Sixoh6 Post Chosen for The World Together blog

 

Above, a map of First Nations, in their own languages, by indigenous cartographer Aaron Carapella. Buy one from your home, neighborhood school, or child’s classroom here

Hi friends,

Mennonite World Review has chosen a recent Sixoh6 blog post–on recognizing that Lincoln was, when he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, explicitly celebrating Indian removal from the US Plains, an act that benefited Mennonites in the US tremendously–for inclusion in The World Together, a curated blog highlighting Mennonite writing. It’s a serious honor, and I’m grateful that the piece was chosen to be in conversation this week with other Mennonite authors thinking about the holiday.

You can check it out here.

And if you like to see Sixoh6 pieces included in The World Together blog, please leave a comment on the MWR page letting them know that you enjoyed it.

Rebecca

I don’t think Kobe Bryant learned his lesson

red basketball hoop
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

The only NBA game I’ve ever seen in person came in Kobe Bryant’s second year in the league — a preseason affair played in Kansas City. The Lakers played the Cavaliers, then led by a past-his-prime Shawn Kemp. The thing that stood out from that game, for me, was the insanity of Bryant’s talent. On a floor featuring some of the best athletes in the world, his physical tools were amazing to behold in person — he was noticeably faster, more agile, than the players around him. It was impressive.

Bryant’s career was nearly derailed by a rape allegation a couple of years after that. The case never went to trial, and he settled a civil suit out of court. And he gave what I thought then was kind of a remarkable statement — in which he didn’t admit guilt to rape, but acknowledged that the victim experienced the encounter as an assault.

First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colo.

I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.

The era of #MeToo has apparently revived hard feelings against Bryant: As a new Washington Post profile reports, “When Bryant won an Oscar for his animated short, “Dear Basketball,” more than 17,000 people signed a petition asking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rescind it. Last month, protesters forced Bryant’s removal from the jury of an animation festival.”

What else has happened? The nuance that Bryant brought to the resolution of the rape case is nowhere to be found. Though he doesn’t address the case directly in the profile, he talks about the aftermath — in terms that make it seem that he considers the rape case a thing that happened to him instead of a problem created by his own actions. In the aftermath, he created a new persona for himself: “The Black Mamba.”

Creating an alternate persona, he says now, was the only way he could mentally move beyond the events of Colorado.

“I don’t know what would’ve happened had I not figured it out,” he says. “Because the whole process for me was trying to figure out how to cope with this. I wasn’t going to be passive and let this thing just swallow me up. You’ve got a responsibility: family, baby, organization, whole city, yourself — how do you figure out how to overcome this? Or just deal with it and not drown from this thing? And so it was this constant quest: to figure out how do you do that, how do you do that, how do you do that? So I was bound to figure something out because I was so obsessively concerned about it.”

(Snip)

But it moved the discussion past Colorado, and so did the way Bryant behaved. If Kobe once forced smiles, “The Black Mamba” scowled. He hurled profanities across the court, was fined in 2011 for calling an official a gay slur, told GQ in 2015 that he had little interest in being anyone’s friend. He cursed at Lakers staff, ridiculed teammates by name, effectively refused to pass the ball. In the top 10 list for most shots taken in an NBA game, six of the spots belong to Bryant, who didn’t just break the record of most missed shots in NBA history: He has over 1,000 more misses than second-place John Havlicek.

He had always done some of those things. He just stopped apologizing for them.

“During the Colorado situation, I said: ‘You know what? I’m just going to be me. I’m just going to be me.’ F— it. If I don’t like a question from a reporter, I’m going to say it,” he says. “If they ask me a question about this thing, I’m just going to tell them the truth.”

His fist strikes the desk.

“Like me or don’t like me for me.”

So Bryant considered the fallout from the rape allegation — an allegation that, remember, his official statement suggests has some merit — and decided the best response to his problems was to become a bigger jerk — to be meaner, to resist accountability, to embrace his selfishness, and to do it all in the name of authenticity.

I think he learned the wrong lesson.

 

Where do you give?

