WHY I HATE EVERYTHING: The Thanksgiving Edition

Okay, y’all, I’m taking a break from paper checking to let you know WHY I HATE EVERYTHING. Theoretically this is a link round up from yours truly. 😉 We’ll see how that goes.

What’s inspiring a particularly burning, virulent passion in my most barren of hearts is… THANKSGIVING! I frikking hate this holiday… not because I don’t have anything to be thankful for, because I am truly blessed, but because of the icky icky politics involved in the portrayal of Native peoples. What specifically gets me riled up are the ways in which Natives become implicated in these conversations as the baddies, WHEN THEY’RE COMPLAINING ABOUT RACIST STEREOTYPES THAT DEMEAN THEIR VERY EXISTANCE. Oh god, the rage. It burns me.

The ever lovely Lisa gets sociological with it by pointing out that

American Indians are as modern as the rest of us, why are representations of American Indians, as they live today, so unusual?  And what effect might that have on the psyche of American Indian people?

Read more of her thought-provoking post here. Racialicious picked up the post here, where there’s an interesting conversation going on that involves Rob Schmidt from Blue Corn Comics, who as you no doubt recall had some great comments on Twilight.

Now, the thing is, this is not about some tragic interior monologue. Anti-Racist Parent has set up an open thread to discuss the recent case in Claremont, CA. The children of this Cali town have become the epicenter of a LIBERAL CONSPIRACY, since some of their crazy pinko parents had the AUDACITY to complain about the public school tradition surrounding Pilgrims and Indians. Please note the way the article frames this as a brown vs brown issue:

Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.

Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without “dehumanizing” her daughter’s ancestry.

“There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype,” she said.


Kathleen Lucas, a Condit parent who is of Choctaw heritage, said her son — now a first-grader — still wears the vest and feathered headband he made last year to celebrate the holiday.

“My son was so proud,” she said. “In his eyes, he thinks that’s what it looks like to be Indian.”

which I think nicely picks up on some of the themes from Lisa’s earlier post.

Finally, I’m gonna conclude by (twitch) noting the framing of the recent incident at Plimoth, where a little girl was asked to change out of her Indian costume before going on to the Wampanoag Historical Site. Several conservative sites are trying to paint this as the victory of the PC over everything else, but considering that it was a heck of a lot easier for me to find websites on Indian girls’ costumes vs. actual news articles on racism, I’d say that they are FAIL and quite possibly INCORRECT. Also, please note the fun fun conflation of racism AND sexism in their criticism of Linda Coombs, the assoc. directory involved in the incident. Calling someone a cow is always a rhetorical trick made out of FAIL.

This is exactly why my butt stays over in Books. Now I am all agitated. :( Anyways, if you’re looking for an amazing read on Native issues, please check out Andrea Smith’s Conquest, which will, I think, be my brain bleach of choice for the next few hours. If you wanna join me in getting that oh-so-clean feeling, check out the excerpt South End press has so courteously provided. I’ll get back to those papers… eventually. 😛


  1. MaggieCat says

    From the L.A. Times article:

    Among the costume supporters, there is a vein of suspicion that casts Raheja and others opposed to the costumes as agenda-driven elitists. Of the handful of others who spoke with Raheja against the costumes at the board meeting, one teaches at the University of Redlands, one is an instructor at Riverside Community College, and one is a former Pitzer College professor.

    Why do people in this country seem to hate smart people so much? Not to imply that the people on the other side of this argument aren’t (although I disagree with them) or that all professors/teachers are, but what is with the wholesale dismissal of people on the basis of having too much education that seems to be some weird point of national pride half the time? It scares the hell out of me, to tell the truth.

    Also, love the contradiction pointed out here:

    Raheja is “using those children as a political platform for herself and her ideas,” Constance Garabedian said as her 5-year-old Mountain View kindergartner happily practiced a song about Native Americans in the background. “I’m not a professor and I’m not a historian, but I can put the dots together.”

