Monday, August 16, 2004

What the fuck can I say? 

EDITORIAL NOTE: I thought alert reader Raison de Fem might have something interesting to say if we gave him some space for a guest post and, to my mind, he did. Talked to any undecided voters yourself, lately? If you have, drop us a line and share the experience.—Lambert

I was talking to a guy I know from water meetings the other day, Native guy who’s an artist. He was selling corn and squash by the side of the road, so I stopped and we cracked open some beers from my cooler. We’re standing there in the dust drinking them, and he’s telling me about the missionaries who keep coming around the rez looking for souls. Says there was a bunch of 'em going around offering to fix up people’s houses for free, and that’s cool at first, they got a truck with supplies and a vanload of teenagers, but then while they’re patching your roof or whatever they start in about Jesus.

He asks me if I believe in God, and so I tell him, No, not exactly. He says whaddya mean not exactly? And I tell him I don’t believe in any way that would make sense so it’s better if we don’t talk about it. So he tells me a story about how, once, when he was a kid, he was telling his grandfather about how he had to go to church at boarding school and how it sucked but they made all the kids go. So his grandfather asked him if he wanted to see the white man’s god, because he knew where to find him. My friend says, Sure. So his grandfather pulls some money out of his pocket and shows it to him, and says, There—that’s the white man’s god. Forget about church, he tells him, that’s got nothing to do with it.

My friend says to me, Whaddya think about that story? And I asked him if he was selling much corn or squash. He wasn’t, he said, and he said it’d been a long time since he’d sold a painting or a carving, too. Money’s hard to get, he says. Sure as shit. Guy’s a diabetic. He’s got a brother and two cousins in the Marines, and he’s a vet himself. Nearest VA clinic is over 60 miles away. He waits for over five hours at the little Indian Health Service clinic to see a PA.

I ask him who he’s voting for? Vote? he says, with a shrug. Fuck voting. Voting never changed anything. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do, he says, to make sure they get plenty more of the white man’s god. Won’t make a difference who’s in Washington. Or the state capitol. Or the tribal council, he says. None of them are looking out for me. Or you, either, he said,
poking me in the chest. I said, I wish you’d think about that some more. 'Cause they’d still be dragging poor fucking kids off to boarding schools and stuffing them with religion if something hadn’t changed. He looked at me and said, whatever. Whatever. Always someone gonna make things better, but they never do.

Got another beer? He asked. And we looked at the sun starting to go down. In the half hour or so we were standing there, not a single car had passed. The sign leaning against his truck said “FRESH CORN.” His truck had a “Semper Fi” sticker on the back window. I sure as hell wasn’t going to preach to him about civic duty. Nope. I was at a loss for words.

But I’ll see him again, probably before November.

—raison de fem

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