Or was it the word ‘feckless’ that was the problem?

Here’s the deal, calling a person a cunt is rude, and it definitely isn’t fair to vaginas to insult people by calling them one. For so many reasons, it is not a progressive term to use. However, there is a substantial difference between referring to a two faced, lying, hypocritical, racism and misogyny enabling piece of shit Trump apologist as a cunt, where cunt is used in place of that long list of descriptions, and referring to a black person as the offspring of a Muslim group and a gorilla like creature. On the one hand, you used a rude term to describe a despicable person, on the other hand you dehumanize billions of human beings because of the color of their skin. The first is rude, the second is racist. Rude people can be irritating, but rudeness is often intwined with honesty and so rudeness can often serve an important purpose, whereas racist people are vile idiots who are destroying this country. Clear?

The real problem is that these false equivalencies our idiot president constantly leans on (that the people protesting the celebration of old morons who fought to the death to keep people enslaved, and the racist morons who killed one of those people, are of the same moral standing, for example) are catching. Nobody who actually thinks critically about them could possibly construct a meaningful argument justifying the claim, but who cares about critical thinking? That piece of shit in office says they’re the same, which means a significant percentage of the US population believes they are the same, and so the media, which exists primarily to make money and so cannot offend so large a share of the potential market for their advertisers, has to pretend that it might be. Same shit with climate change, the direct link between human suffering  and for-profit healthcare, the incredible success of the Obama presidency, the fact that our nonstop state of global warfare is tied directly to maintaining control of the global oil supply, the supplication of the civilians in the United States through alcohol and sports, and so on and so on.

The supposed objectivity of the media is a facade hiding the fact that journalism is completely subjective to the amount of money the owners of media companies can make. The news tells both sides of every story, because what matters is not truth, but being able to advertise to as great a number of people as possible. There are exceptions, Fox news picked a market, to a lesser extent so has CNN, but in the vast majority of newspapers, evening and morning news programs, radio shows, etceteras, you will never find a duck being referred to as a duck, if there is even the slightest argument that it might be a flamingo.

The media provides idiocy a voice, in order to protect their bottom line, but the fact is that idiocy is contagious. A huge percentage of people are highly susceptible to arguments from authority, and the people on television are the authorities to most of those same people.

The media is never going to be truly objective because that word barely means anything. Every viewpoint, every belief, every claim to knowledge, is subject to outside forces. The media is meant to be driven by investigative journalism, so it ought to be subjective to the goddamn evidence.

But we all have silly dreams of unicorns, no reason to every expect them to come true I guess.

And Then There Was Cucumber

In the beginning there was nothing but nothing shivered and there became something. That something was about the size of a tennis ball. This tennis ball contained within it all that would ever be, the sum of all matter in the universe, the material of which we are made, and the time it would take to make us. Every sun, every planet, every idea, wrapped up in a little ball.

And the pressure was incredible. It seethed and frothed and exploded. No, this was not an act of destruction, it expanded. 

And it created distance as it spread, begetting tens of millions of miles of space, billions, hundreds of billions. Action itself emerged from this expansion, and, as a consequence, time.

And the energy expressed in this massive and sudden expansion manipulated material into being through heat and pressure. Hydrogen emerged, alone until begetting helium, then nitrogen, and the oxygen, and then carbon.

And from the gaseous dust a more massive amalgamation of this new existence coalesced and sunk a little deeper in the emerging fabric of the expansion, and by doing so did attract more material, and so sank a little deeper, and so attracted more material, and so grew.

And great swirling masses of gas and dust grew, and in these great swirling masses the gases ignited and they became great flaming balls of light and heat while simultaneously inventing them both. These beacons weighed heavily upon the fabric of the expansion and so the dust of the material created by the expansion and by the stars fell into the depressions the stars created, and they this dust spun around the stars in nearly perpetual orbit. As the dust connect they made their own depressions, and more dust fell in, until these balls of dust became the size of planets.