Hi Joel,

It’s almost Giving Tuesday, an event inaugurated in 2012 to promote charitable giving, particularly in contrast to the consumerism of the holiday season. Inthe years since the United Nations Foundation and the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association (aka 92Y) launched it, Giving Tuesday has seen more than $600 million given to charity.

Which makes me wonder: who are we giving to?

For us, it’s a mix of places close to home and close to our hearts. This includes the schools our children attend, plus the school in the district with the highest number of kids who use free and reduced lunch vouchers. Some PTAs at wealthier schools are out of control, while poorer schools still struggle to get basic supplies into their classroom. We meet a local need by shipping school supplies directly to teachers in their classrooms via Amazon Pantry (I know the arguments against Amazon, and this isn’t as good as me taking a gross of glue sticks into the classroom, but it’s easy, which means it gets done.) and directing our passive giving (through, for example, the donations to schools that are generated when we shop at the local grocery store) to the highest needs school. It’s important that we don’t allow this kind of slactivist donation to replace more thoughtful ones, so we basically set it up and then forget about it, reviewing it each year to make sure that our money is still going to where it is most needed.

We also gave this year to Into Account, which supports survivors and fights for accountability for institutions that hide sexual assault, to various Go Fund Me accounts for women fighting breast cancer, to Utah Animal Advocacy Foundation, to our local Boy Scout troop and to Girl Scouts of America, to the ACLU (in honor of Esther Koontz), to The Mennonite, to continued hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and elsewhere. We don’t do a great job of following the 50/30/20 (50% of your donations to what is most important, 30% to local charities that connect you to your community, and 20% to things that pop up.), but that’s a 2019 goal.

Image result for $10 bill

You can’t store up your treasure in heaven, so where are you putting it here on earth?

Reader–share your favorite places to donate, whether it’s time, money, gifts, or services. Give a pitch for your favorite places in the comments and provide a link so that others can see what you are talking about and, if they like, make a donation.

Rebecca

 

 

Some other ways to talk about Indians this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. How do you talk about it with your children?

Many of us learned a story about Pilgrims and Indians sharing a happy meal of New World foods–turkey and cranberries and pumpkins. If we got into the details, we learned the difference between the Puritans and the Pilgrims and knew that the indigenous people involved were the Wampanoag. We probably didn’t learn that their leader, Massasoit, was the father of Metacom, who would mount a war against the English colonists that included attacks on more than half of their towns. When he was killed by the colonists, his head was stuck on a pike in Plymouth and remained there for 20 years, a warning sign to others indigenous people who would are rise against white colonists.

Yeah, that part doesn’t get taught very much.

Thanksgiving isn’t really about colonists and native Americans, at least not in that way. In our family, Thanksgiving hasn’t focused on that singular New England feast but a different historical event: the Civil War.

Lincoln was the president who gave us Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and he declared the holiday–the last Thursday of November*–in October 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. His Thanksgiving Proclamation begins this way:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

That’s nice, isn’t it? Thanksgiving is a harvest holiday, celebrating agricultural abundance, just like harvest holidays around the globe remind people to look to the supernatural forces that control their health and prosperity.

Even in the midst of the Civil War, he writes, things aren’t so bad:

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

No other nation has taken advantage of our distraction in war to attack us, there was limited civil unrest (Sure, Lincoln had suspended habeas corpus, but still…), and the Union was winning. Also on the plus side of things:

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

In other words, agriculture, mining, and commerce were strong. Colonization–which both North and South had pushed as a way to either expand slavery or bring more non-slave states into the Union–was continuing, and the population of Americans ready to settle the West was increasing. In Lincoln’s mind, one of the things Americans had to be grateful for was westward expansion and the colonization of indigenous lands. In 1862, Lincoln had signed the Homestead Act into law, incentivizing the movement west of eastern farmers and the migration of European farmers, including many Mennonites. The Homestead Act had been opposed by Southerners, who feared agricultural competition and thus a threat to their system of slavery. But the agricultural system that the Homestead Act supported was also racist: along with the Dawes Act, it transferred the majority of First Nation lands to white owners. This was, for Lincoln, an “increase of freedom.”

