July 5, 2007


"In the studio, [native activist Terry Nelson] favours a T-shirt sporting an image of the ruthless Apache warrior Geronimo above the slogan: "Homeland security. Fighting Terrorism since 1492."

I confess to foreboding at the term 'terrorists' being attached to white colonizers. Along with its false revisionist branding of Eurpoeans' intentions and policies, not to mention pre-emptive self-exculpation for possible future reprisals in kind, the word speaks to a reckless sensibility with an itchy trigger finger. By extension, I sense in Nelson's identification with Geronimo, whose diehard refusal to recognize the American government resulted in years of futile Intifada-style bloodlettings, a romantic intoxication with an ideological zeitgeist that justifies random violence amongst the world's (soi-disant or actually) colonized."

--Barbara Kay, Nat Post, July 4 '07

Revisionist. I'd certainly never suspected Barbara Kay of closet Bolshevist sympathies. I wonder if we can soon look forward to her blueprint for a new Gulag?

Columbus began the European colonization of the 'new world'--though he certainly didn't discover for Europe lands whose banks Europeans had been fishing for two generations already. It's not entirely relevant to his role as imperialist that he was an appallingly bad sailor and navigator--men refused to sail with him until he had hired a competent navigator, Martin Pinson, for fear he'd smash his ships, and he did manage to sink the Santa Maria through incompetence, Pinson barely saving the Nina and Pinta. Not entirely relevant, but satisfying to record just the same. What is relevant is that his forthright intention was to grapple to himself as much wealth as possible, gold being his chief preference; his policy for achieving this to enslave whole peoples and set them in to digging. This intention and policy--broadened, sophisticated and improved with hypocritical gloss "We appropriate other's lands and weath and enslave their persons for their own good, as part of the great work of civilization"--became the prototype for dedicated European colonizers in the new world. Swift's incomparable two paragraph anatomy of empire building near the close of Gulliver's Travels cannot have been intended merely as a portrait of Columbus, but fits his method in every detail, and his biography in all but one: I don't believe Columbus had ever been a pirate as the vast majority of empire builders, up to and somewhat beyond Swift's day, were at first, until they found a crown-approved legitimate outlet for their greed, rapacity and cool killer's temperament. Would I call Columbus a terrorist? no. A thief, yes, a conniver, sycophant and terrifying bully, a mass murderer himself and the inspirator of mass murders by others--I'd call him all that as well as the very model of a Eurpoean colonizer.

Andrew Jackson--the first of the truly implacable demonizers of America's native peoples, who was certainly one of many reasons there were Indian nations who would fight to the death against impossible odds rather than recognize any American government--wouldn't call him a terrorist either. With his revolution of the rich against the poor, slaveholders against slaves and those who sought to free them, with his fevered efforts to exterminate every Indian on American soil, man, woman and child, I'd call him a preliminary sketch for Hitler. You see? if we put on our thinking caps and let them massage and stretch the muscles of our minds, it's possible to find terms fitted to almost any occasion in the lexicon of abuse, without falling back on hackneyed cliches-of-the-day such as 'terrorist'.

Or 'revisionist', a term time's turned soft and mushy, though to be called it has sometimes been a death sentence in the fairly recent past. I've never seen anybody use it who wasn't trying to paper over an historical argument and hide its present implications, while trying to give the appearance of the utmost conscientious attention. As it is here, since Ms. Kay offers no opinion on the intentions and policies of colonialism--as you see I have offered mine here--only contends a t-shirt thesis on the subject is oversimplified. I have to say I haven't read many t-shirt slogans that aren't oversimplified, or met many people who are really prepared to go to the wall for the truth of what's printed on their casual summer outerwear.

The First Nations' Day of Action was not even a rude interruption of business as usual, but a polite and barely discernible one. As for the remark Barbara Kay quoted that alarmed her most--"There are only two ways of dealing with the white man. One, either you pick up a gun, or you stand between the white man and his money"--even though I haven't any money and therefore would get the shitty end of the deal, I can't say it alarms me much more than the similar rhetoric of the Black Panthers in the '60s, though if I were First Nation by birth and familiar with that period it would alarm me---rhetoric like that got a number of Panthers killed, as well as blacks unconnected to the movement but in the line of fire. It's nowhere near as offensive as "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," and there've been Canadians who believed and acted on that motto, and whole American administrations that had no other response to the Native question. One of these is permanently memorialized on the U.S. $20 bill.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

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