And on at least one planet, dancing its circle around a sun surrounded by billions of other suns, the dust upon this planet performed a trick. It replicated itself. And the progeny of the progeny divided and divided. The single celled organism became plural and so the beasts and plants did grow upon the Earth. The light from the sun did strike the developing bodies, and changed them in ways large and small. And those random mutations that did result in superior abilities to survive and procreate did drive the life upon the planet, the grass, and the buffalo, and the grape, and the algae, and the spiders, and the escherichia coli, and the rabbits, and the iguana, and the cucumber, to a state of abundant diversity.

 

 

“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.

A Startling Revelation

3 2

I was in deep meditation, not suppressing or rejecting thoughts, just acknowledging them and letting them go. One thought, however, broke me from my pleasant calm and besieged me to follow it.

When I had picked up my son from his daycare a few hours earlier he had been eating a cakepop, prompting me to ask him, “Do you have a cakepop?”

I can’t tell you why parents do that, ask their small children to state obviousness, but we all do.

Joan said to me, “How do you know what a cakepop is?”

And I said, “What else could it be? It’s a cake on a pop.”

She shrugged, I collected my son, and we left. Hours later, after the scene had replayed in my head and ended my meditation, I told my wife about it. She laughed, because she’s nice, but didn’t catch anything odd about it either.

I said, “I said, ‘It’s a cake on a pop’!” and mimed the stick that the cake would be sitting on. She continued to look at me like I wasn’t the brightest deck of cards in the toolshed.

“I called the stick a pop, but since when has it even been called that? When has anyone referred to the stick of a lollypop as ‘the pop’?”

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t know. That’s strange. So the stick that food is on is called a pop?”

“Well what else is there?” I responded.

“Popsicle.” we said simultaneously.

Then, it dawned on me, the purpose of this revelation.

“That means that the stick of a popsicle is called a pop, but we, all of us, corporations and individuals alike, call a pop, a popsicle stick. We’ve made it longer, and redundant. Why?”

“It’s like ATM machine!” my wife pointed out.

The superfluous syllables ‘-sickle stick’ will not destroy irreplaceable seconds in my life ever again. Let this egregious linguistic oversight be a lesson to us all. Next week, the ontological reversal of the donut and and its hole.

Taxes are Great You Idiots.

I’m just kidding, I would never really call you an idiot. Unless I got to know you and it turns out that you are an idiot, then I guess I might. I shouldn’t! It serves no purpose. It does happen though, I can be critical beyond necessity.

What determines necessity in regards to criticism?

Perhaps the degree to which the criticism can be acted upon. It isn’t helpful to call you an idiot because it doesn’t provide any guidance as to remedy. It suggests the state of idiocy you are occupying is inalterable…or unalterable, on those I think. That probably isn’t true though, idiocy is usually caused by a gap in information, and so idiocy is cured by filling that gap.

The importance of the issue at which the criticism is directed at must also be considered of course. If you hit me with your car and break my back because you can’t put your cell phone down for 5 minutes to drive to the idiot store and pick up some more duuuhh then pretty much any level of criticism leveled at you is probably appropriate. However, and this is something we all can probably do well to remember, if you squeeze into a gap that wasn’t quite as wide as you thought and I have to tap my brakes, that probably doesn’t justify curses against your mother. Just because a person is in a different car does not make them my sworn enemy and I ought not take every opportunity to testify to their imagined despicableness. Someday I will truly convince myself of that.

So, in order to justify criticism, it ought to be actionable and it should be delivered in relative proportion to the effect caused by the error. As such, I believe it would be justified for me to say that the lack of taxes paid in proportion to income by wealthy corporations is tantamount to murder, and so wealthy corporations, and their officers, ought to pay much more in taxes.

Actionable! There is a directive right at the end there. Proportional to the effect of the error? Well the fact of the matter is that because “we can’t afford” universal healthcare people are dying of curable diseases, cancers, and injuries, so yeah, I think so. There’s a few guys just in the Seattle area that are worth about a quarter of a trillion dollars combined, and all due to the profits made by corporations that pay as close to nothing as possible, their lobbyists, lawyers, and accountants have made sure of it, in taxes. I see a problem, and I see a solution.

