Recently I came across this story of a Native American woman’s encounter with some young white girls. It starts like this:
“Lori Metoxen, 52, works as an administrator at Oneida Behavioral Health in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a treatment center for indigenous people suffering from addiction and mental illness. Metoxen says one beautiful summer day in 2017 she drove home from work with the windows down, the sunroof open, and her Oneida Nation license plate, available only to members of the tribe, proudly displayed on the back of her car. When she stopped at a traffic light in the part of western Green Bay that belongs to the Oneida Nation reservation, she noticed a car full of white, teenage girls in the lane beside hers. ‘Go back to Mexico, you scumbag sack of shit!’ one of the girls yelled at Metoxen.
Stunned, Metoxen remembers saying something like, ‘What is your problem?’ to which the girl, after a string of profanities, replied,
‘You heard me, go back to Mexico!’
‘The angriness of their voices was shocking to me,’ Metoxen, a Native American who is not from Mexico, recounted to HuffPost. ‘They really needed to make somebody feel bad. What was the fun in that?’
After a few seconds, the light turned green and the white girls, all laughing, turned left. Metoxen drove straight, and as so often happens after incidents like these, she suddenly realized what she should have said.
‘You go back to where you came from! I belong here!’”
(written by Christopher Mathias in the Huffington Post)
I remember once meeting a Native American man who had a t-shirt with the message: Fighting Illegal Immigration since 1492. I think he understood the situation!
So one of the problems that seems to be in the air these days is the issue of immigration. Nothing easy or simple about it; not sure how it can be resolved in a good way. On the one hand the tough, brute anti-immigrant, seal-the-borders stance is not only morally wrong but also historically wrong-headed and ultimately not even effective at that. On the other hand, a totally open border where anyone can come in any time is not a workable situation for a modern nation. In fact it was never such a situation even in pre-modern times among indigenous peoples. Although you almost never had clear borders, there was a sense of “this is our territory,” and to enter or traverse this territory from another tribe required some negotiation or conflict was a possibility. In any case, it never was just anybody come into “our territory” even though it was not “our state.” To be honest we also have to admit that premodern peoples did invade and sometimes force other inhabitants out if they were weaker. In modern history, when Europeans forced their way into the Americas and kept coming and coming, it was in fact a kind of invasion. We cannot undo that time, but you see how that complicates the picture. On the level of politics and economics the situation is intractable, but what that means is that we are not seeing it at a deep enough level. It means it is time for us to see things radically differently, from the depths of our being, and our flourishing as human beings will depend on that.
Climate change. No need to say much on this one. Recent headlines speak of record temps in Australia and extremely warm pools of ocean water in the vicinity of New Zealand. And a lot more. The evidence is all there, but we seem to be strangely stagnant about what we might want to do. I am reminded of the ancient historian, Livy, who said of his own Rome, “We cannot endure our vices nor their cure.” It seems like another intractable situation where we seem to have a sense that something is happening but at the same time we seem unable to change anything of our lifestyles that might make a difference in some degree.
Election year and impeachment. Let “The Circus” begin! In my opinion impeachment is mostly a distraction from our real problems I don’t see much hope in this process. The country is sadly, tragically, and stupidly very, very divided. And to top it all off there is almost no one who seems to be a decent choice to vote for. I am not seeking the perfect candidate, just someone who is not BSing or just power hungry. I can vote for Sanders and maybe for Warren, but even if one of them wins, the way the country is and the way Congress is, mostly what would happen is that their decent proposals would get gutted out. The temptation is to blame Trump and the Republicans for our predicament, and they certainly are a significant part of it; but really the Democrats have done more than their share of damage in recent decades. As usual, Chris Hedges has presented this most eloquently in an essay on Truthdig:
Here is an excerpt from that essay:
“Yes, Trump’s contempt of Congress and attempt to get Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, to open an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for almost $400 million in U.S. military aid and allowing Zelensky to visit the White House are impeachable offenses, but trivial and minor ones compared with the constitutional violations that the two parties have institutionalized and, I fear, made permanent. These sustained, bipartisan constitutional violations—not Trump—resulted in the failure of our democracy. Trump is the pus coming out of the wound. If the Democrats and the Republicans were committed to defending the Constitution why didn’t they impeach George W. Bush when he launched two illegal wars that were never declared by Congress as demanded by the Constitution? Why didn’t they impeach Bush when he authorized placing the entire U.S. public under government surveillance in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment? Why didn’t they impeach Bush when he authorized torture along with kidnapping terrorist suspects around the world and holding them for years in our black sites and offshore penal colonies? Why didn’t they impeach Barack Obama when he expanded these illegal wars to 11, if we count Yemen? Why didn’t they impeach Obama when Edward Snowden revealed that our intelligence agencies are monitoring and spying on almost every citizen and downloading our data and metrics into government computers where they will be stored for perpetuity? Why didn’t they impeach Obama when he misused the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force to erase due process and give the executive branch of government the right to act as judge, jury and executioner in assassinating U.S. citizens, starting with the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and, two weeks later, his 16-year-old son? Why didn’t they impeach Obama when he signed into law Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, in effect overturning the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of the military as a domestic police force?”
