then all of those probabilities but one collapse. I think, my primary reference in regards to quantum physics is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so for god’s sake don’t just trust me on this. The point is, though, it does not seem as though awareness is irrelevant fundamentally.
 
It might be though, let me actually study physics for a decade or so and I’ll let you know. I’m just sayin. Irregawdless it sure isn’t irrelevant macroscopically.
 
Awareness is hot right now, but it’s got a new name (lingo and jingles make the world go round) “mindfulness”. Be mindful of your breath, be mindful of your anger, be mindful of others. If Kurt’s uncle Alex were alive today he’d tell you to be mindful of when things are good, not just won the lottery amazing, but drinking lemonade in the shade good, and to say out loud, “if this isn’t nice, what is?” Whatever vernacular you prefer, he is right.
 
Awareness is a tool. It ought to be used to shine light on hate and injustice and cruelty, you could exhaust your whole life’s awareness on these and not begin to be aware of it all. Fine, good, please and thank you. March and protest and vote and call out those people who are fighting against goodness and fairness.
 
A hammer can be used to tear down a moldy old shack, and it can also be used to build a new one the salvaged pieces. Your awareness can help defeat the racists and bigots in the world, but it can also shine a light on lemonade in the shade.
 
Your politicians and corporations, in general, want everyone to be afraid and angry. It’s so much easier to campaign off of fear and anger than off of love and kindness. So march and protest and vote, but don’t forgot to notice where things are good, and to point them out as well. Where things are good, they serve as a compass, and so without noticing them and acknowledging them, without being aware of them, navigating the world, determining where we ought to be going, what changes specifically ought to be made to those things that aren’t good, becomes much more difficult.
 
Do yourself a favor, and do the world a favor, take notice of the good things, too.
 
Ting a ling!