    The debate is far from over. Some parents plan to send their children to school in costume Tuesday — doubting that administrators will force them to take them off. The following day, some plan to keep their children home, costing the district attendance funds to punish them for modifying the event.

    “She’s not going to tell us what we can and cannot wear,” said Dena Murphy, whose 5-year-old son attends Mountain View. “We’re tired of [district officials] cowing down to people. It’s not right.”

    Nope, no agenda being pushed by that side at all. Only the whiny professor is trying to use her child to further her political beliefs. Wanting things to stay the same because that’s the way they’ve always been is totally different, especially the part about sending their kids to the event in costume anyway and then keeping them home the following day. Because making decisions about your child’s education to punish the district for a simple wardrobe choice that respects other people’s rights doesn’t call your motives into question at all.

  2. The OTHER Maria says

    I KNOW, right? Like somehow your opinion is invalid because you got a degree and quite possibly like to read. What the ish is THAT ish?

  3. sbg says

    Why do people in this country seem to hate smart people so much? Not to imply that the people on the other side of this argument aren’t (although I disagree with them) or that all professors/teachers are, but what is with the wholesale dismissal of people on the basis of having too much education that seems to be some weird point of national pride half the time? It scares the hell out of me, to tell the truth.

    Maggie, I have always suspected this is a knee-jerk, “You think you’re smarter (read: better) than me, don’ t you?!” reaction much of the time. No one likes to feel stupid, and they automatically go on the defensive. That’s just my fake degree in armchair psychology talking. It could be for other reasons.

    Maria, wonderful linkage! :)

  4. JenniferKesler says

    Why do people in this country seem to hate smart people so much? Not to imply that the people on the other side of this argument aren’t (although I disagree with them) or that all professors/teachers are, but what is with the wholesale dismissal of people on the basis of having too much education that seems to be some weird point of national pride half the time? It scares the hell out of me, to tell the truth.

    I was discussing with a friend last night the horror of American stupidity. So many “average Joe” citizens think Europe is a country, don’t understand basic American civics, can’t name all 50 states, etc. Meanwhile, Europeans and Canadians beat us soundly on their knowledge of our nation. And they don’t believe they have a responsibility to understand this country they claim to love and direct through their participation in the democratic process.

    I believe it all goes back to our Puritan background. They believed education corrupted the mind – all you needed to know should come from God or your preacher. Anything else was most likely from the devil. This belief is still with us among certain Christian sects – and I’m talking Southern Baptists and Evangelicals, not some obscure cult in the boonies. I’ll go so far as to assert it’s bullshit of the highest degree. Educated people can be devout Christians who see, for example, no conflict between the theory of evolution and the Biblical story of creation, crediting it all to God however it happened.

    There’s also a widespread theory that Communists ran our university system in the 60s and brainwashed our kids. It’s impossible, you see, that kids could merely have thought the 50s were fucked up and responded in kind. Must’ve been Commies makin’ ’em do it!

    This celebration of ignorance is exactly what it appears to be: the fool’s last hope for fighting its intellectual superiors in its quest for survival.

    Unfortunately, a democratic process that simply assumes at 18 you suddenly have enough intelligence to vote sensibly provides absolutely no incentive to learn. Neither does a school system that “passes” students. Neither do entire industries in which highly educated people make up shit three times removed from reality like “credit default swaps” and convince themselves this precarious house of cards can’t fall. Etc. America quite simply has it too easy, and hasn’t needed to be smart in many, many years. It’ll be interesting if this economic unheaval separates the mentally talented from the drones, and we develop some respect and appreciation for people who know something.

    (I personally believe that college education is terribly over-rated in this country, given its unqeual quality from one school to the next and one degree to the next, and telling me you have a degree or six doesn’t impress me in the slightest until you demonstrate you actually comprehend something and have original thoughts on it. But I value education – however one comes by it – highly.)

