Merciless Indian Savages
Whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions
Boozhoo! Aaniin! Welcome to another edition of An Irritable Métis. I’ve been working on a different newsletter entry for a few days that has been more difficult to drag out of my brain than I anticipated so it’s still on the backburner. This “4th of July Edition,” meanwhile, was never intended but I’ve always had thoughts about this particular holiday so here they are. Meanwhile, if you forgot what all this is even about, or you’re new here, whatever, you may refresh your memory here. If you want to help keep a writer out of hard labor, well….
There is a slow, steady rain falling outside on this night-before the 4th of July. I love how in the growing twilight of evening the cherry tree outside my window – its pink flowers long gone, the spindly branches now spiking with small green and reddish leaves – looks as if it has been decorated with tiny glass globes. It is otherworldly. Next to the tree, droplets cling to the undersides of the curving metal poles the bird feeders hang from. Earlier, a pair of pine siskins were bathing in a puddle just off the walk up to my front porch.
I am grateful for the rain, not just for all this beauty to love over, and not just as a break from a few days of heat. I’m hoping everything will be good and saturated by this time tomorrow (there is still more rain in the forecast) when the thoughtless among us turn out to assault their neighbors, their pets, their neighbor’s pets, wildlife, and any PTSD sufferers within earshot with random explosive noise pollution and potential wildfire, all for … fun? Aren’t those noisy, dust-spraying side-by-side things shits and giggles enough?
I try not to be one of those people who find joy in raining on (*cough*) other peoples’ parades but the whole fireworks thing on the 4th has just gotten out of hand. In some parts of the Missoula area, like out in East Missoula where my mom lives, there is an obscene amount of banging and booming starting a week or two before the end of June and extending most of the way through July. I’ve been lucky where I live that it hasn’t been too bad over the nine years I’ve been attached to this address. Except the other night after midnight I was awakened by someone unleashing some bullshit out in the street. It sounded like it was right under my window! I lurched awake from a deep sleep and onto my feet, totally disoriented, and for a few brief moments I thought it was gunfire. My Trump-sticker neighbor is moving out, and I’ve seen him in the past going in and out of his house with armloads of guns, and having seen him loading stuff from his shed to a trailer earlier that day … well, I feared he had finally snapped, and for a few seconds I was trying to decide how I would stop whatever was happening. I have guns hidden in my housebut the truth is I’d have better luck throwing my baseball bat at him if a shootout actually occurred.
But fireworks aren’t the only reason I hate the 4th of July. The U.S. exerts so much effort every other day of the year trying to convince everyone of its greatness that there’s no way I’m going to abide a day set aside to actually celebrate this horrific gaslighting. There are many reasons to feel this way. Endless wars of imperialism, the active participation in the overthrow of democratically-elected leaders in other countries, the gross discrepancy between the haves and have-nots that have been part of the plan all along, etc. But I’m going to focus briefly on the Declaration of Independence.
When he wasn’t puffing himself up as an early American aristocrat or raping his slaves, Thomas Jefferson, like so many of his loathesome fellow “founding fathers,” found time to hate Indians. So much so that these jerks wrote it right into the Declaration of Independence. It’s too deep in the document for most attention span-challenged Americans to actually ever read so not many folks know about it. It’s part of the list of things King George III was allegedly doing to make life hard on his colonial subjects, and the section reads as follows:
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Basically TJ and friends were accusing the king of trying to get us terrible Indians to kill settlers and that’s why they felt the need to sever all ties so they could get on with the bloody business of genocide unhindered. But there is another part to this, the “excited domestic insurrections amongst us” part. That is a direct reference to slave rebellion, which white people in those days feared more than just about anything. If you want to hear more about that part, I urge you to read The 1619 Project, or Not a Nation of Immigrants. Both are excellent and essential.
Racism is baked into this country and we have never made any real effort to reckon with it and I’m tired of pretending otherwise. We see it everywhere, but particularly in how the ruling class Democrats wring their hands over how they are going to win back ignorant white voters who won’t vote for them again anytime soon no matter what they do, rather than double-down on helping the folks who are winning elections for them: Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and especially the women among them. This year in particular, given the failures of the friggin’ majority to really try much, and the despicable acts of the SCOTUS, I think trying to find anything worth celebrating about the United States is a textbook case of toxic positivity. I’ve never loathed this country more than I do today.
I love every stolen inch of this gorgeous, magnificent land. There isn’t a single state in the United States that I’ve visitedwhere I haven’t found something glorious to behold. Isn’t that worth celebrating free of all the nationalistic, jingoistic hoo-haw?
The overwhelming majority of people I love are Americans just trying to live their lives and be decent and struggle with stuff as much as I do. Aren’t they worth celebrating?
Aren’t people still performing mighty deeds, creating mindblowing art, and otherwise being astounding? Shouldn’t we celebrate them at every opportunity?
And what about the winged and clawed and finned and leafy and cone-sprouting and everyone else we share this place with. Aren’t they all worth celebrating?
I say yes to all of this. So like my friend Meg, who has also written wonderfully about the discomfort of this day, I am going to give in to my desire to celebrate, because celebrations are something we need more of, not less, no matter what the bastards throw at us. I will just do it quietly, and grin and bear the mayhem sure to arrive with nightfall. At least until 11PM or so.
My friend Matt, in the opening piece from his new newsletter, reminds me of this beautiful quote from one of my favorite writers and thinkers; it goes like this:
“The world, which is the private property of a few, suffers from amnesia. It is not an innocent amnesia. The owners prefer not to remember that the world was born yearning to be a home for everyone.” — Eduardo Galeano
So let’s answer this yearning, and have a day of it as best we can. We’ve earned it. And while we’re at it, I’d love to hear what you are going to do, what you did, all of it.
This Beautiful World
Speaking of which, I had a glorious hike on the 3rd. Seven miles, up and down some hills, though some lush creek and spring bottom land, in weather that was cool, then hot, then stormy. At one point I had to hunker down in the lee side of a slope under some Doug Fir saplings not much taller than I was while thunder boomed and lightning flashed and wind blasted through the tall grass and rain left little percussive splashes in the dust and against the brim of my hat. It could not have been better! I started the morning crabby, but a few hours of being reminded how fortunate I am to live where I do, regardless of the ways people do their best to make it awful, and I was renewed.
In other news, Bucky’s birthday is the 4th. As a nightmare puppy, I was assured that I just had to survive until she turned two and all would be much better. She turns five this year and things aren’t … much different. Case in point, that second picture. Can you guess whose reading glasses she’s swiped and is now daring to try and snatch back?
Chi-miigwech, as always, for reading! I celebrate all of you for that too. So whatever you happen to do for the 4th, I hope you enjoy it wildly (and survive it too!). Truly. As bad as everything is, it’s still good to be alive.
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Like literally hidden in closets, not mounted in quick-draw holsters on the undersides of coffee tables or in refrigerators or whatever like everyone in movies seem to have.
And the only ones I haven’t are Vermont, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Hawaii, and Alaska
That is an incredible quote at the end. Just, YES.
This is one of those posts that reminds me what a lovely thing it is to be a poet, and maybe even lovelier to be someone reading something written by a poet. Such beautiful, precise language.
excerpt from Frederick Douglass' 1852 speech "What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?"
“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”