Point of View Columns

Columbus, Football and Genocide

Columbus Day is being celebrated throughout these United States. It is a celebration that embraces ignorance of basic history. It is a celebration that honors the dishonorable, the horrific and the indelible. It is a time when collectively Americans choose to put on blinders and ignore the simple fact that this country, indeed modern “civilization” in the Western Hemisphere is built on the blood soaked soil and bones of the indigenous people along with the shattered remains of their African comrades in pain. Just like the National Football League.

One would think that it would be unnecessary in the second decade of the twenty first century to once again point out that Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. There were millions of indigenous people who had inhabited the so-called New World for thousands of years. There were towns and villages and cities and empires with achievements in astronomy, mathematics and engineering that rivaled and in some cases exceeded the best that Europe had to offer.

Columbus wasn’t even the first European to set foot in the Western Hemisphere. The Vikings beat Columbus to the historical punch establishing settlements in New Foundland almost half a millennium earlier. But Columbus Day has a much greater meaning than the abandoned Viking settlements in what is now Canada.

But Christopher Columbus brought with him greed, avarice and an implacable hunger for gold and riches which, with the blessings of the Catholic Church, opened an era of rape, genocide and treachery which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of indigenous people throughout the hemisphere. Taking the concept of white supremacy to its most awful extreme, Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him, felt justified in killing men, women and children without remorse. They considered the right to enslave others to be part of their white Christian birthright and they established societies which, to this day, carry the virus of blind sanctioned racism. And we know all too well, that this virus manifests itself in daily society.

The question becomes, knowing these rather obvious facts, why does anyone choose to celebrate the legacy of a murderer who was the harbinger of genocide and the first to seize the opportunity to destroy, demolish and obliterate societies and civilizations? It must be that it is more comfortable for too many to celebrate undeniable falsehoods than come to grips with the uncomfortable truth.

Which brings to mind the National Football League which still abides by the Washington team being called the “Redskins”, an odious term that was never acceptable, and is more horrific in its usage the more that history has been revealed to us. Nevertheless, the NFL and CBS and NBC and other sports news outlets refer to “Redskins” even though it is impossible to consider sports teams like the “New York Niggers” or the “Boston Kikes” or the “Chicago Wops” being acceptable. Referring to the indigenous people as mascots is akin to building a communal toilet on what remains of their tradition and history.

There is no calculus which could reduce the concept of “reparations” to dollars and cents. But it would be helpful to stop celebrating lies and continuing horrific myths while the ghosts of the dead continue to seek recognition, if not redress.

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Point of View Columns

Dan Snyder – All American Tragedy

You may not know who Dan Snyder is, and that might be just as well because in addition to being the owner of the Washington NFL team he is also a sad and tragic individual who is mired in the muck and sewage of racism, intolerance and stunning insensitivity. In this country there is a prevailing belief that if someone is rich they must also be smart and have something worthwhile to say. Dan Snyder is living proof of the absolute fallacy of that belief.

The cause for concern here is the fact that the shameful naming of the Boston (later Washington) football team as the “Redskins” in 1933 is defended in the name of tradition. The problem with that argument is that this “tradition” is based upon the horrific history of the Native American population and its interaction with white Western Europeans. Through plague and mass killings it is possible that as many as 70 million Native Americans died while America was first “discovered” and then “settled”.

It takes a special kind of insensitivity and blockheaded arrogance to decimate a group of people through genocidal practices and then to turn them into mascots and human sock puppets that populate the mythology of American history. And in this enlightened age where we have finally acknowledged using the proper terminology when addressing people who are gay or unusually short or physically challenged, how on earth can anyone seriously suggest that using a racist epithet as the name of a football team is a tradition that is worth defending?

I am a graduate of Dartmouth College and that institution changed its “tradition” over thirty years ago and renamed its sports teams to the “Big Green” relegating the former mascot name of “Indians” to its deserved place on the trash heap of misbegotten monikers.
In the past thirty years many colleges and universities, with a “tradition” a lot longer than the Washington NFL team, have also jettisoned the needless slurring, trivializing and humiliation of Native Americans and have moved on.