And there’s a lot, lot more there that he says…..
Religion. Now you would think that religion might be some kind of antidote to all this. Well, not exactly. To be precise, by religion I mean the institutions, the structures, the organizations, etc. It’s hard to say whether it was always like this or we are simply more aware of the rot. Consider some of these recent news items:
80% of evangelical Christians who voted, voted for Trump. Now there is an evangelical “army of prayer” praying to save him from impeachment. And then there was this recent headline:
America’s Christian churches are flush with cash despite declining attendance
The story was about how many Protestant churches are “blessed” with lots of cash and their pastors are doing quite well financially.
And then there was this headline:
Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges
Lest you think we Catholics are exempt from such corruption, consider this recent story in the Wall Street Journal:
Headline: Vatican Uses Donations for the Poor to Plug Its Budget Deficit
Or two recent stories in the Washington Post:
Headline: Ousted cardinal McCarrick gave more than $600,000 to fellow clerics, including two popes, records show
This is a story about how the archbishop of Washington, DC, one of the top positions in the Catholic Church basically bribed people who could cause him problems if his sexual predation was outed. And where do you think that money came from?
The other headline, also from the Post:
W.Va. bishop gave powerful cardinals and other priests $350,000 in cash gifts before his ouster, church records show
Later the Post did another story about this West Virginia bishop and his decadent and opulent lifestyle in one of the poorest dioceses in the country:
You have to read the story to really get a sense of how bad the situation can get! It is almost too much to believe.
All of this stuff is, of course, only scratching the surface of what ails us. The sex problems among the church clergy is unspeakably awful and it is not something that we have really confronted or “solved.” Want to read a current harrowing story about a priest approved by Mother Teresa? Here is the link:
But even that is only a symptom of a much deeper dysfunctionality. Can’t speak for the Protestant scene or the other major religions, each of which have their own serious problems, but we Catholics have a major institutional, theological and spiritual crisis going on and few seem to recognize its true dimensions.
But good people still do good things, and maybe that’s all that matters. And here is a story that the struggle to “do the right thing” still has a voice:
I love the photo below—from HuffPost with this story. It speaks a lot against all the stuff above, but I will refrain from any interpretations. I also love what this girl said:
“We’re Apaches. We’re warriors. The Spaniards and the United States government fought us here. They think they won but they didn’t. The war never ended.”
The struggle will continue.
And then a word from another direction. From one of my favorite people, the late Tang period hermit and poet, Han-shan (or Cold Mountain):
“Who takes the Cold Mountain Road
takes a road that never ends
the rivers are long and piled with rocks
the streams are wide and choked with grass
it’s not the rain that makes the moss slick
and it’s not the wind that makes the pines moan
who can get past the tangles of the world
and sit with me in the clouds”
And Wang An-shih, who lived several centuries later wrote this in his honor:
“I have read ten thousand books
and plumbed the truths beneath the sky
those who know know themselves
no one trusts a fool
how rare the idle man of Tao
up there three miles high
he alone has found the source
and thinks of going nowhere else.”
(above translated by Red Pine)