  5. gategrrl says

    I heard about the two schools in California while I was driving and listening to NPR, so I couldn’t hear the entire story. The story *also* had two viewpoints by two native American women-one, the prof who complained to the schools, then an interview of the other woman who didn’t see what was so bad. And then took callers, which included a woman from the area who said as a child, she’d been very hurt and damaged by the Indian Playacting. The interviewer commented that yes, it affected people differently-and at that point, I had to get out of the car or risk a dead battery.

    One of the callers pointed out that CA has the highest number of native Americans of any state. With such a dominant white population that *still* shafts the reservations (as far as I can tell) and a media that *still* tends to paint them in negative terms, it’s no wonder anyone’s had the guts to confront a school system about something so entrenched.

  6. The OTHER Maria says

    @Jenn — That’s one of the reasons I HEART Mona Sutphen (who wrote *The Next American Century*, reviewed here: http://thehathorlegacy.com/nina-hachigian-and-mona-sutphen-the-next-american-century-how-the-us-can-thrive-as-other-countries-rise/) so hard.

    She’s going to be one of Obama’s Dep. Chiefs of Staff, and is VERY clear that in order to strengthen America’s status in the world, we have to strengthen our children’s learnin’. 😉

    @Gategrrl: Rob Schmidt at Blue Corn Comics talks a lot about the various responses to NA stereotyping here: http://www.bluecorncomics.com/stharm.htm . The thing I think it’s important to keep in mind is that sometimes being a sane person of color is hard work. It’s a lot easier to engage in selective schizophrenia than to keep being hurt/upset/outraged at the negative media portrayal of your peeps. I’m amazed Taneja had the courage to confront the school system (especially considering the rage she’s now confronting, described here: http://www.insidebayarea.com/california/ci_11091538 ) since she’s now getting it from both angry white people, and POC who feel frustrated she’s rocking the boat.

  7. gategrrl says

    I have gone over to Blue Corn Comic’s Rob Schmidt’s article and read the links in it. It’s a good article, and it’s making me rethink the bones of a story I came up with last year (in which native Americans play a fairly large role).

    It’s *easy* to just write away without doing any research-and that’s exactly what Meyers has done, apparently, in her Twilight series. She’s even said that she didn’t research vampire lore. That’s all well and good; going in cold can mean an “uncontaminated” personal vampire lore: but NOT researching actual living tribes and the histories of extinct tribes (such as we know them now) is irresponsible. I guess Meyer’s only excuse is that she wasn’t expecting her books to be such a huge hit.

    In any case, the niggle that was in the back of my brain about my own characters has turned into a huge flashing red neon sign telling me I’d better do some homework.

    But back to the main topic at hand–I’m glad Taneja has gotten some backing from others about this topic.

    Hmm. The interviewer on NPR read a portion of the letter she wrote to the school administration–she said that if the situation was “Slave and Masters” with the children dressed in slave costume (whatever that is) and the others dressed in plantation era garb, it wouldn’t cross anyone’s mind to do it this way.

    My take-native Americans have the added layer (similar to the Magic Black Negro) of the Noble Savage. And the Thanksgiving celebrants recreate Thanksgiving under the flag of the Noble Savage. I guess that makes it all better?

    Hmm. I don’t remember the children in my son’s elementary school dressing up this year with the head bands and feathers or as pilgrims. I wonder if this incident raised some questions afar afield as our school system.

  8. Charles RB says

    One of the blogs links to a blog that has CNN coverage where an old woman, in defence of dressing the children up anyway when they know it offends people they’re “dressing as”, said “the children like dressing up”.

    Okay then. The protestors just don’t want you dressed as Native Americans. The kids can dress up as other pilgrims then. Or, I dunno, turkeys or Cybermen. False dilemma.

    (Though the blog also referred to this as “whiteness” while the CNN clip showed Asian and black parents/kids in the march dressed up, which was… odd.)

  9. The OTHER Maria says

    Which blog was it?

    I really hate the ways in which commentators sometimes forget that brown/black folk can engage in racism…. especially in this particular scenario, which I think honestly has a lot more to do with nationalism+racism than just racism.