Here’s a belief you can let knock around the old noggin for a while; while any one person starves to death, no one should have a billion dollars. Why in the world would a single person ever need a billion dollars? Don’t tell me how much these Croesuses are donating, tell me, if they care so much about the world, why the hell they still have tens of billions of dollars? Let them have ten million dollars! They’ll live like kings forever! Spread the remaining profits around like the fertilizer it ought to be.

It should never be forgotten where the money is made anyway. There isn’t a billionaire alive who doesn’t profit from impoverished workers, the people digging the metal out of mines, slaving away on production lines. There really are people who made no money building the phone in your pocket, who will die working in that factory with nothing to show for it, that’s how such a marvel of modern technology costs so little. Why it costs so little, why it is imperative to the executive boards of this committee that they must put reducing costs, and so the quality of life for as many as employees as possible, is to sell as many as they can. Real people die so phones, and shoes, and computers, and jeans can cost so little. So these horrendously underpaid human beings make the products, then the vastly better paid, but just as dependent in their daily lives on their ability to create wealth for others, in another country consumes them. The only ones making progress is the ones already wealthy in the first place, directly at the expense of pretty much everyone else on the planet.

Dang, ok, sorry. I really just thought about talking about this because of how awesome the library is. I went there with my kid today, and was as blown away as usual by how much they offer. Books, movies, cds, a play area, internet access, printing. The one by my house has machines that convert your records to mp3s, and your video cassettes to mp4s, you can even burn them onto a dvd. All freeish! I mean, I own a house, so about $50 of my property taxes go to the library every year. Thank god! Can you imagine if it didn’t? No more libraries, no more social programs, no more post office, no more schools? Taxes are the best idea ever. Our tax structure, however, is terrible. We put a sales tax on products, we tax water and heat, we tax those things that everyone needs, and the taxes affect those with the least the most. In the meantime we ask nothing of the billionaires among us. If we can have so much with the taxes we collect now, primarily on the backs of the lower classes, imagine what we could do if those with the most among us actually gave back to society to the same degree society benefitted them.

These days dreams of ingraining equality into law seem like Candyland fantasies. When Donald Trump can be president, but the press is upset when a comedian accurately calls out the preposterousness of it all, in language that still wasn’t quite strong enough or specific enough to truly capture it, pipe dreams of a just society seem almost irresponsible. But we need them now more than ever. We must dream of how good it can be, the alternative is to believe this is as good as it gets. I refuse to do that.

 

 

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. 

Happy Vaisakhi!

20Today is the Punjabi celebration of the solar New Year, a day correlated with the Spring Harvest, a time of new birth and rebirth. I had planned to spend the day gardening in celebration, but the monsoon that has consumed the Pacific Northwest rages into it’s 147th day, so we’re going to a Mariners game instead.

But what better way to celebrate the optimistic spirit of the New Year than with a baseball game? Especially when the home team, who hasn’t been to the playoffs in nearly a generation, is on a four game winning streak. Maybe they’ll win! Maybe they will keep winning! Every year, we entertain the hypothetical premise that the Mariners will keep winning. We have been disappointed over and over again, and still, we’re willing to believe it is possible.

Louis CK once opined that to be an optimist is to be an idiot. “Maybe something nice will happen!” he mocked them as proclaiming, “Why? Would something nice ever happen?” he challenged them. But Louis CK has been banished, for other reasons, and the indomitable spirit of optimism, that definitive characteristic of the adventurous and bold, marches on. And indeed, on occasion, nice things do happen.

I planted seeds in the ground the day before our last snow this year. Weeks crawled past with no sign of a seedling anywhere, but I waited. I did not plow the ground and try again. I did not, sensibly, begin the seeds indoors and then plant the starts later on. No, I just did nothing, believing the seeds would bear life if they just had more time.

Carrots! Basil! Radishes! They live!

Happy Vaisakhi!

Holy Day Appropriation!

On Easter Sunday I was driving home from a camping trip, traveling directly past my family’s festivities in honor of the day on my way. We were skipping it this year, and I was thinking about talking with my wife about dis-including Easter from our holiday calendar permanently. As a father, I am not particularly interested in perpetuating the strange mythology of the Easter Bunny, and as someone who is not a Christian there was no spiritual significance either.

