Sunday, February 11, 2007

Reply to Colorado AIM's Glenn Morris

Oh, that title'll have readers just swarming.

Colorado American Indian Movement leader Glenn Morris responded to a post of mine on his recent op-ed in the Rocky, urging support for a state senator who's trying to end Columbus Day as a holiday in Colorado. Here's Morris' whole comment. I've cut some repetitive stuff here, but nothing significant:
Your blog was brought to my attention today. While your post about my recent column in the RMN was somewhat amusing, I'm afraid that your cynicism cannot obscure some glaring misstatements and factual errors. I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to address all of the problems in your post [rats--ed.], but I would be glad to debate the issue with you (or any other credible advocate of the Columbus holiday) at a mutually-agreed time and place.
Have to take issue with a couple of things right off, Glenn. First--whaddaya mean, somewhat amusing? Second, my misstatements may smile vacantly, but they never glare. Anyway, you continue:
Two points that you infer are: 1. that Columbus continues to deserve a holiday, despite the fact that (in your words) "Columbus was a dick;" and, 2. that I cannot support my point that the suggestion that Columbus Day was initiated to honor Italians is absurd.
You mean "imply," not "infer." But yes, I screwed up by disagreeing with that last point. Columbus Day clearly was not created to honor Italians. I meant to say otherwise, but I'm not very bright and forgot to fix it, so let me say again: Columbus Day was not created to honor Italians. Okay? Next you ask:

Why would landlocked Colorado, more than 2,000 miles removed from any area ever visited by Columbus, honor this lost sailor with a state holiday?

That's kind of a non sequitur, Glenn. The reason poor little landlocked Colorado, so far from the scenes of Columbus' exploits, celebrates Columbus Day is the same reason most of the hemisphere does: his "discovery" of the New World symbolizes the spread of western civilization and its values, and the dramatic and continuing improvement in the general lot of humanity that resulted.

Now, you probably don't agree with that (that's a joke, Glenn). Columbus, you've said many times, unleashed hundreds of years of slavery and starvation and murder, the destruction of indigenous cultures, and the oppression of millions. Not only that, the civilization he brought is worse than worthless. You and Russell Means held forth to that effect on your old AIM site:

Columbus Day is a perpetuation of racist assumptions that the Western Hemisphere was a wasteland cluttered with savages awaiting the blessings of Western "civilization." Throughout the hemisphere, educational systems perpetuate these myths - suggesting that indigenous peoples have contributed nothing to the world, and, consequently, should be grateful for their colonization and their microwave ovens.

Microwave ovens! The shame! Indigenous culture is clearly superior to a civilization that produces useless crap like microwave ovens:

As Alfred Cosby, Kirkpatrick Sale, and Jack Weatherford have illustrated in their books, not only was the Western Hemisphere a virtual ecological and health paradise prior to 1492, but the Indians of the Americas have been responsible for such revolutionary global contributions as the model for U.S. constitutional government, agricultural advances that currently provide 60 percent of the world's daily diet, and hundreds of medical and medicinal techniques still in use today.

This, of course, is ax-grinding nonsense, which I won't bother with except to pick on your sources. (For some reason that's always a good line of attack when dealing with professors involved with Colorado AIM. Why is that, Glenn?)

Your first, Alfred Crosby, (despite the ridiculously tendentious title of his book, Ecological Imperialism) is a serious fellow. Unfortunately for you, he seems to support the generally accepted view that biological factors, particularly disease, rather than "genocide," killed off the indigenes of the Americas.

How about your second source, self-described "eco-luddite" Kirkpatrick Sale, author of such articles as "An end of the Israeli experiment?" and (in the Nation, for which he's a contributing editor) "Unabomber's secret treatise: Is there method to his madness?" (1995) which includes this scholarly exegesis:

I would agree with the Unabomber's general position that "to make a lasting change in the direction of development of any important aspect of a society, reform is insufficient," and I might even agree that in certain circumstances therefore "revolution is necessary."

