Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mr. P-Niss, Meet Mr. Prick 

So, Sunday night a week ago, March 20th, the President cuts short his vacation at the family ranch in Texas and rushes back to the White House so he can demonstrate his sense of urgency and committment to life by being awakened and affixing, in his pjs, his signature to Terri's law, although the paperwork could, as easily, have been sent to him in Texas.

My first thought upon hearing on that Sunday evening of the President's planned rush back to Washington was of another occasion, in August 2001, when, upon being told by his National Security Advisor that Ben Ladin was intent on striking this country on its own soil, he didn't rush back to Washington from his six week Texas vacation, not to have any meetings, or talk to any administration officials working on terrorism issues, nor did he make any calls to anyone in his administration to make sure Al Queda was being tracked, nor did he request his National Security Advisor to do anything specific in resonse to the threat, nor did he ask for a review of what was being done on the Al Queda front, no, he did none of those things, or any variation of them. What he did do was nothing, absolutely nothing.

However, on Monday, March 21st, the day after Bush's rush back to Washington to sign legislation that affects only one American family, a different tragic event occurs that supplies us with another contrast in Presidential behavior. On that day, the worst school shooting since Columbine takes place at Red Lake High School among the Red Lake Band of the Chippewa nation. Jeff Weise, another of those deeply disturbed students we've come to know about too late, opens fire and manages to kill a security guard, a teacher, seven students, and to wound fourteen other people, and then to turn the gun on himself in a successful suicide.

The President's response is not to rush anywhere, neither back, nor forth. Instead, he sticks to his planned schedule and does another installment of Bush community Kabuki theatre on his Bamboozlapalooza tour to kill Social Security as we know and love it; important stuff, I know; in addition, he takes advantage of the occasion to refer to his own rush back to Washington to sign that legislation, which placed the Federal government squarely in the middle of one family's agonizing dispute about a crucial end of life question, and, which he holds up as an exemplar of his committment to what he identifies as a "culture of life."

What this President does not do is to manage to issue even a pro forma statement of shock, or dismay at the deaths of school children shot by another of their classmates, an all-too-familiar community trauma that one would have thought worthy of at least a word of sympathy. I guess the National Rifle Association wouldn't have liked their President to shed any light on another of those embarrassing examples of what can happen when an angst-ridden teenager has easy access to guns, even though in this case, it appears the guns were properly owned by his law-officer grandfather. (As Riggsveda notes today, the NRA is ready to take note of the Red Lake tragedy and to analyze what the real problem is: not too easy access to guns, but not enough guns and not enough access.)

The President continues to say nothing for the next four days.

It is not until he is jabbed in the ribs, rhetorically speaking, by some Native Americans who'd noticed his total silence that the President gets around to noticing what had happened. To be fair, the President must have been doing some thinking about Native Americans, because the 100 million dollars plus worth of cuts in their develoment programs by Bush's proposed budget are sufficiently specific to suggest the expenditure of time and attention, although the result was not generally applauded by Indian activists.
Chester Carl, chairman of NAIHC and the Navajo Housing Authority, noted that national security funding is vital for all Americans and noted the high percentage of American Indians in the military services, but pointed out that infrastructure needs in Indian country are greater than those in Iraq.

Chairman Carl's juxtaposition of Iraq and Indian country couldn't be more apt.This administration's total lack of familarity with the important body of knowledge that underlies Federal block grants for local development is reflected not merely in the deep cuts his budget makes in those programs across the country, it is nowhere better reflected in that on-going disaster which, from the beginning, has constituted this administration's reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Getting money and jobs to the grass roots local level immediately after the fall of Baghdad should have been the second most important item on the occupying army's agenda, right after the number one item, securing Iraq against the predictable looting of public buildings and public and private arms stashes, and the predictable penetration of Iraq's borders by Jihadists, in other words the immediate establishment of some sort of civil order. As we know now know, neither item was on anyone's agenda. And this president is just as heedless of what is necessary to keep available a decent "middle-class" life to those citizens of this country who are not in the top five percent of earners as he was of what would be necessary to keep Iraq from falling into chaos and insurgency.

It is not in the mindset of George Bush to be able to concieve of what it means to be President of these United States of America. He only knows how to be President of those people he concieves of as being on his side. The rest of America be damned, and why not since none of them are going to heaven either. And those of us who did not vote for him, and do care about it when something like the shootings at Red Lake happen would like to formally not thank him for being such an utter and total prick.

One of the first places I look when I need some information on something happening on the Native American front is that remarkable blog, WAMPUM. Eric did not disappoint. He reminds us here that Red Lake existed before Monday, March 21st, and he tells us about "PS 280 And Red Lake," and if you don't know what PS 280 references, you should go and read EW's explanation:
Red Lake exists in a legal historical context. In 1953 termination was the oficial policy of the United States, and P.L. 280 ushered in the termination phase of tribal jurisdiction in federal Indian affairs. It gave Wisconsin, Oregon, California, Minnesota and Nebraska (the so-called "mandatory states") criminal and civil jurisdiction in Indian Country and provided a mechanism by which the states could assume permanent jurisdiction over Indian nations. The law applied to most of the Indian land within the boundaries of those five states except the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota and the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon.

When he signed it into law, even President Eisenhower expressed misgivings about the lack of tribal consent and urged immediate amendment of the law to require tribal referenda - no such amendment passed Congress until 1968.

The criterion for applying P.L. 280 was whether or not the United States judged that certain Indian nations were capable of handling their own affairs.
If you know anything about the history of Indian nations and the federal government that last statement shouldn't require any further response than "oy." Let Eric tell you the rest of the story here, which includes a surprise appearance by Richard M. Nixon.

Also courtesy of Wampum, I was directed to the Red Lake community's own website, Red Lake Net News, where you can find a link that allows you to send condolences and/or a contribution to a memorial fund. I choose the later because I couldn't conceive of what to say that might not feel like an intrusion. I do think it's important to let the people of the Red Lake band know that the rest of America cares about what happened there.

An important aspect of caring is the desire to understand, and I have found no better guide to Red Lake, (again thanks to Wampum), than Kent Nurland of Kent's Blog; Norland is a former teacher at Red Lake High School, and an historian who is also a writer, with quite a few books that I'm anxious to read based on the evidence of his blog, and who has a new book coming out in November, "Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy." I can't wait. I would suggest you read everything Kent has to say about Red Lake, but be sure not to miss, in particular, "Red Lake Redux: They Are All Our Children," here,"Silent City, Silent Cries," here, and "The Red Lake Shootings - The Media Recedes," here

P.S. As you may have guessed, this post was scheduled for publication last Friday, P-Niss blogging day here at Corrente, but was kept from being so by bloggerference. Seeing the reappearance today of the indefatigable Mr. P-Niss, I took the opportunity to post it. For any reader who missed last Friday's regularly scheduled P-Niss appearance, which included important new information about his status as a media mogul, including his hitherto unknown tie to The Washington Chestnut, you can find it by clicking here.

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