Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Black Eagle Flies at Midnight!

You know people whose entire home decor is based on Native American/Indian themes. Admit it. Livin' in the heartland, I sure do.

What do you see when you go over to their house? Rugs and wall hangings, vases, statuettes of white wolves, buffalo, Indian princesses, lots of leather and wood furniture and - of course - eagle feathers or feathers meant to look like eagle feathers. And some sage hanging in a bunch on the wall.

Not my first choice in home decor. It's a look that can be exquisite or kitschy or just plain ugly. But it's telling about how, in our America, people - usually white - feel disconnected from their own culture and adopt themselves into another. To feel more like an American and feel more connected to the Earth, what's a white boy or girl gonna do? Be an Indian.*

Now Obama is an Indian. For real. He has been adopted by the Crow and his new name is Barack Black Eagle! Though the story isn't specific about the how, he is also named "One Who Helps People Throughout the Land."

What's really cool about this is not the name, though that's admittedly pretty cool. It's the reaching out to a set of voters that have been totally ignored, for decades, by Democrats and Republicans alike. This is the new kind of political map Obama is drawing, pushing the lines in completely different directions. Screw Blue and Red states and even Purple. His campaign is about changing all of that. That's why he's won so big in states that don't normally go Democratic. That's what Clinton doesn't get (or does but is afraid to admit). Clinton and McCain want to play by the Old Rules but Obama has decided to throw them out the window. He's rewriting the rules as he goes, based on an extremely well thought out plan.

The lesson for today: Do not underestimate the Black Eagle!

* I don't think the term "Indian" is derogatory. One of my best friends as a boy was an Indian. (Hi, Craig!) I know some Indians call themselves such and think that "Native American" is actually the pejorative as it delegates them to some kind of revered but inconsequential status. It's a blow off, in other words. Correct me if you think I'm wrong. (Hey - it ain't called the "American Native American Movement," is it?)

Note: I had to use the Crying Indian picture, a child of my times as I am, even though he was really Italian.

'Nother Note: Regarding home decor. I contrast two different homes in my head when I think of this style. One was a neighbor. If it had an Indian theme and could be bought at a dollar store, it was in their home. I didn't care for it, but it was their home. We get bug-eyed glances when people come into our house, I can assure you. (Not too many people have a framed movie poster for Soylent Green in their living room. And the books! How people stare at the books!) The other was my buddy Mike's place. I call it "Native Minimalist" - it was lovely. White walls and simple touches of Indian art or artifacts, combined with other historical "things" and usually at least one beautiful guitar. That I liked. Plus, the beer was always cold. And the grill was always just a splash of gasoline from ready.


Rainy Day Sponge said...

I wanted for a long time to comment about Obama and some of these issues you're posting about (well only a few as I'm unfamiliar with most of the names you mentioned) and I thought this is the most appropriate post to comment, as a Greek-Indian (no offense please, I mean that I feel I belong to a minority, and that's why I'm using this avatar).

Regarding the "Black Eagle" I must tell you this: for the last 20 years or more, the politicians in Greece, every time the elections approach, visit the Greek Rom (or Gypsies). The Rom, although not native as the American Indians, are in a similar position: they live in reservations (more or less), they don't get jobs and in a word they're treated as second rate citizens (correct me if I'm wrong but I think that American Indians are facing about the same conditions). They're giving them promises about proper houses or improving the neighborhoods they live, the Rom are gratefully thanking them, and the same thing takes place before every election.

Anyway, my point is that this seems like an old trick: the politician visits a group of people, which any politically correct voter agrees that the state ought to help, because for many years they were denied their rights, these people gratefully thanking him and make him a brother, a member of the tribe or give him the key of the city (but in fact they're desperate and they have nothing to lose). The visit is expertly used by the media to make the politician's profile more human and everybody's happy.

I don't know much about Obama, so I cannot say that the above implies to him. In fact I believe that he's more honest than the rest. But he's a politician and politics are the art of compromise.

I wouldn't write anything on the U.S. elections, but I think that who's gonna be the next president is something that affects all of us, even we live many thousand miles away, not only as allies (or in case of Iran, N.Corea, etc as enemies) but because of something that is becoming more obvious day by day: America is exporting it's financial crisis to the rest of the world. As the 1% of the U.S. population holds the 25% of the national wealth, the rest of the world is seeing that their lives depending more and more on the oil merchants, the bankers and the super-market chains, something that I think that the average american felt before us. This is the present of G.W.Bush to humanity and it seems that McCain will continue this task. As for Hillary, I really don't know what she thinks on this issue, but I wouldn't believe her easily (she looks so much more "poitician" than Obama).

According to the financial columnists in Europe, Obama has already realized the dead-end of this process (i.e the rich getting richer and the poor left to die) and, if he's elected, he will reverse it. So he's appearing to be the only hope.

I feel I've said a lot - more than I intend to initially - but maybe I'll do it again, as I believe that sometimes you can see things more clear (or with a different view) if you are on the outside.

gomonkeygo said...

Rainy Day: Thank you - I really appreciate the time and effort you took in commenting. Sorry I'm so long in responding - work and personal junk interfered with my blog-life, I'm afraid.

I agree with you that this could have been another case of a politician using a minority group for political ends. But I think that, in the larger sense of American politics, this transcends that.

Obama is the first Black American Presidential candidate. First serious one, first one with a very real chance of winning (to give Jesse Jackson his due). And representing as he does hundreds of years of American attitudes about race and about Black Americans in particular, it's pretty important that he's reaching out to the only other American minority even more marginalized than Black Americans - the Indians. (I've always wondered why you use the avatar you use - thanks for explaining!)

Yeah, you're right, Obama is just another politician on one level. But I think he's portraying - more than portraying, really - himself as something different. A new kind of politician. The kind that will deal honestly with the electorate and face the really difficult decisions with a forthrightness the last several generations of politicians have sorely lacked. This is my hope, based on what I've seen, what I've read, what I've gathered about Obama.

Just the other day, actually, I was talking to a local reporter (I was being interviewed really and we strayed onto politics) about Obama. This reporter has interviewed Obama three times, and his wife more than once. I asked him if he thought Obama really means the things he says. The reporter, if it matters, is a Black American (I don't like the term African-American, I'm afraid - I think it's highly divisive and separatist; even Black American bothers me). And he was a Clinton supporter. But now he's moved to Obama, because he feels - based on first hand knowledge - that Obama is the real deal, that what he says he means and that he won't say what he doesn't mean.

I'm already going on all four cylinders for Obama, but this kind of endorsement really fires me up. And so do any positive national coverage of Indians. If you get national coverage of Indian affairs in America, it's usually negative. Maybe it's about a battle over fishing and hunting rights in northern Wisconsin that turns ugly (with death threats and homemade pipe bombs!). Or it's about white folk feeling cheated by Indian casinos, which are the most wonderfully ironic creations in American history - stealing back the white man's money, slot by slot!

Finally, there's poverty, which you mention. For this reason alone, I was leaning towards voting for John Edwards. His stand on the problem of poverty in America, one of the worst we face, energized me. But with him out of the race and now endorsing Obama - who I hope will take up the standard and continue the fight - I gotta go somewhere.

So, I'm going to Obama. Hope this makes sense. Thank you for your international perspective, too. Too many Americans don't realize that the rest of the world gives a damn about our politics, until it's too late.