And this:

All in all, I think despite its flaws [the Unabomber "manifesto"] is a document worth publishing, and not only because that could presumably help stop the killing. There is a crucial message at the core of it for those with fortitude enough to get through it, and unless that message is somehow heeded and acted on we are truly a doomed society hurtling toward a catastrophic breakdown.
Hurtling. Not someone I'd rely on, Glenn, but that's just me. More of your comment:

[T]he passage that you pasted in from the Library of Congress says absolutely nothing to challenge my assertion. The Columbian Exposition of 1893 was definitely not an honoring of Italians . . . .

Think I've conceded that. Onward:

There is an extensive literature on the Columbian Exposition and its cultural meanings. I suggest to you Robert Rydell's, All the World's A Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions - 1876-1916 (University of Chicago Press, 1984) and Shari Hundorf's Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination (Cornell, 2001).

Oh goody, more sources to impeach. Here's part of a review of All the World's a Fair that appeared in The Journal of San Diego History in 1986:

Rydell insists that the social and anthropological elements in these fairs were encouraged by an American elite endangered by popular, democratic forces and intent upon preserving its own dominance, and that the fairs shaped "the world view of millions of Americans" (p. 235). "Largely as a result of the expositions," he concludes, "nationalism and racism became crucial parts of the legitimizing ideology offered to a nation torn by class conflict" (p. 236).

Really, Glenn, don't you lefties ever get tired of the old race-class-gender routine? It's so lame. But you and your good bud Glenn Spagnuolo want to "Recreate68," so I guess you're stuck with it. Just a little more of the review:

[Many] will no doubt be surprised to hear that . . . anthropological displays originally offered [at the Exposition] represented conscious propagandizing for Anglo-American racial and cultural supremacy and were intended to reinforce the dominance of the city's social elite. Indeed, Rydell's argument is flawed at its heart....

"Flawed at its heart," Glenn.
Such fuzziness in analysis and terminology abounds, frustrating the reader and undermining the persuasiveness of the work. In short, All the World's a Fair is badly flawed by presentism and tells as much about the author's socio-political beliefs as it does about the fairs that are ostensibly its topic. [Rydell] wrenches evidence from context and forces it to fit his thesis. Readers who want to get a feel for what went on at America's many world's fairs, or of their meaning in American life, will have to turn elsewhere for satisfaction.
It doesn't even sound worth reading, let alone using to bolster one's argument. But you soldier on, Glenn, with another attempt to show how racist we are:
In the same year as the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Daniel Arata, an Italian, was lynched at the corner of Colfax and Kalamath in Denver. Actually, he was lynched TWICE, and shot full of holes, by a mob estimated to have numbered nearly 10,000 . . . .
Didn't know that story, and it's a good 'un. Here's the version I found in the unquestionably authoritative Colorado Adventure Guide:

Daniel Arata was the bartender in charge at the Hotel d'Italia on Wewatta Street, long considered the seamey [sic] side of town. This was a known hangout for prostitutes and various types [of] con men. Into this den of iniquity stepped the well liked Civil War veteran, Benjamin Lightfoot. Ben ordered a beer and after enjoying it, was on his way out when Arate [sic], who had been drinking and playing with his new gun all day, blocked the way and insisted that Ben have another.

Lightfoot was happy to enjoy another beer, especially since he thought it was on the house. When Ben got up to leave Arata asked him to pay up, when he found that Ben didn't have any cash he took the old veteran's hat until he came up with the money. The tough old Civil War veteran refused to leave without his hat and a fight ensued. Arata a much younger man knocked Ben to the floor and kept kicking the 60 year old until his eyeball popped out. Then he shot him and dragged the body behind the bar.

Just by the by, what'd he do with Lightfoot's eyeball? (My guess: stuck it in his pocket to eat later.) In any case:

Arata continued to serve drinks to the crowd that had been attracted to the earlier commotion. Unfortunately for Arata the Police also had heard the commotion and came to investigate.

