Cleburne Times-Review Column for 3 September, 2006
Note: I will post a link to Randy Sheridan's truly mind-boggling editorial as soon as it is available.
“How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?”
In his August 30 guest column, Randy Sheridan trotted out that old conservative warhorse, the “Vast Evil Hollywood Liberal Conspiracy to Destroy Christian Civilization” for a quick ride around the square. Actually, most riders of this horse stick with “Christian Civilization”; Sheridan was more specific, warning of the danger to White Christian Civilization. As proof, he offers two Kevin Costner movies, both more than a decade old, “Dances With Wolves” from 1990 and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” from 1991. Of course, Costner (the producer of both these movies and one of the writers of Dances With Wolves) was a registered Republican at the time who supported the first President Bush’s re-election campaign before becoming an Independent and more bipartisan with his donations, but hey, too much research (and by that, I mean any research) would’ve spoiled the straw horse of this column. Sheridan’s complaint about “Robin Hood” was that Morgan Freeman’s character Akeem allegedly “demonstrate[d] the superiority of Muslim culture over the flawed Christianity of Crusade-era England” and he cites a scene in which Akeem delivers a baby that would otherwise have died. He might have noted another scene earlier in this fairly awful movie in which Costner’s Robin Hood is astonished by Akeem’s spyglass. Again, a tiny little bit of research, say five minutes with Google, would’ve revealed that technological development in most Muslim nations was in fact superior to that of most Christian nations during the Dark Ages in such fields as medicine and optics. The Renaissance of Western Europe was actually triggered when the scientific achievements of Western Classical Civilization came back to Europe after being preserved and expanded upon by Muslim societies. Of course, technological prowess is not the same as moral superiority, except apparently in the eyes of some whites, but more about that in a moment. Again, only a tiny little bit of research would have revealed this information, which is fairly well-known and certainly not hidden away, but that would’ve interfered with the thesis that only White Christian Civilization is capable of good. Talk about rewriting history!
What really caught my eye about Sheridan’s column, however, was not anything about Costner’s over-hyped, badly-acted, poorly-written rehash of material Errol Flynn did better fifty years earlier; no, what I noticed was his take on “Dances With Wolves.” Here, Sheridan objects to the fact that white people are portrayed as “drunken, insane, perverted or vicious” while the Indians are portrayed as “noble savages.” Yes, that’s right: “noble savages.” Apparently, any movie in which non-white people are portrayed in a positive light while white people are portrayed in a negative light is evidence of the “Evil Liberal Hollywood Plot.” Eighty years of cinema universally depicting Native Americans as vicious, subhuman bloodthirsty savages is evidently no big deal; but one movie in which the Indians are the good guys and the cowboys are the bad guys and Western Civilization is teetering on the brink of annihilation. But wait, there’s more. Sheridan goes on to say, “this movie totally ignores the fact that at the very time depicted in the film the Sioux were the most warlike of all the Plains Indian tribes, perpetrating some of the bloodiest massacres.” Really? The “most warlike”? What exactly is Mr. Sheridan’s definition of “warlike”? Would he also say the Poles were the “most warlike” for fighting back when Germany invaded their country in 1939? Were Americans the “most warlike” for defending themselves when British troops burned Washington, DC during the War of 1812? The Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people were living on their land, land that they had inhabited for centuries before Lewis and Clark, land that was guaranteed to them by treaties signed with the government of the United States. Their land was illegally invaded by white miners, trappers and hunters and the US Army and Mr. Sheridan would blame the victim for acting in self-defense? Did the Indians “have it coming,” Mr. Sheridan? Were they “asking for it” by provocatively living on land white people wanted? “Most warlike”? “Bloodiest massacres”? In the history of the Indian Wars, a “massacre” seems to be any encounter in which one white person is killed, whereas a “battle” is the gunning down of unarmed Indian elders, women and children. But let’s look at “the very time depicted in the film”. In 1860, the Paiutes of Nevada were attacked for defending themselves when two young Paiute girls were kidnapped and raped by whites. In 1861, the US Army tried to take the Apache leader Cochise hostage for a crime he didn’t commit, leading to a bloody conflict that lasted until 1872. In 1862, the Homestead Act allowed white settlers to invade Indian lands in Kansas and Nebraska. From 1862-1864, the Santee and later the Teton Sioux fought against settler encroachment after a treaty negotiated by Taoyateduta (Little Crow) was fraudulently altered in the Senate to delete the section reserving land for the tribe. Thirty-eight Native Americans were hanged by the US Army (the rest of the 303 originally charged were pardoned by President Abraham Lincoln) after show trials that lasted only five minutes each. In 1863, the Shoshone began defending their lands against white gold seekers, resulting in a massacre of 250 Shoshone men, women and children at Beaver Creek by California militia. In 1864, the US Army tried to force the Navajo off their land so it could be taken over by whites. Some 8,500 Navajo men, women and children were herded on the “Long Walk” to a concentration camp at Bosque Redondo. Two-hundred or more died of exposure, disease and starvation along the way. In 1864, the Cheyenne and Arapaho, herded onto reservations where they were left to starve by a government that failed once again to keep its treaty obligations, were attacked by Army units that falsely accused them of stealing cattle. When the Indians defended themselves, driving off the soldiers, a war was declared against them. On November 29, 1864, a unit of Colorado militia led by Colonel John Chivington attacked the camp of Black Kettle, a Cheyenne chief loyal to the United States, at Sand Creek. Despite the fact that the American flag was flying over the camp, and despite the fact that only women, children and elders were to be found, the militia used small arms and cannons to slaughter over 150 people. And we needn’t even mention the Wounded Knee Massacre of the surviving Sioux in 1890 or my ancestors, who were drug out of their homes and prodded at bayonet-point by the US Army into concentration camps, then shipped like cattle across the continent to Oklahoma because Andrew Jackson and white people in Georgia wanted their land. So please, please, please, Mr. Sheridan, explain to me again about the “warlike” “noble savages” who committed the “bloodiest massacres.”