Tag Archives: Native Americans

Cowboys And Aliens

RELIGION, VIOLENCE, AND RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM

Daniel Craig

Cowboys and Aliens.

Cowboys and Aliens was a film recommended to me by some kids at school. I had high time decided it was time to RedBox a film I had meant to see in theaters. In the spirit of Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity, Cowboys And Aliens was a science fiction work set in the Western Frontier, and apparently, word has it from friends on Facebook (they know who they are) it was a politically subversive graphic novel by Fred Van Lente. Similarities to Firefly include: a dead preacher, a prostitute with a heart of gold, a wimpy doctor who can’t fight if his life depended on it, and a femme fatale with paranormal abilities. Oh, yes, and hideous creatures that threaten the existence of humans, minus Firefly’s cannibalism. And that’s about it.

I think that Julie Clawson had it right in her review: the film remains unable to get past negative stereotypes of First Nations people. In fact, it is the slaughtering of Indians that give several characters status. At the beginning of the movies, as poor rancher Roy was bashing his boss, the Colonel, he says, “I don’t care how many Indians the Colonel put under neither.” Later, the Colonel to his Indian worker, “You get it through your thick Indian skull. Those stories weren’t for you.”The more Indian scalps you earn, the more larger than life you are in the Old West. This was exactly the case, as the Colonel and his son Percy have their way with the town. Their violent bullying not only represents hostility towards Native Americans (and our U.S.American history thereof), but also shows a lack of notion for an ethic of hospitality. Cowboys And Aliens promotes White male vigilante justice versus the dark Stranger. Before the last stand scene, Black Knife (the Apache leader) argued with Colonel, which leads Colonel to say, “There’s no reasoning with them [the Apaches].” The disagreement centered around Natives’ belief that the whites had brought the monsters. On the other hand, Colonel says that Black Knife, Apache leader IS the Evil One. Of course, we can’t accuse our beloved Newt Gingrich Colonel a racist, because he has a token Native friend, Nat Colorado, who vouches for him in the end, convincing the Apaches and members of the other tribes follow the Colonel’s military strategy by telling them of the Colonel’s kindness imperial paternalism.

Let me suggest that the community’s reception of the Apaches as well as Jake Lonergan and his gang is symptomatic of their individualistic religious sensibilities. As the aliens are invading, the preacher suspects it was demons; “a bunch of Bible stuff,” in the words of Doc. Doc continues to receive advice from the Preacher, who says that he needs to get a gun and learn how to shoot it (read: adopt rugged individualism and violence as a way of life). While “Reverend” Meacham is teaching Doc to shoot, he says that Doc has to earn God’s presence, recognize it, then act on it (by doing good). Grace is eliminated from the equation. What “Reverend” Meacham says is simply not true, from a Christian perspective. God freely sends God’s presence where God chooses. It is not by our actions that the Triune God is with us, but in the mission of the Incarnate Son and in the sending of the Holy Spirit. Meacham’s worldview reads more like an Enlightenment Deist, which went hand in hand with U.S. American rugged individualism. It is this Enlightment religion that advances a closed notion of the self, where the self works to over come the Other, and closes itself off from Others, to have life, liberty and the pursuit of property, ala John Locke. It is little wonder that an ethic of hospitality and openness is missing in this movie, and in communities that still adhere to such a view.

“Reverend” Meacham’s last words to Jake Lonergan, our protagonist, “God don’t care who you were, son. Only who you are.”

HOW CONVENIENT INDEED!

*Although I was highly critical and ripped this movie’s representation of First Nations peoples a new one, it was highly enjoyable, and I would recommend it, with a few qualifiers.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Why Are Forbes Magazines' Writers So Racist?: A Look at the Top 1%

In what should be called “Forbes Hates Racial Minorities Week,” yesterday, John Koppisch wrote an EPIC, and by EPIC, I mean anything-but-groundbreaking racist propaganda against Native Americans. One brilliant commenter called Koppisch out on his B.S.: see in the comment section, dbartecchi’s response. It was informed educated, historically accurate, and written by a white person. **GASP**

Let’s take a look as some of these myths Koppisch is spreading, shall we? One Native American (the lone one interviewed for the article who obvious agrees with Forbes’ side–it’s called racial self-hatred), Yellowtail, says “We accept the myth of communalism. And we don’t value education. We resist it.” Now why in the world would Native Americans not value education for? Could it be that there was an epidemic of colonial violence, sexual abuse, and religious indoctrination at the missionary schools that is just now being uncovered?

