Should Native Nations Imitate the US?
The United States is experiencing one of the most divisive, nasty and bitter presidential elections in recent times, one characterized by personal attacks and accusations perilously close to slander.
The current American president will use any means to retain power including supporting shadow groups who have, under U.S. law, a virtually free hand to hurl baseless charges against his opponent. That these charges have been proven to be distortions of the truth does not matter, what is important is to place this opponent on the defensive and obscure a bad economy as well as the fiasco in Iraq.
More of this kind of gutter politics is planned before the November vote, almost all of which is done with the subtle blessing of a person who has referred to himself as "a uniter, not a divider."
As shallow and silly as that slogan sounds, and the hard facts prove it to be a lie, it is nonetheless effective among millions of Americans, most of whom have no idea as to the hostility now directed towards the U.S. by other nations of the world.
While in Barcelona, Spain, this summer I was able to listen to the complaints of the Europeans and Asians who had gathered to take part in the World Parliament of Religions, a conference which attracted over 6500 spiritual leaders from all religious disciplines, yet was only marginally covered by the American media.
Citizens of other nations find the Americans to be self centered, aggressive, demanding and verbally rather loud. They are either outspoken in their defense of U.S. policies or enthusiastic in their apologies for the Iraqi war. They are addicted to contrasts and will interrupt the flow of conversation to explain their perspectives and how things can be changed to fit an American agenda.
As an Aboriginal person taught the values of patience, sensitivity and respect, the American way of communicating is as fascinating as it is grating.
So too, are the U.S. elections, an in-your-face assault on the senses which prohibits reflection. Perhaps that is the plan all along; to keep the U.S. electorate in a state of agitation characterized by fear, doubt and emotion for it is clear any thinking person who possesses the ability to connect action with consequence would vote to restore sound, practical leadership in the White House.
In Indian Country many would be leaders are adopting the mannerisms of U.S. politicians. They are beginning to form political actions committees and have started directing money to various American candidates. They are becoming slick operatives who find it easiest to speak Washingtonian than their own Indigenous languages.
In former times these people were the "hang around the fort" types, but now they own the fort much to the pleasure of the external agencies.
This metamorphosis is a dangerous one. Under traditional Iroquois law we are expressly prohibited from in any way interfering in the affairs of another nation. Ours is supposed to be a separate and distinct society which has as its core a deep and abiding relationship with the natural world. Should we abandon this way of life, then the earth itself will become off balance with dire environmental consequences.
Now that is not an ambiguous warning but a direct result of our actions, something the Americans simply refuse to understand.
In this time of challenge and change those ancestral customs which kept our leaders in check and preserved the freedoms of our people need to be re-emphasized and strengthened.
As we watch the U.S. elections tear at the very fabric of American society we should reject such a system and return to the common sense methods of our ancestors which served us very well for so many generations.
Perhaps groups such as the National Congress of American Indians could sponsor a gathering to show how to administer to our people using traditional law.
The various Native colleges would also do well to provide instruction in Aboriginal governing versus the IRA methods.
There am many among us who firmly believe we must use our resources to elect politicians sensitive to Native issues. The citizens of the Haudenosaunee say otherwise: we are paddling in a different canoe and must not go in the direction of the Americans for there are great rapids ahead of them while no one in their vessel seems to care.
Dong George-Kanentiio. Akwesasne Mohawk, resides on Oneida Territory with his wife Joanne Shenandoah.
©News From Indian Country September 6, 2004