A story I won’t read

Referring to the 9/11 attack, the New York Times calls it the bloodiest terror attack in American history.

Let us set aside, just for the moment, the impossibility of distinguishing between modern warfare and terror attacks. Forget, just for the moment, that beginning in the 20th century, war began largely to target civilians. Let us further forget Ward Churchill’s suggestion that the chickens had come home to roost, his reference to chronic U.S. interventions outside its borders.

I want to remember instead a war that started when Columbus “discovered” the western hemisphere and which continues to the present day. This is the war for the land the U.S. claims as its national territory, but stole from American Indians through a series of genocidal attacks. The military part of this operation ended roughly in 1890. But structural violence against the Indians continues. They suffer high rates of poverty and spousal abuse, substantially diminished lifespans, and limited opportunity. They have been robbed not only of their land but of their culture.

And the only relief the U.S. offers is a right to build casinos otherwise forbidden by the states, casinos fiercely resisted by less powerful occupiers because they associate casinos with alcoholism and crime.

Anthropologists object to a romanticization of American Indians, I suspect in part because being wed to the status quo, they do not wish to acknowledge that in a great many ways people in hunter-gatherer societies lived lives superior to our own, with more free time, better health, considerably less hierarchy, and genuine community, much more in harmony with the earth. All that is lost, now, not only to Indians but to the rest of us. In the U.S., a look at any organization chart will show we live in one of the most hierarchical societies on earth. There are a great many jobs that don’t even pay rent; people must work two or more, just to get by. There are a great many people without access to health care outside an emergency room, and many more limited to western medicine, founded in the torture of slaves. Meanwhile, a particular class is immune from financial crises that strike terror into the heart of the many who live just a paycheck away from homelessness.

We killed people and destroyed an idyllic lifestyle in the name of a god whose Old Testament manifestation hates women, hates gays, and hates everybody except Jews, and whose New Testament manifestation, we are to believe, endorsed world conquest. And then when it was inescapably clear the British were overstretched, we largely took over the empire we had kicked out when its Parliament passed the Quebec Act, limiting westward colonial expansion. Now, we kill throughout the world even as we destroy lives at home. We have killed by the millions.

I asked that we set aside a few issues just for a moment. That moment is over. I’m not forgetting that the chickens came home to roost on 9/11. And I’m certainly not forgetting all the terror we have inflicted throughout the world. I am sickened by the elevation of victims of 9/11 as heroes in dichotomy with the demonization of people fighting to preserve their culture against a western onslaught. And I am certainly not forgetting our own genocide right here at home.

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