The logic employed by billionaire Dan Snyder is so impoverished that if he had been applying it to his business affairs he would have been lining up for food stamps a long time ago. Mr. Snyder is arguing that a wrongful act should be perpetrated because it has been around for a long time and that tradition shouldn’t be changed.

Clearly Mr. Snyder conveniently forgets that there used to be a “tradition” in this country that black people could be owned as slaves. There also used to be a “tradition” that women could not vote. There was a “tradition” that Jews could not attend certain schools or join certain country clubs. There also used to be a tradition that gay men and women could not marry.

But the “tradition” that Dan Snyder also forgets is that these United States, with all of its flaws and faults also has a “tradition” of trying to correct those flaws and faults. And it is because of that tradition, the tradition of change and the tradition of embracing transition that resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation, women’s suffrage, the virtual elimination of religious discriminatory practices at universities and country clubs and the growing legalization of gay marriage.

Meanwhile, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League has been notably silent on this issue. The NFL is a multibillion dollar image conscious enterprise. For Roger Goodell to sit on his well-manicured hands while one of the owners of the NFL franchise is taking a page out of the George Wallace/Lester Maddox playbook. (George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to bar black students from attending and Lester Maddox stood in the doorway of his Atlanta store armed with an axe handle to block attempts at integration.)

It doesn’t matter that 79% of the American public do not think that the Washington NFL team should change its name. Morality and justice cannot be subject to a vote. And the NFL, which extols courage and bravery, should strap on the helmet of courage and the shoulder pads of bravery and do the right thing.

There is no doubt that Mr. Goodell would respond immediately and stop an NFL owner who wanted to change the name of his team to the San Diego Wetbacks or the New York Niggers or the Philadelphia Faggots. Those incredibly insulting terms are as insulting as the term “Redskins” is to Native Americans.

It is time for the Roger Goodell to demonstrate some leadership and time for all of us to embrace the stated American tradition of change for justice.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 10, 2013

Just when you thought that we had reached the limits of crazy, some libertarian group has put downloadable software online which can allow someone to “print” the components of a gun on a 3-D printer. What could go wrong with that? Meantime, doing a reprise of his Angry Old Man routine Senator John McCain is leading the charge of the armchair warriors – again. And finally, Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder has officially retired the “Racist Troglodyte Lifetime Award” – with apologies to all troglodytes.

Just Click and Shoot

A rightwing libertarian group, Defense Distributed, has made software available online that will permit anyone to download it for free and manufacture the components to an apparently serviceable gun employing a $1000 3D printer.

You will note the use of the word “anyone” which presumably would include terrorists, Klan members, skinheads, insane asylum escapees, gang members and Teapublicans. You will also note that this is an illustration of the gun advocates rant about the right to bear arms taken to its most insane extreme.

There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits reasonable restrictions on the so-called right to bear arms. There is certainly nothing in The Book of Common Sense that would support allowing anyone in this country to build their own untraceable, undetectable plastic firearms at home.

Yet here we are – in what appears to be the Land of the Crazy and the Home of the Stupid.

Attack of the Armchair Generals

If you have been living in a cave for the past decade you may have missed the fact that the United States has been fighting two unwinnable wars of choice – Iraq and Afghanistan – with a tremendous cost in blood and treasure. And emerging from that cave you might actually think that Senator John McCain might be making sense when he urges President Obama to take military action to bring a halt to the heinous crimes against the Syrian people that are being committed by the Syrian government.

If, however, you have not been in that hypothetical cave you know that the United States simply cannot afford to expend additional blood and treasure on a war that cannot be won – especially since no one can explain what “winning” would be. And not having been cave-bound for this past decade you might want to ask Senator McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and all the other armchair generals exactly why the United States should plunge into another bottomless and bloody quagmire.

Every time the United States acts as the policeman for the planet Americans die for a cause that cannot stand the test of time.

Krazy Kaveman of the Year

Dan Snyder is wealthy – very wealthy. He is also the owner of the Washington NFL football team. He is not, however, very smart or sensitive.

The Washington football team has been known by the horrific racist epithet “Redskins” for over 80 years and finally, the members of the District of Columbia City Council seem ready to demand that the Washington team change its name. The fact that there is any argument or discussion regarding this issue is stunning indeed.