Lincoln credited these advances not to cheap land that could be opened for colonization now that Southern lawmakers were out of the way but to God, who was using war to punish Americans for our sin of slavery but also loved us enough to allow our population to expand:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

For this reason, a holiday thanking God for our fortune was appropriate:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

But, also, our feast should be accompanied by repentance for our obvious sins, with the hope that we could move on to the end of the war and the restoration of peace:

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In other words, Thanksgiving was a holiday Lincoln invented to celebrate the westward expansion that would create the economic pressure to end slavery and an effort to invoke religion to justify the violence of the war (God’s punishment for our sins) and frame a restoration of the Union as God’s goal.

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Above, a marker commemorating the largest mass execution in US history–of Sioux who had attacked white Minnesotans after the US government failed to make good on promises to feed them in exchange for land. Lincoln delayed the hanging repeatedly, in part by insisting that all correspondence about the matter occur through the postal system rather than by telegraph. Originally, 303 Sioux were sentenced the death. Lincoln, a shrewd lawyer, saw through the racism involved in their sentencing and reduced the number by more than 85%, though his political advisors argued that he would have an easier time winning re-election if he executed more. The execution is in contrast to his gentle treatment of Confederate soldiers and POWs. Below, Thaóyate Dúta, commonly known as Little Crow, a leader in the effort to push back white settlements. 

 

Image result for little crow

This makes sense coming from Lincoln, who has been described as holding a “Calvinized Deism” perspective. Despite being a bit of a religious skeptic, Lincoln spoke in ways that galvanized Northern Protestants–key actors in the war effort. His Thanksgiving Proclamation wasn’t a theological statement so much as a political one, as much about slavery as it was about Indian removal.

So, do Indians matter in Thanksgiving? Absolutely, and if you haven’t told your children the story of Metacom’s War–the bloodiest war in American history–Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to do it. But the Chippewa, Sioux, Blackfeet, Oto, Pawnee, Omaha, Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and the descendants of African slaves also matter to our Thanksgiving history.

Rebecca

*FDR moved it up, amid much criticism, to the third Thursday of the month. Why? Because we were in a recession, and retailers hoped that expanding the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas would increase the amount of money shoppers spent for the holidays. So, in other words, this has always been kind of a baloney holiday.

Readings: Do our religious values shape our politics, or the other way around?

books school stacked closed
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Republicans are now a lot more religious than Democrats, but they may not mean our religious views drive our politics. Instead, people may be choosing their religious or secular affiliations, communities, and beliefs on the basis of their partisanship. Michele Margolis finds that young adults tend to move away from religion, but only Republicans and Black Democrats come back when they start a family—leading to a big over-time decline in religion among White Democrats. But what is replacing religion for Democrats? David Campbell finds that an aversion to the religious right makes Democrats adopt secular identities and principles. Both say we should expect continued religious and political polarization, as secular and Democratic identities become more closely aligned.

I dunno. I was liberal before I started sliding away from orthodox Christian belief — and a lot of my liberalism is informed by beliefs the church shaped in me. But your mileage may vary.

“Living Means Taking Sides”

Hi Joel,

A passage from Gramsci on this election day:

I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life. That is why I hate the indifferent….

[T]the evil that weighs upon all, happens because the human mass abdicates to their will; allows laws to be promulgated that only the revolt could nullify, and leaves men that only a mutiny will be able to overthrow to achieve the power. The mass ignores because it is careless and then it seems like it is the product of fate that runs over everything and everyone: the one who consents as well as the one who dissents; the one who knew as well as the one who didn’t know; the active as well as the indifferent. Some whimper piously, others curse obscenely, but nobody, or very few ask themselves: If I had tried to impose my will, would this have happened?…

…I feel the pulse of the activity of the future city that those on my side are building is alive in their conscience. And in it, the social chain does not rest on a few; nothing of what happens in it is a matter of luck, nor the product of fate, but the intelligent work of the citizens.

Image result for voting boothNow, off to try to impose my will!

Rebecca