  10. Charles RB says

    Other Maria: This blog – http://www.womanist-musings.com/2008/11/teaching-young-to-disrespect-indigenous.html

    I agree, it’s damaging to discourse to act like racial minorities aren’t also capable of being racist. It’s too widespread to pretend this.

    And this got noticed by me again as a very rich and high-profile Indian-born immigrant in the UK made a statement saying we should not let any immigrants into the UK for a decade. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/21/20081130/tuk-close-uk-borders-says-curry-king-6323e80.html

  11. The OTHER Maria says

    …wow. And what sucks is that he has a good point — what jobs immigrants are/aren’t doing often gets mobilized against them in xenophobic rhetoric. But the execution of that point? Oh, fail.

  12. Charles RB says

    The fact he’s a rich immigrant saying this just makes it dodgier.

    Then there’s the fact he’s saying “we must do this to undermine groups like the BNP” – because they certainly won’t go “hey look, even this darkie agrees with us, we MUST be correct and totally not racist!”.

  13. says

    What the ish is THAT ish?

    It’s a conscious choice by faux populists to demonize education and uphold as a (false) contrast the ideal of Manly Strength. It’s been going on documentably since the early 20th century, and it isn’t just an American thing – Umberto Eco, as popularized by Orcinus, noted it as one of the classic, diagnostic symptoms of the fascism that he lived through as a boy in Italy.

    Obviously there are different sorts of it, and the version here has become completely schizophrenic as conservative pundits swing between praising “Joe Sixpack” and sneering at “Ivory Tower Elitists” – and wailing that The West Has Fallen because John Donne and William Shakespeare are no longer taught in college thanks to the efforts of anti-intellectual PC liberals – and then back again!

    Jennifer, in actuality the Puritans valued education highly – they set up Harvard to promote all forms of study from ancient languages to the sciences so as to be able to understand God better, very much the opposite of outfits like Bob Jones University. I haven’t been able to nail down an exact point in time when a conscious disvaluing of education, whether formal or informal, became mainstream – but it doesn’t seem to have come into either European or American discourse much before WWI.

    Prior to then, you find instead the mainstream notion on all sides that education is something to aspire to, whether the selfish fiscal elites trying to keep it for themselves, *or* the philanthropic ones trying to uplift *everybody*, or the working class trying to acquire it to get out of poverty, you find all around the sense that smarter + better-informed = improved quality of life. Ignorance and stupidity are still being regarded as negatives, well into the 20s and 30s, though the faux-populist thing is well-entrenched as well by 1935 per Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here.

    The media’s uplifting of the square-jawed hero who *primarily* solves problems with his fists and the making of the scientist or “smart” characters increasingly invariably baddies, until we fell behind in the Space Race (frex) is a problem of larger scope than I can tackle, but it isn’t totally unrelated to the fact that Leo Strauss thought Westerns were perfectly suited to instilling proper virtue into the American population…

  14. SunlessNick says

    It’s a conscious choice by faux populists to demonize education and uphold as a (false) contrast the ideal of Manly Strength.

    This reminds me of two things. First, from this post by Jenn:

    “She’s got a much higher IQ than he has, but he has street smarts or cleverness or homespun wisdom or really simplistic ideas that turn out to be brilliant. In short, she’s a genius, but he’s somehow still smarter than she is.”

    Second, a line from a novel by Brian Stableford – “Rules are there to protect the strong” – the character in question is talking about rules of combat, and how those tactics that tend to be considered dishonourable are those which could level the playing field between a strong and weak combatant.

    Putting those two together: intelligence and knowledge are two things that can also do that. Indeed, while we aren’t as physically incapable compared to other animals as is often said, those are the main reasons we made it alive through the Ice Age.

    but it doesn’t seem to have come into either European or American discourse much before WWI.

    So when a war kicks off, and “Stength Strength Strength” is used as the metaphor or summary for how it can be won, anything that can counter strength gets devalued, and seen as somehow treacherous – including intelligence, in favour of “simple, honest truths.”

    Plus, thinking leads to questioning. Especially of “simple honest truths” that may be neither honest nor true.

