Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Advanced? Maybe not.

A very popular sentiment today (and I emphasize "sentiment") is to express regret at what happened to the Native American in this country. The same wave of "sentiment" regarding African-Americans and the trials they endured under slavery is common today as well. It seems a common trait of our race to desire forgiveness for the trespasses that gave us what we most desired, only after we have achieved them. I am not by any means saying that reparations should be made to the descendants of these oppressed peoples. And, they were severely oppressed, let's make no mistake. Descendants of oppressors need make no reparations to the descendants of the oppressed after the fact. The damage is done, the future is the only road to travel.

No, what I argue for is the recognition of the basic human trait that gave rise to these misdeeds. That human flaw still exists, even though we'd like not to think so. The lack of moral responsibility that disinherited the Native American or displaced the African is still here, despite our meager efforts at salving our consciences with charity at Christmas. Our lust for wealth and property continues, indeed, is even more attenuated today than it was years ago, before emancipation in the 1860's or 1830's during Indian Removal.

Everyday, I see signs of it in my email, with the 98 spam messages, containing irresponsible attempts to coerce me into buying something I don't need or to gain criminal access to my sensitive data. The five or six real messages are lost in this sea of avarice. Is that the average, then? 98 to 6. Greed to casual communication. Spam filters can't get rid of them all. Ten messages actually got through. Only about half of those were actually meant for me. The others were just cleverly disguised attempts to get my money. Tricks. Just tricks. Like snake oil salesmen.

We are no different today than we were in the 1830's or 1860's. We just have fancier toys. And, we have all the land... from sea to shining sea. I say "we." I somehow still feel responsible for the misdeeds of my ancestors. Perhaps that is because I understand that the potential to commit past atrocities is still with us today. There were some very conscionable folks in the 1830's who argued against Indian Removal... but, it occurred anyway. The majority of people wanted the land. And the common rhetoric of the day argued for the inferiority of the Native American to get it. This was never true, but we believed it. Because some very respectable people said so.

The successors of those "respectable" people are still with us. They are generally leaders because most of us need to be led and will listen to them if they promise us what we most want to hear at the time. They are generally the ones who took advantage of the moment, of our moral laziness. Today, the term "politician" is synonymous with "liar," "cheat," "womanizer," and many other disreputable qualities. But, these men are still revered as leaders. Other men espouse religion for their purposes, or to disguise their rhetoric in a widely appealing format. And we listen to it. We still pack our morality inside someone else's rhetoric. It's difficult not to.

I didn't really intend to preach. But, I can see potential for more disaster every day. It's not just in my email, but in the expediency of our society, the need to get ahead quickly. Advertisers are after the "quick buck" because they know we will probably forget how they got our money in the bustle. They are more aggressive now because they know that we have an innate desire to be courteous, not to hang up on someone or thrust the door into their faces. In the face of this aggression, we get harder, more uncaring and more likely to say, "What the hell!" when it comes to issues like the Native American or slavery, whether in that form or its modern equivalents.

In the haste, it passes most of us unawares. We often contribute to the problem and lose our money because we don't take the time to understand what we're buying or listen to issues and make an informed decision. For the most part, we are good people. So, let's not let the greed of a few take us along in a wave of rhetoric so they can take advantage of others. I'm just as guilty of this kind of laziness as anyone else. But, I'm trying not to be. This is the harder road to travel but the one you will be proudest of at the end of the journey. It's also what I get for reading Native American history. lol It could just as easily be termed, "American History." A history of avarice that needs to be recognized, dealt with, and changed for the better. Anyway, it's the truth... a hard one to swallow sometimes, but the truth, nevertheless.

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