Cultural Cues

•October 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

After reading the New York Times special report on the self-made billionaire whose father gave him $413 million to kick-start his empire of fraud, I recalled that the current President of the United States isn’t the first to project fantastic self-imagery on the psyche of the American voter. Two of my favorites, also Republicans, are Gerald Ford–who made a video of himself toasting his own English muffin in the White House kitchen–and Nelson Rockefeller, who as presidential candidate ran as ‘Rocky’, despite his little resemblance with Sylvester Stalone. No one, perhaps, will ever top George W. Bush in his fly-boy outfit on an aircraft carrier, but then, he had PTSD from drinking and snorting away his military “service” down south in the Lone Star State.

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Critical Thinking

•October 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Language is not neutral. That is one of the lessons drawn by Paige Raibmon, professor of history at the University of British Columbia, in As I Remember It: Teachings from the Life of a Sliammon Elder–the K-12 textbook she co-authored about relations between Indigenous Peoples and Europeans.

As Raibmon observes, assumptions are not universal, but rather, culturally specific to a people, place and time. Many assumptions presented by Europeans as universal, she says, unwittingly promote continuity of the racist concepts these assumptions are based on.

As Raibmon notes, We all believe at some point that our particular ideas and practices are the norm. Those of us who benefit from various forms of privilege can retain that illusion because the world around us endorses our perspective. This is why the “First Peoples Principle of Learning” that “Learning requires exploration of one’s identity” applies to all learners of all ages. It invites non-Indigenous learners to start with themselves, rather than the Indigenous “other.”

Partisan Journalism

•July 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Transnistria is not the United States, but lessons about journalism there can be informative about the ‘ethics’ and ‘fidelity to the facts’ largely absent in mainstream American media. Particularly in regard to an increasingly monocultural journalistic situation, where self-censorship and compliance come to characterize the profession. As the federal government of the US seeks to control journalism and the Internet through intimidation, these lessons become warnings of possible future developments.

Kill the Rich

•July 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

As an aristocracy with democratic trappings, the United States managed to function relatively well since the New Deal. With the Bush/Obama/Trump tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, however, dysfunctional barely describes the present and future situation in which deteriorating basic infrastructure and social safety nets come to resemble conditions in Eastern Europe.

While the $10 trillion dollar loss to the U.S. Treasury proceeds to condemn the elderly and the poor to misery, its infusion into the private equity of the ultra-rich creates a Trump-Towerian effect where the aristocracy can literally look out over the landscape of destruction their greed has created. As the Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos remarked in Mexico,

We are coming after the rich of this country, we are going to kick them out, and if they have committed crimes, well, we will put them in prison… because this is the time that has come. We say that coexisting with them is not possible, because their existence means our disappearance.

Against Freedom

•July 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The American story is one of a people against freedom. Due to their psychological limitations imposed by Christianity and capitalism, they could not allow the indigenous peoples, fish and wildlife to roam freely. They had to either imprison or kill everything that was free.

To illustrate this fact, simultaneous with the conflicts between the U.S. Army and Native Americans, i.e. Battle of the Little Bighorn, was the destruction of bison to deprive Indians of their primary protein source. In Montana, there were 13 million bison in 1870; by 1884, the slaughter authorized by Congress reduced bison in the entire United States to 325.

Coming to grips with this ugly reality requires an open mind, free from the disingenuous mythology.

The Path They Walk

•June 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

One of the songs on the soundtrack for the 2002 film The Tracker is titled All Men Choose the Path They Walk. The soundtrack is by Australian Indigenous recording artist Archie Roach, who was part of the ‘stolen generation’ of Aboriginal youth taken from their communities to be placed in orphanages and foster homes, and like their counterpart Canadian Indigenous children, brainwashed in religious mission schools.

As an Aborigine from Mooroopna, Archie—like many other stolen children—found himself on the street, trying to make sense of his life. Ironically, what saved him was the musical instruction he received by a Pentecostal church musician, that led him to choose the path of freedom that he describes as ‘dancing with my spirit’.

Now 61, Archie Roach is a magical Australian treasure, and his foundation allows him to walk beside young Aborigines—some in prison or on the streets like he once was—as they seek to express themselves while they ‘walk to destiny’. His songs of resilience give them hope.

As Archie says, “The Foundation is a way for me to give back, to pass on what’s been given to me from people I’ve met on my journey who have pointed me in a different direction, to a better way of life and understanding; to freedom. I hope to be a signpost for others, to walk alongside and empower them to tell their story through the arts.”

Archie and his late wife Ruby Hunter, both award-winning Indigenous recording artists, took many homeless Aboriginal youth into their family, and reached into the souls of white Australians, changing the way they looked at Black fellas surviving current government-imposed misery in their homelands.

As a songwriter and supporter of social justice, Archie is a Member of the Order of Australia. His song Took the Children Away received an international human rights achievement award.

This July, Archie and his band tour Canada.

We Can Do Better

•April 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

As opined by historian Ted Widmer, Robert Kennedy’s trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation–during the primaries of his 1968 presidential campaign–was an act of leaving the known political universe, almost like leaving the United States.