Naturally they found the body and arrested Arata. Word got out and traveled around town like wildfire, the next night a crowd of 10,000 people, outraged that an Italian had killed an honored Civil War veteran, surrounded the city jail. They broke in the door and stormed the jail overpowering the deputies. The lynch mob grabbed Arata from his cell and drug him into the street where they tried to hang him from a tree near the intersection of West Colfax and Santa Fe Drive. The hanging wasn't really very successful because more than 20 people shot him first.

The disappointed latecomers to the necktie party put a rope around his neck and hauled him to 17th and Curtis where they hung him for the second time.

There's a great country/western song in there, Glenn, but it's kind of a slender reed to hang all the quasi-Marxist trash on, isn't it? You continue:

I will count you among us who encourage the repeal of Columbus Day. I am certain that you would not want your tax dollars spent to maintain a state/national holiday to "a dick."
But at the beginning of your comment, Glenn, you said I "inferred" that we should keep Columbus Day. Which is it? Okay: if you and Suzanne Williams want to try to get the votes to decertify (is that what you'd call it?) Columbus Day, go for it. Problem is, again, the holiday isn't really even about Columbus, dick or not: it's about celebrating western civilization, and no matter how much you want to, you're not going to get rid of that.

One other thing. At the end you accuse me of saddling you with opinions (Ward Churchill's) that you don't hold:
In closing, I would like to say that whatever Ward Churchill's views of the 9th v. 1st amendment might be, they are his. I am quite capable of articulating my own analyses, and I would very much appreciate your not imputing positions to me that I have not taken. Thank you.
Hmph. Let's go to the sources again and see if I'm imputing to you a position you haven't taken. Here you are on the old AIM site:
Not all speech is protected under the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps it should be, but that is a different column. The fact is that it is not. Falsely yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, threatening to kill the President, using speech to defraud someone, publishing obscene material, and defaming someone falsely are all examples of speech that may be prohibited or regulated by the state. Since 1988, the United States has been a part to the 1948 Convention on Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide. Under provisions of the Convention, which is now considered part of the federal law of the United States, the crime of genocide, as well as public incitement to commit genocide, and complicity with genocide, are violations of federal and international law.
Funny, that sounds exactly like Ward's argument. And here's a quote from the Colorado AIM blog, in response to a Rocky Mountain News editorial on the acquittal of Columbus Day protesters in 2005:
In the trial, the jury heard that the first amendment isn't the only amendment. There is also the 9th and 14th amendment to consider. Also, there is no such thing as absolute free speech in the United States. Hate speech is not allowed. You cannot put up a sign that says White Only in your store. You cannot make threats against the president of the United States nor can you make sexual comments to people in the workplace. It's pure speech but this society has decided those types of speech are not allowed. There are all manner of speech that is restricted in the U.S but the closet racists try and hide behind the first amendment.
That's your organization's blog, isn't it, Glenn? So tell me: how, exactly, does that position differ from Ward's?

Update: Commenter Noj points out that in the Indians 'R' Us, Ward Churchill accuses another of Morris' sources mentioned above, Jack Weatherford, of plagiarism.

Update II: Fun with math: If the crowd estimate is accurate, roughly ten percent of Denver's population turned out to lynch and/or shoot Daniel Arata. Must have been all reruns on TV that evening.

Update III: Does it ever make you wonder, Glenn, that you have people like Try-Works' Ben Whitmer (no link) defending you?

Update IV: And the Amazing Vendor?

Update V: PB notes that Morris is a Harvard Law School graduate--you know, One-L and The Paper Chase ("You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer") and all that? All the more pathetic that he agrees with Ward Churchill on massively important points of constitutional law instead of with, say, these jolly fellows.

It's also pretty clear that Morris isn't crazy about being associated with Ward's position--at least, not since Churchill's frothings started drawing all the negatory attention. That's why he and Chutch maintain a false distance--by Churchill taking "leave of absence" from AIM's leadership council, for example, and not participating in the Columbus Day protests, or, in the present instance, by Glenn claiming I've falsely imputed Chutchian opinions to him.

But they're obviously Morris's opinions too. Maybe it's just that, unlike anyone else around Churchill, he's still capable of embarrassment.

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