  15. says

    Jennifer, in actuality the Puritans valued education highly

    Mea culpa! You know what’s embarrassing? I typed that, thought to myself “I’d better research that, as I may have gotten it from a horror movie or something”, then got interrupted for several hours by about 12 different things, and came back with no memory that what I had typed needed a re-check. :)

    I just spent some time trying to figure out where the idea that education corrupts faith came from, and I’m not having any luck, and now have 12 other things I need to go do, as usual. The idea is certainly in full-force among American Christians nowadays – “the Scripture teaches us all we need to know” – but it could certainly be argued to go back as far as the Scopes Trial (during which such arguments were raised). So I’ll just say it’s a long-standing tradition in America, and one we should be ashamed of.

  16. MaggieCat says

    I think fundamentalist religion might have just decided to ally with a convenient idea that was already growing. There’s been a tradition for centuries of religious groups having issues with art and artists for being “immoral”, and those things became inextricably associated with higher education around the same time that the general public in the U.S. (at least the first I can remember reading about) started becoming majorly distrustful of the people who had access to it, so the church picking up that idea to go along with the anti-art sentiment was win/win: appeals to the growing populist sentiment and makes it easier to steer people away from anything you might not want them around. (Or we could just blame Darwin. He’s already gotten blamed for plenty of other stuff, one more thing can’t make that much of a difference. 😉 )

    The first I can remember from reading of the Boo College feeling was the late-ish 19th century — notably not long after US territory expanded considerably and people were suddenly way more spread out and isolated in rural communities where practical skills were clearly more valuable to daily life than further study which at the time focussed heavily on the classics. Add in a natural tendency to distrust people from far away telling you what to do, the growing idealization of the ‘self-made man’ above inherited wealth and it’s not a big jump to holding a certain disdain for people who couldn’t survive where you live but still think of you as dumb. (Where “dumb”= “uneducated”, which: clearly not, but also not a huge leap. It’s human nature to assume that everyone knows what you know and, sadly, to sometimes react unflatteringly when they don’t.)

    What I don’t get is why we’re still doing it NOW. You can get through your entire educational career without being expected to read Latin and there are schools that focus on almost anything. Not everyone wants to keep going to school beyond a certain point. That’s fine, follow your star. (Or people like me, who want to but can’t at the moment for various reasons.) But the widespread dislike for people who do want to or have on the basis of that fact alone just confuses the hell out of me.

  17. says

    I just spent some time trying to figure out where the idea that education corrupts faith came from, and I’m not having any luck, and now have 12 other things I need to go do, as usual.

    Can’t you just use your time machine to clone yourself like in Calvin & Hobbes? That’s my plan for getting on top of things – just as soon as I find a big enough cardboard box…

    But seriously, the weird glorification of anti-intellectualism in 20th-century US culture is a very hard thing to nail down. I think, like a lot of things herenow, we really have to go back to pre-colonial England to find the roots, but my feeling is that it’s a fusion of a number of things that go back all the way to Classical antiquity, a bunch of different, often conflicting memes that have the right circumstances to form a “perfect storm” in post-WWI America – and Europe, too, (though I don’t think it’s a uniquely “Western” thing, given the radical anti-intellectualism of the Khmer, frex.)

    There was always an attitude that booklarnin’s for sissies, REAL men go out and kill, contradicting the “warrior poet” idea, and this isn’t a class-limited thing tho’ in my experience the motivations are different depending on social class: among the working caste, you find a lot of “sour grapes” as well as looking for something to be proud of in the teeth of upper-class scorn – maybe I couldn’t afford to go to college, but can *you* wrestle a steer or wrangle a net on an icy deck or load fifteen tons of coal, Harvard boy? While from the upper crust there’s the old attitude that book-learnings for losers who can’t count on an inheritance or plum appointments from their fellow peers – second sons and tradesmen and widows and other people who can’t afford to go huntin’, fishin’, shootin’ during the season, or otherwise spend time and money in the “sporting set.”