Yellowtail’s hope is in his tribe to assimilate to Eurocentrism and the triumph of the religion of corporate capitalism over the traditional religious beliefs of the Crow tribe. The myth that neo-liberals and white supremacist crony-capitalism pushes is that the victims of history are where they are at in life due in large part to their own actions. There is no way that Andrew Jackson ordering the Trail of Tears, the removal of red (red being the racial construction of the dark bodies of Native Americans) bodies from their homes and placed on reservations, where the very worst land and water conditions were provided. The histories of the Native Americans, interconnected with the histories of all colonized peoples read like an open and shut case for Euro-centric thinkers like Koppisch:

“If everyone owns the land, no one does. So the result is substandard housing and the barren, rundown look that comes from a lack of investment, overuse and environmental degradation. It’s a look that’s common worldwide, wherever secure property rights are lacking—much of Africa and South America, inner city housing projects and rent-controlled apartment buildings in the U.S., Indian reservations.”

Wait, how did Africa become a symbol of lack in the first place? And South America? The Inner-city: imperialism, more than a century of racial segregation, but we don’t like to acknowledge those ugly details do we, Mr. Koppisch? For many Native Americans, because of their religious convictions, Vine DeLoria argues that their identity is tied to the land, and not the history of the left/right divide (God is Red, page 61). Crony Capitalism and racists would have us to believe that our religions must be defined by sets of objective belief, and this describes Native Americans conflict with the U.S. American court system (282).

The Native American religionists’ NO to proponents of “private property as prosperity” is a YES to the Spirit of Life, and creation, which respects the “universal planetary history” of all of creation. Tom Koppisch’s view represents the prevailing tribalist viewpoint, that our love for creation should submit to the economic decision makers of the world. But this should not be so, for just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued, to deny religious freedom is to deny our equality before God.

But that’s the points of Corporatism, isn’t it? Capitalism, as libertarians and free marketers argue, has little need for notions of economic equality. Shoving lies down people’s throats, telling others that the victims in life (particularly the darker peoples) are lazy all the while the Powers that Be offer handouts to the Status Quo.

Pangs, Patriotism, and Thanksgiving

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

In Season 4, episode 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, written by THE Jane Epenson, one of the more annoying displays of white liberal guilt was displayed by Buffy’s witch friend, Willow. From the beginning of the episode where she recognizes Thanksgiving as a day of remembering white genocide to her refusal to help Buffy fight the vengeful Indian spirit gone mad (you know, there isn’t any use in struggling with the Angry Minorities, because they are right). The evil (up to this point) vampire Spike lectures Willow, because you know the West won, “Caesar didn’t say, I came, I conquered, I feel really bad about it.” That, and along with Giles the senior vampire-slayer mentor and English gentleman not being able to resist calling his U.S. American friends “bloody colonials” made for a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Thanksgiving from both sides.

Willow’s liberal white guilt, along with Spike’s reactionary unapologetic defense of genocide are two sides of the same coin. In both instances, the characters (and those people we know who agree with S & W) are overcompensating for lost identities. Because we are all interconnected, the slaughtering of one people group by another, and the subsequent colonial lies that are told means that untruths rule the day. Deception, as Howard Thurman states in his classic Jesus and the Disinherited, destroys the soul.  I would amend Thurman’s argument to say that existences founded upon falsehoods mean that both the oppressed and the oppressors do damage to our inner lives, our very souls.

Not to say that Willow or Spike are not without some truth, but that it is the incompletion of that truth that leads to the false sense of self that each character is advancing.

In “Pangs,” the Native American evil spirits can transform themselves (hide their true identity) in the form of animals, a wolf or bear for instance. I could say this plays into the stereotypical Indian Other, that Natives on film are turned into animals for the sake of animalizing their personhood. To a limited extent, there is some recognition by writers and producers that in Native American religious mythology, people turn into animals. However, the purpose of this, according to Vine DeLoria in God Is Red, is to teach religious adherent the idea that all of life is interconnected, closer to Whiteheadian process thought (89,93).  Deloria says, “the task or role of the tribal religions is to relate the community of people to each and every facet as they experienced it” (84).

Now, knowing some of what Epenson has written for television in regards to religion (I watched every episode of Caprica twice!), religion is portrayed as something that may be beneficial to people as individuals, but in public spaces, it is primarily divisive.  However, like the idea in Native American religions, it is not lost on the writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that there are places that are sacred.  For Vine Deloria, the conservative/patriot is overcompensating, “But their allegiance is to democracy, a powerful idea, but it has not relationship with the earth upon which we walk and the plants and  and animals that give us sustenance” (page 59).

It is good that people like Willow want us to confess our corporate guilt in the matter of the Native Americans’ genocide, but the approach to reconciliation of “giving them what they want” is just a sign of surrender, discouraging dialogue and relationships of mutuality.  In short, the Native colonized Other becomes just another recipient of the Westerners’ goodness.  The idea of democracy in the abstract still prevails over the care of nature and sacred spaces.

What if instead of making Thanksgiving about white liberal guilt trips or conservative patriotic misinformation, we begin to use this time to remind ourselves to give gratitude to our Creator, living in the power of the Eucharist, to take care of our environment in preparation for the New Creation? Just a thought.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta