Sunday, December 19, 2010

Red Snow

Please enjoy your eggnog and yuletide cheer. Why shouldn’t you, right? Don’t let me disturb you with some facts that just might make you reconsider your festive spirit in this final month of the year. Poets have waxed with tragic eloquence about winter as the season of death and renewal. They’re of course talking about the season symbolically. However, I would like to speak frankly about the literal death of millions in this cold, sanguinary month. December, upon closer inspection, appears to be the month of genocidal massacre. One thinks of the Rape of Nanking, when Japanese troops at the tail end of 1937 raped, tortured, and butchered their way through the streets of China’s southern citadel. The Wounded Knee Massacre on a snowy December day in 1890 was merely the final slaughter of Native Americans after centuries of ethnic cleansing. I’m not sure if Chief Big Foot, pictured above, appreciated the holiday season as he lay dying in the snow. On a family vacation to Mount Rushmore years ago I made a detour through the Black Hills to Pine Ridge Reservation to visit the site of the massacre. It’s a sad place. The young people there had set up a booth with trinkets for visitors; I easily picked up the alcoholism and defeatism in their body language and countenance.

Then there’s the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 into Lockerbie, Scotland, thanks to a terrorist who now walks freely because of a suspicious deal between the Brits and Libya. How about the Montreal Massacre in 1989? A deranged gunman took out 14 students on the campus of École Polytechnique before killing himself. Let me close this sad inventory of mass homicide with the Wisconsin Death March, or Sandy Lake Tragedy. In 1850 the federal government, at the behest of the settlement community and territorial governor, ordered the relocation of the Ojibwe from their ancestral homeland in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to Minnesota. Four hundred men, women, and children perished during that fateful December. We’re not to blame for the sins of our forefathers, you say?  Let me then ask you a question.  Do you live on land that was not always in the possession of white people?  Trust me. I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal, that is to say, a repulsive hypocrite. Spending our days apologizing for being white is sheer idiocy. At the same time, we ought to recognize that history has consequences for the present. But please do not dwell on such dark, disturbing things whilst enjoying Christmas and New Year’s. By the way, your eggnog is fattening and it will increase your cholesterol.