    Surreally, American conservatives from the past century on have managed to combine both upward and downward pressures against scholarly values – while at the SAME time claiming to be the onlie defenders of Real True Culture and art. This way madness lies – or lay. And yes, clearly it is all tied up with brittle, artificial standards of masculinity… standards which for all insecure American pop culture’s dismissal are just as old and strong in Britain, if manifesting in different ways: the bookish boy who doesn’t want to play football or cricket always faced pressure over being “abnormal,” even in Ye Good Olde Dayes.

    Then there’s the rise of a kind of modern Gnosticism, which as a phenomenon goes all the way back to pre-Christian Magna Graeca, at least – the belief that there is one set of obvious, but wrong or incomplete data for the mundanes, and another set of secret, TRUE data for the initiated.

    The various Mysteries, the neo-Platonists and Hermetic traditions, all of this feeds into/comes out of the part of the human psyche that wants to be special and superior, and also the part that realizes that the pat explanations we get for so many things are just inadequate at best, or just plain *wrong* that you have to start looking for answers elsewhere – and the often-valid lack of trust that results, in your existing authority figures – which people who are insecure or not comfortable with abstract thinking and boundary crossing deal with by finding *new*, cooler Authorities to follow.

    Both conspiracism, and joining secret societies; rejecting EVERYTHING in books and going out to set up your own Grand Unified Theory; rejecting your interpretation of “mainstream culture” and joining another, more exclusive group out of rebellion – all of this is part of it. The fact that everybody says you’re crazy just proves how Manly and Strong and Right you are!

    Also “proving” whatever theory or passion is dearest to one’s heart – see also the creation/adoption of whole realms of Atlantean/Lemurian crystal-based pseudo-science in the last century, still going strong in the US and UK based on the fliers and ads I see for “psychic fairs” in the greater Boston area. (The ability to make money off True Believers also cannot be ignored as an impetus to support this class of attitudes.)

    Muggletonianism seems to be one fairly-recent manifestation of this sort of DIY-gnostic-science-rejecting Christianity – from pre-Colonial England, mind you – and it involves (as always) the creation of an elaborate alternate system to explain everything that has been rejected.

    Another, secular one has been created to validate nationalistic pride (like a lot of the whole-cloth inventions of “Celtic” history starting in the late 1700s, e.g. the Ossianic “myths” cycle) – and such nationalism is always a manifestation of machismo – by a Russian mathmatician – again, here’s a good example of how it’s not *exactly* “anti-intellectualism” but more a picking-and-choosing of which intellectual authorities one wants to believe: huge amounts of archeological research have been funded by fundamentalists trying to “prove” the literal truth of the Bible, which has dug up a lot of real stuff, and has also been subject to wishthinkful interpretation (and resulted in Christians repeatedly getting punked with forged or altered artifacts purporting to supply a genuine relic, plus ca change) – the guy’s a mathematician, not exactly low-IQ profession there, but he is NOT a historian, doesn’t understand how the whole provenance thing works any more than I understand the quadratic equation, and in his pride and desire he feels free to ditch it all and make up his own.

    And other people adopt this, for their own reasons, and hey, if you reject it, YOU’RE the real anti-intellectual, just like all those flat earthers in the past! You’re just Afraid Of The Truth!

    I don’t think, in short, that there’s a single simple cause, but that the combination of a bunch of basic human urges – mainly pride/need to feel superior, insecurity about existence/ need for certainty, and fear of Being Wrong – create a perfect opportunity for the half-educated/self-educated control freak to either make, or buy into, a hermetic system (bad pun, sorry) that Explains It All and gives them a pedastal to look down on all those gullible fools who buy into the standard version of reality – the very existence of which both threatens the True Believers terribly, and gives them meaning through their struggles against it.

    Whether it’s the Truth of the secret workings of the universe as revealed by psychedelic drugs, or the Truth of a Dan Brown, or the Truth of abiogenic petroleum, or the Truth of “The Bell Curve”, or the Truth of the infallibility of the King James Version Only, it all has that in common.

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