If there was a team called the New York Niggers or the Chicago Polacks or the California Kikes there would be hell to pay. That sports teams in this country have chosen the victims of genocide to be their mascots is grotesque and an abomination and the practice should never have begun, should have ended long ago and certainly should end right now.

Dan Snyder has stated that the name of the Washington football team will “never, ever” change. And that is why he gets the Racist Troglodyte Lifetime Award with apologies to any troglodytes who are still out there, dragging their knuckles through the mud along with Dan Snyder.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Time to End the Epithets

In the afterglow of 11.6.12 it is certain that many people on the progressive side of the political ledger think that in a very real way this country may start moving in the right direction. But before people start breaking their shoulders patting themselves on the back consider that there is a very fixable wrong that exists in public discourse in America. What follows may offend you, but not as much as Native Americans are offended every day.

Somehow, well into the second decade of the 21st century, most people in this country simply do not have a problem with sports teams adopting Native Americans as “mascots”. To be fair, during the past thirty years, most colleges and universities have stopped the practice – my alma mater Dartmouth College went from being “Indians” to “The Big Green” years ago and other schools, St. John’s and Stanford come to mind, have followed suit.

Nevertheless, the National Football League team in the nation’s capital is still called the “Redskins”. “Redskins” has always been, and will always be, a racial epithet. There is no sane person who would call a Native American a “Redskin” to his/her face without intending to be offensive and probably expecting an altercation to ensue.

Not to be left out of this sordid bit of Americananonsense, the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team still uses a cartoonish logo of Native Americans complete with a big nose and scarlet complexion. Not to be outdone, the Atlanta Major League Baseball team uses a tomahawk as a logo and promotes the “Tomahawk Chop” among its fans.

The history of the interaction between the United States and Native Americans is stained with blood, betrayal and genocide. There is nothing even remotely honorable about the experience of Native Americans in this country since the first Europeans arrived in North America – the illusory fable of Thanksgiving notwithstanding.

One would think that after stealing their land, perpetrating government-sponsored genocide and a strategic destruction of their culture that the citizens of the United States would refrain from gratuitous insults and mindless racist epithets. Instead, the opposite has been the case.

Imagine if you will that the National Basketball Association had a franchise in New Orleans called the “New Orleans Niggers”. The howls and protests from the NAACP and the Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus would be heard from sea to shining sea. And their protests would be righteous and just.

Yet the Washington “Redskins” play in a city that is 78% black. If there has been any concerted protest or organized outrage from the black community in that city or this country it has been buried behind headlines about Rihanna, Drake and Allen West.

Imagine if you will that the Women’s National Basketball Association had a franchise in Cleveland called the “Cleveland Bitches”. The National Organization for Women and numerous women’s organizations would rise up in righteous protest. Yet there are no news reports of the women in Cleveland expressing any offense or outrage to the scarlet-hued Native American cartoon logo that symbolizes the baseball team of that city.

Once again, imagine if you will that the Major League Baseball had a team named the “Atlanta Faggots”. A multitude of gay men and women’s organizations including GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Against Defamation) would be leading marches, protests and boycotts nationwide – as well they should.

Imagine professional sports teams like the Cincinnati Wops and the Los Angeles Kikes and the Kansas City Micks and you can start to understand the daily insult that American sports perpetrates upon Native Americans. There is nothing hip, cool, trendy or traditional about ethnic slurs that needs to be perpetrated or propagated, and certainly not on the platform of professional sports.

It is, therefore, all the more troubling that Americans from whatever constituency cannot understand the pain and insult that is inflicted upon Native Americans every time Fox Sports and CBS Sports gives the scores of the latest “Redskins” game. How is it that advocates for justice and human rights give sports a pass when it comes to racism directed at Native Americans?

With the fiscal cliff looming and war in Gaza blazing, insults directed at people who have already been demeaned and humiliated may not be at the top of the national agenda. But that is the point – hypocrisy, ignorance and shameful insensitivity can never have a place in the national discourse and now is always the right time to make a change for the better.

Getting the NFL to require the Washington football team to change its name may seem like a small step only if you are not a Native American.

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