Brian Hamilton: Where are you on the playground?
November 28, 2017
OK, put down your pencils. How many of you took last week's assignment and saw the movie "Wonder?" Anyone? Anyone?
I did. And it was everything I'd hope it would be, after reading R.J. Palacio's novel by the same name.
From initial reports, the film is exceeding expectations at the box office, which I'm hopeful will continue as Palacio's "meditation on kindness" is being brought to a much wider audience via the big screen. And, as I said last week, it couldn't be released at a better time.
The story offers an introspective look into the life of a young boy with a facial deformity that has people staring, often leading him to feel anything but normal as he attends a "regular school" for the first time. And, course, the playground bully makes much more than a cameo appearance.
When dealing with a bully, silence is acquiescence. ... Where are you on the playground? What are you going to say? Anything?
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"When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."
That's the message. Considering what currently seems a caustic, crass and cynical climate in our country, it's a message worth hearing, and sharing.
And it's a message that someone should soon deliver to our president.
After all, isn't that essentially what his "Pocahontas" commentary boiled down to on Monday? It was clearly an opportunity to choose between being right and being kind. President Trump chose "being right" by taking a political potshot at Senator Elizabeth Warren and what she's said is her Native American heritage. Whatever one thinks of Warren, or the president's put-down of her, this was neither the time or place. But that didn't stop him, even as he honored three World War II Navajo Code Talkers for their service to their country.
"You're very, very special people," Trump said. "You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas. But you know what. I like you. Because you are special."
Get it? Pocahontas? Don't get the joke? You are not alone.
"Pocahontas was a pre-teen who was kidnapped, held hostage & raped by European invaders," Ruth H. Hopkins, a Dakota & Lakota (Sioux) writer tweeted Monday. "Stop using her name as a racial slur & how dare you insult these brave Native men who risked their lives for this country."
"By the way," she tweeted, "Trump is insulting these Native veterans in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Natives by way of the Indian Removal Act & the Trail of Tears. He & his men made horse reins from Native skin."
How's that for a history lesson? It seems a far cry from that first Thanksgiving feast we heard so much about last week. But then again, we've long ago acknowledged the atrocities of our ancestors against our indigenous peoples. We no longer consider anyone less than equal, right? Our horrific treatment of Native Americans is ancient history.
You've heard of that National Football League team in Washington D.C., known as the "Redskins"? You've seen that logo for the Cleveland Indians, the red-faced, wide-smiling caricature "Chief Wahoo"? And surely you've read of legal battles between tribes, such as the Standing Rock Sioux, and the United States government, over pipeline construction on or near Native American land — which our country long ago promised would be their own.
Yeah, ancient history.
Closer to home, our community recently celebrated Nisenan Heritage Day to help preserve our local tribe's culture and honor its identity. The annual event, now in its eighth year, is geared to educate the community about the Nisenan people, which in 1964 lost its federal recognition at the Nevada City Rancheria, and its land on Cement Hill Road in Nevada City.
And to top it off, as they've sought to have their recognition reinstated, another tribe — the Tsi Akim Maidu — apparently convinced local officials, including the 2001 Board of Supervisors, to believe its members were our native people. The Nevada County Historical Society rescinded its endorsement of the Tsi Akim Maidu in 2010, after an investigation found that the board did not "critically examine the resolution" it approved in 2000 at the tribe's request, "but rather adopted it as a gesture of good will," according to a committee report. "In retrospect, this committee now sees that (adopting the resolution) was a mistake."
Our more recent history, it seems, also need amends.
From the top
The blowback over President Trump's "Pocahontas" jab isn't about political correctness.
It's not about policy. Elections do have consequences. And the election is long over. Get over it.
This isn't about Obama or Hillary. And it isn't about left or right. It's about right and wrong.
As many Americans see it, including members of his own party, it's about being presidential and leading by example.
"It was uncalled for," Marty Thompson, whose great-uncle was a Navajo Code Talker, told the Associated Press. "He can say what he wants when he's out doing his presidential business among his people, but when it comes to honoring veterans or any kind of people, he needs to grow up and quit saying things like that."
His daily attacks on the media, at least those that report stories he doesn't like, has led the term "fake news" to be named "Word of the Year." His attack on John McCain, whose sacrifice and service to our country is beyond reproach, degraded the veteran for being captured as a prisoner of war. His mocking of a reporter with a disability was disgusting. His treatment of former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, following a GOP debate, was beyond the pale. And even in a speech to the Boy Scouts of America, the president could not resist his political rhetoric, for which the Boy Scouts were the ones to actually apologize.
We should be able to expect our president to stand up for all Americans. We want our leaders to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. But the truth is President Trump all too often only stands for himself. His pattern of behavior, lashing out at seemingly anyone who disagrees with him, is well established. He's clearly an equal opportunity offender.
What we have is a Bully In Chief. And it's time for all Americans, of all political stripes, to pull together and step up to address that.
When dealing with a bully, silence is acquiescence. Just like the characters in "Wonder," we have a choice.
Where are you on the playground?
What are you going to say?
Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4249.