My thoughts drifted on and I began to question why, as non-Christians, we had appropriated only Christian holy days. Easter and Christmas are the only two religion-affiliated holidays we observe, though we do so secularly, but why?

The answer is really just that we grew up celebrating them. I like Christmas too, so we’ll keep celebrating that one, but what else? There’s 12 months a year, why are we only celebrating two holidays anyway? So, I looked to the mighty oracle Google to discover what other holy days there were to take on and how to celebrate them secularly. Thusly, I present to you the official holidays of The Church of Black Coffee for the remainder of 2018!

April 14th: Vaisakhi: Punjabi Spring Harvest/Solar New Year

I don’t understand the January 1st New Year, it’s miserable! A spring new year makes way more sense, and this one from the Punjab is at the optimal flowers blooming, birds singing, and bees buzzing time of the year. I’ll be spending the day out in the garden, and celebrating with family and friends that evening with a decent fruit and vegetable rich meal.

May 1st: Lailat al Bara’ah: Islam Night of Forgiveness

This is the night that many followers of Islam pray for the forgiveness of their loved ones. I already forgive all my dead friends and families, but on this day I’ll be sure to tell stories about them, and try to visit at least one or two graves to say hello.

June 11th: Laylat al Kadr: Night of Power

This holiest of nights for Muslim people commemorates the revealing of the Quran to the prophet Muhammed, a book that begins with the command “Read!” This will be a day that celebrates reading in general, with gifts of books to friends and family. It also so happens that I am not particularly familiar with the Quran, so I will make it a point to begin reading it on this day.

July 27th: Dharma Day: The Buddha’s First Lecture

After achieving enlightenment Siddhartha Gautama felt the overwhelming urge to share his newfound understanding of the universe. While often rendered as an oversimplified version of itself in the West, Buddhism does espouse the benefit of rejecting materialism, and fosters the idea that events in the world are often of much less significance then we give them. This will be a day of quiet breathing, of forgiving myself and others, and of relaxing. I anticipate a hammock being involved at some point.

August 15th: Assumption of Mary: The Rise of Mary into Heaven

Mother Mary wouldn’t suffer such a pedestrian triviality as death! The mother of The Son was assumed bodily into heaven on this day in 41 CE, a Thursday according to Google. The Christians celebrate this day with a feast, and I don’t see a way to improve on that, so a feast it will be.

September 3rd: Labor Day

This holiday has been deprived of celebration for many decades. Now it serves simply as a stopping point for Summer’s fun. No longer! The Church of Black Coffee will bring back the true observation of this holiday by reflecting on the fruits of organized labor, such as the minimum wage, or the weekend. If there is a picket line within 50 miles on this day, we will join it. If not, we will use social media, and perhaps go out into society itself, to remind others of what is made possible when the labor force takes a stand against the oligarchy.

October 1st: International Coffee Day

While the Church of Black Coffee does not usually tolerate international days of any kind, we’ll have to make an exception here. On this day we will indulge in coffee, of course, but we will also be mindful of the origin of our coffee, remembering the resources necessary to producing it, and reaffirming our commitment to buying only sustainable, fair trade, shade grown beans. There will be much jittering on this day, that can be assured.

November 7th: Diwali: The Festival of Lights

While the word means ‘a row of lanterns’, for followers Hinduism, Jainism, Diwali is the celebration of good over evil! In the Hindu tradition it celebrates Rama’s defeat of king Ravana, and so Rama’s return to his kingdom. On this day I will act to achieve some good in the world, be it volunteering at a local food bank, or writing a persuasive letter to a senator or representative. I also know that there are celebrations of Diwali that are open to the public, so I’ll be seeking one to participate in.

December 25th: Christmas

I like this one. I think putting a tree in your house is hilarious, I like getting up early and drinking coffee while the kid plays with the new toys. It’s great. In the spirit of the holiday, and specifically the Sermon on the Mount, I will also demonstrate kindness to the less fortunate around this day, be it in donating toys and clothes or volunteering hours.

So that’s it! Not a huge spread really, but its a start. The 2019 holiday calendar will come out in December of this year. If you have ideas on what holidays to celebrate next year, please let me know!