Sunday, November 02, 2008

“He Help Me” recover whispered-slur fumbles

Following NFL football seemed so important, when I was a kid growing up near Washington D.C. Dad had obtained some season tickets to the Redskins games at RFK Stadium, way back when Robert Kennedy was still alive. The sports teams there became so popular in part because they were a welcome distraction from the sausage making-like inner workings of our Gubmint. Even if you didn’t like football, you were obligated to follow along, as fully half the conversations in town were about how the team was doing.

Growing up in sports-enthusiastic Washington D.C., dad occasionally brought me to professional football games at RFK Stadium. The pride surrounding the local Redskins team was infectious and most autumns, it seemed healthier to talk about our cherished pigskin team, more so than it did to speak about political pork-barrel projects. Indeed, one year Richard Nixon even sent in a suggested play to Coach Allen; an optional play, which they ran in the playoffs, for a thirteen-yard loss!

The team had a marching band, some of whom would dress up in Indian garb and make corresponding war-whoops. The loud music ceremoniously drumming into children’s brains led us to believe that most everybody in the Metro area worshiped the competitive Redskins.

Imagine my shock as a ten-year-old sports enthusiast, when I heard that some Native Americans thought that the term “Redskins” was not honoring Indian’s, but rather derogatory. Then my further dismay when a potential local baseball team started a contest actively searching for new names. I called up to suggest ‘The Washington Crackers’, which mom promptly informed me was also a racist term, this one meant for whites.

This stuck in the back of my head for years. After I moved out to Idaho with another fair-weather Washington fan, it was hard to determine what new football team to root for. From a geographical standpoint, we determined that the center of the Shoshone Railroad Tracks was trilaterally equidistant between the Seahawks, Bronco’s and 49’ers.

Nonetheless, my friend remembered what had been drummed in my head as a kid. Deep down, I still held allegiance to the old Washington team, though all the king’s coaches and Jack Kent’s cooked men could not break the curse to make them win again. So one Christmas he bought me a jersey from NFL shops. The order he made was for a jersey with former XFL star Rod Smart’s nickname ‘He Hate Me’ emblazoned on the back. Soon his order arrived. My friend opened the box to inspect the jersey and on the back in three-inch block letters stood out surprisingly, ‘He Help Me.’

Ya gotta love this guy

So, he called up NFL stores to complain. They told him that it is their official position to not sell any hate-oriented products. Yet right on, the front of the same jersey in ½-inch letters; smaller letters than you would ordinarily expect, there it was; ‘Redskins’

NFL stores eventually replaced the jersey with a different nickname.

Help us see humor

In time this policy got so out of whack that fans who wanted to order jerseys honoring New England Patriots defensive back Randall Gay had their efforts intercepted by NFL shops with Internet rejection mssgs that proclaimed, “This field should not contain a naughty word.”

This has changed and Gay is now permitted on official NFL jerseys.

For a while, I believed that those who quarterback NFL shops had adopted a sneaky policy of whispering some dirty racial epithets, rather than shouting them from the grandstands. But then, while tightly pacing along the editorial sidelines and exchanging my Redskins cap for a thinking cap, I encountered this David Yeagley Front Page Magazine article called:

An Indian’s Thanksgiving Proposal

Many Indians feel they’re being “true” Indians when they hate America. To them, any Indian with favorable sentiments toward the country is a “sell-out,” or a weak, damaged Indian. But the opposite is true. Their position of resentment is servile, and though it’s politically lucrative for the leftist, it’s psychologically inhibitive and harmful to Indians. Those who advocate dissatisfaction are doing the real damage.

Certainly, many Indians today have suffered horrible abuse from racial and cultural prejudice. They find solace, therefore, in racial, cultural resentment and hatred. But the plight of these wronged Indians should never be made into a national image, or a cultural model. To broker discontent, to encourage anger, insults the strong. Hatred suffocates every natural aspiration of the heart, and cuts off the avenues of true development in a person. Self-appointed Indian “leaders” who glorify revenge are deluded. Even protesting the “Washington Redskins,” a career focus for Susan Harjo, is merely a self-serving maneuver for profit, and exemplifies a fussy feminist, rather than a true warrior. These kinds of Indian “leaders” are quickly becoming passé, as more young people realize the burdensome and futility of professional discontent.

But how can Indians be thankful for America? America is a fabulous country, but it was indeed built on Indian land, in our faces. Wars were fought, treaties were made (and broken), Indians were displaced, and today many white Americans criticize Indians for profiteering at white people’s expense through the gambling business. How should Indians relate to such irony?

The answer may be in metaphors. Think of America as an abandoned child. The Pilgrims were an unwanted, impoverished waif, a bastard child of Europe, who washed up on our shores half naked, sick, and starving.

America was a helpless babe.

Indians took the child, fed it, cared for it, raised it, taught it how to get along with other people, and the next thing you know, the child began to outgrow us! It was from a breed of giants, of which we knew nothing. The child had the genes of greatness. He couldn’t help himself.

He soon grew too big for us, and began to push us aside. He stuffed us in cultural “nursing homes” (reservations), while he continued to flex his new-found muscles. He soon became a competitor in the world, and finally became the mightiest nation on earth.

As fate would have it, though, he’s now returning to the old Indian homes, and wants to encounter us again. Yes, it’s all about money. Never mind “rights,” and the other American ideals. This latest engagement is a matter of mean dollars.

Has he changed? Have Indians changed? Have either of us learned anything from the past?

I’ve learned that anger is a curse, and it’s often disguised as the pursuit of justice. Indians don’t really envy the white man, but Indians are intensely jealous of one another.

I can’t speak for the white man, but I believe he wants and needs validation from his adoptive father, the Indian.
America desperately wants the Indian’s approval.
America needs our blessing, not our resentment. He may not even know it, but what he really wants is our forgiveness. He wants acceptance, for in all of his greatness, there is great error. We both know this.

He has often wanted us to join him, and when we don’t, he thinks we are condemning him. But this really isn’t so. Indians simply love being Indian. When we don’t seek to emulate him, like virtually every other people in the world, it baffles him, and makes him feel insecure.

He needn’t feel thus. He should simply understand that Indians are content to be Indian. There is no accusation of him in this. He must be content to allow us to be ourselves. We can give him our blessing without imitating him.

I bless the Washington Redskins. Let the white man indulge in his deepest memories of the Indian. Let him celebrate the archetypes within his soul. Let him have his Indian, in whatever way is meaningful. We cannot dictate to his conscience.

People like Harjo confuse the white man, and imprison Indians with discontent. The Harjos represent weakness and slovenly spirits. This isn’t what the white man remembers of the Indian at all. He remembers a strong father, and a great warrior. Let it ever be thus.

Let Indians be proud of our adopted son, and bless him. Never mind the wrongs he did to us. Seeking “justice” takes the “noble” out of “savage.”

No comments: