Let My People Go

I am either 1/64 or 1/128th or 1/256th American Indian, depending upon which genealogy records you believe and various other

Former Chief of the Shoshone tribe.  Picture courtesy of IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork.com
Former Chief of the Shoshone tribe. Picture courtesy of IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork.com

assumptions one might make about the reliability of the white man’s records at a time when denying the purity of an Indian’s blood was a profitable endeavor.    Six generations ago there was a Cassman who tangled with the central government, fought business enemies, fathered a bunch of children, made some bad decisions, drank too much, and….well, ended up dead in a hollowed out tree in central Indiana in a snowstorm.

A quote from the Indiana Historical Magazine:

Such facts as are known of him do not honor him in his distinction as the first recorded land owner in this county. He had the Indian thirst for whisky, and had neither the thrift nor industry to develop his land and become a factor of civilization. Examination of documents, however, seems to reveal the more complex picture of a bewildered Indian trying to cope with official red tape, unresponsive agents, and Jacksonian policies in handling Indian affairs. Cassman was hampered by his poverty, lack of education and business acumen; by the white man’s prejudice, greed, and impatience to possess the land; and especially by his own frequent intemperance. Cassman obtained whiskey at stores kept by white men who then hypocritically condemned his use of it.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, that explains things”.  Perhaps.  My father and his father and his father all seemed to be hardworking, law-abiding, humble Midwestern folk who served in the armed forces, led decent lives and were content raising their families and living in obscurity.

What’s the point of this?  Well, I’m shocked, shocked to see how our government is treating my brothers on the reservation.  Read this:

Like Cliven Bundy, Raymond Yowell operated a small cattle ranch in Nevada, and refused to pay the federal government grazing fees to which they are neither morally nor legally entitled.  In May 2002, the BLM mounted a paramilitary operation to confiscate Yowell’s 132-head cattle herd for refusal to pay grazing fees. The rustlers then billed the rancher $180,000, and began to garnish his monthly Social Security check when he declined to honor their impudent demand.

Yowell, 84, is a former chief of the Te-Moak Band of the Western Shoshone tribe. His ancestors were among the signatories of the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty with the federal government, which recognized the tribe’s sovereignty over a 24 million acre swath of western lands the Shonshone called Newe Segobia – “The Land of the People of Mother Earth.”

As is the case with every such agreement, the federal government acted in cynical bad faith, using the treaty to secure a foothold within a territory slated for assimilation into the continent-straddling behemoth being constructed through Manifest Destiny.

While demanding that the Shoshone refrain from interfering with telegraph lines and stagecoach routes, the Feds did nothing to discourage or deter illegal settlements on Shoshone land. In 1962 – one year shy of the centennial of the Ruby Valley Treaty – the federal Indian Claims Commission proclaimed that this pattern of federally abetted “gradual encroachment” by Euro-American settlers and speculators had “extinguished” all Shoshone claims to their lands.

In the fashion of a rapist who offers to buy his victim breakfast in order to re-fashion his crime into a “date,” the Feds offered to….

I suggest you read the rest.  (Don’t follow this link if you are easily upset by evidence the history you were taught in government school might have been…incomplete).






Johnnie Went Home

Johnnie was from a poor farming town in central western Mississippi on the river with a population smaller than the prison camp in which he now lived. He had innumerable brothers and sisters that I imagined all ran barefoot around the cotton plantation on which they were, essentially, sharecroppers. He was 12 when Emmit Till was murdered in nearby Money, Mississippi.

He called to me from across the enormous, open bay at the bottom of the stairs where the  blacks would gather to cook, laugh, scheme and taunt one another and where he would sit by one of the few working radiators to keep his feet and hands warm.  He was 71, obese, illiterate and suffered from diabetes, prostate cancer, recurring heart attacks, arthritis and the insolence of the young blacks whom he said “don’t know no better”.

Johnnie was from a poor farming town in central western Mississippi on the river with a population smaller than the prison camp in which he now lived.  He had innumerable brothers and sisters that I imagined all ran barefoot around the cotton plantation on hands-on-bars1which they were, essentially, sharecroppers.  He was 12 when Emmit Till was murdered in nearby Money, Mississippi, and quickly joined the ranks of many of the peaceful protesters and activists of that generation.  He knew Medgar Evars and marched with Martin Luther King, which as far as I can tell, every American black and most whites living in the United States, did at some point.  He couldn’t understand my disdain for Sharpton and Jackson, although he granted they seemed to be more interested in politics and making money than helping “poor folk”.

He eventually moved to Memphis, married his childhood sweetheart, had a bunch of children and was active in his church, community and Democratic politics.  I enjoyed his company immensely because I felt like I was in the south while I was with him.  He enjoyed my company because I could translate what he said to the white Yankees who made up 1/3 of the population there and because I could read his correspondence, explain his legal mail and type for him.

I had studied the criminal code night and day for two years and read thousands of indictments, petitions, appeals and rulings, which meant I had more insight into the code, procedures and individual cases of the men than most of the attorneys who had ‘represented’ them.  I knew enough Latin to understand the judicial colloquialisms and have known enough attorneys to know what they are thinking, who they are afraid of, and what constitutes success in their world to read between the lines of their correspondence.  What I had to say to convicts was rarely welcomed but always accurate.

Johnnie knew every politician worth knowing in West TN who could be bought or frightened by the black community, which naturally meant he knew all the Democrats in office west of Jackson, although I guess those were the only kind back in the day.  He leveraged his relationships in the church, in the civil rights movement and in politics to develop several successful small businesses in Memphis.  The first time I referred to “Memphrica” as Mogadishu on the Mississippi, he said in his deep baritone, and interrupted by a phlegmatic coughing fit, “Jeff, Memphis has always been a chocolate town, but it used to be run right.  Now aint nobody got no respect for nobody else and they live like animals.  The white folk just leave but where can we go?”.

I don’t know how Johnnie was successful in his little enterprises, given his lack of education, illiteracy and naivete.  Perhaps it was his affability, sincerity, network and hard work.  Those things eventually failed him, because after he managed to sell one business and buy an even larger one, it all came crashing down on him.  The business he acquired bought and sold steel drums which occasionally arrived at his location with undeclared toxins.  Not knowing what to do about it and not daring to challenge those he bought from, he just started storing them.  It’s easy to see how someone else might see how Johnnie handled the toxins and shuttled their own problem his way.  Eventually his political contacts couldn’t get regulators to look the other way.  Because he lacked the appropriate permits-or shall I dare say, the IQ to understand what those permits might have said-he agreed to an EPA fine that would bankrupt him, sold the business, and agreed to plead to a criminal act believing it would bring an end to the nightmare that had once been the justification for his dreams of a modest retirement.

Instead, he received a three year sentence in federal prison.  As I worked through the stacks of paper which showed his obvious incompetence at managing employees effectively or leading a business of any regulatory complexity, I could see the violations of the law were obvious, and potentially serious (although knowing how things work myself I doubted whether Johnnie was in fact conspiring with Al Qaeda to import and store bio-weapons in his neighborhood).  I heard hour upon hour of his story of helping young black men try to straighten out their lives and families and contribute to their community rather than adding to its misery.

Every few days Johnnie would breathlessly track me down to tell me about a story he’d heard on TV and ask whether I thought it might mean he could go home early.  He was seriously ill, he told me.  His wife was ill.  His family was coming apart, sons abandoning their wives, grandsons embracing drugs, granddaughters getting pregnant, hooked on drugs, having babies, having abortions, disappearing.  After Obama’s election, Johnnie was beaming for days and was certain the “Freedom Bus” would be arriving to take the blacks “home”, possibly with Mr. Obama driving himself.

Johnnie was prejudiced, just like me.  He had a perception of the white man that had been set many decades before and was largely grounded in reality.  He did not hate me for being white, or for the stereotypes I held of young black men which he agreed were most often correct.  But he did not try to hide his desperate hope that some special consideration would be given to the black men who had suffered from the injustice and disparity of the criminal justice system, and perhaps, of society itself which had not been designed to solve the problems of his people.

I spoke simply and bluntly to him and told him I did not believe Obama would grant special consideration to the black men in prison, and I think I broke his heart.  I know he cried when I told him that, yes, I was quite sure, that even with a black attorney general, I did not think it would happen.  He choked back tears and with a huge lump in his throat, patted me on the shoulder and said, “I know you understand these things better than I”.

He would rush to the TV every time there was rumor that sentencing reform would send every black man home, but even as reform came to pass, it was modest and affected only non-violent drug offenders, not Johnnie, who ironically-although I never shared my love of painful irony with him-was considered white collar.  He must have been the least sophisticated white collar criminal ever to serve a three year federal prison sentence.

The young blacks had no use for Johnnie, and neither did the young whites.  The Mexicans always keep to themselves, and so Johnnie found few comrades in prison, and often struggled up and down stairs and into bed on his own.  Books had no great value for him, exercise was out of the question, and he wasn’t interested in the TV options, limited largely to BET, WWF or shows about prison.  The only occasions I remember seeing Johnnie out of his bunk were when a black preacher would visit.  At those times he would press his uniform as well as he could, shine his shoes and linger in the chapel as long as allowed.

The last time I saw Johnnie, he was sitting in his sweat suit by the door, letting the December sun and the 30 year old radiator do what his heart could no longer.  He was humming a tune and rocking gently, coughing as he always did.  I couldn’t make out the tune he was humming over the screaming and gang-rapping at the other end of the room, but I liked to think it was a gospel hymn from the church where he had served as a deacon.

I left Marion and heard a month later the Bureau of Prisons had finally relented and was sending Johnny to the halfway house in Memphis early given his extreme health condition and advanced age.  I knew that he had a chance for early release, because the Bureau of Prisons doesn’t want to bear the high costs of medical care for the terminally ill, so if there is any way they can shift that burden to another federal agency or the inmate, that is an inmate with a chance of early release.

And so it was for Johnny, who could be covered by ObamaCare, Medicare, or Medicaid.  He was released to the halfway house in Memphis in January, and died the following day.  Less than a month later, his wife of 51 years died, of heart failure.

How to Be Miserable, Forever

Hatred often reveals itself in violent and stunning flashes, envy eats away predictably, consistently, eternally and often serves to cover up it’s owner’s shame because the emotions it brings forth from that well of victimization which it has carved out serve to block whatever remaining conscience the owner has remaining, leaving them in a perpetual state of self-inflicted pain and pity

I have known many envious people in my life, and never found their company pleasurable.  While hatred can be satisfying for a envybrief time, even entertaining when its excess boils over into comical antics, envy burns somewhat more discreetly but far more insidiously.  While hatred often reveals itself in violent and stunning flashes, envy eats away predictably, consistently, eternally and often serves to cover up it’s owner’s shame because the emotions it brings forth from that well of victimization which it has carved out serve to block whatever remaining conscience the owner has remaining, leaving them in a perpetual state of self-inflicted pain and pity.

This life we live here, satiated in every physical way and yet so desperately hungry in the ways that matter, serves as a frequent exhibition of this pitiful vice.  I am reminded of it often as I hear petty criticisms spew forth from the mouths of those who, having been failures in whatever pursuit they began, find pleasure only in lamenting others.  No matter how far they have fallen, they always find something to resent in another, usually, more quietly suffering individual.  I am not immune from it, in fact, I am the worst of them, because having been granted by God greater fortune than most, I still find the time to wonder, indeed, seethe, why it is that I cannot compose prose like Hemingway, or music like Mozart or thoughts like Aristotle, although I would not desire any of their lives.  I am merely a plodder, and worse, a pedantic, according to my critics, but my life has been rich.

And yet I cannot but be irritated to find the Supreme Pontiff urging me and those like me to turn to the State in hopes that society’s ills will be solved-or even lessened-if only we will a) transfer our wealth to Big Brother and b) trust Big Brother to look after us.  In the old days, Popes would exhort people to turn to Christ and to give all their belongings to the poor (or at least to the Church), and that this would bring about eternal happiness.  Many a Protestant church was founded and funded on this very promise.  But those are the old ways, and the new ways are like honey for our ears, right?  Why give to the poor, or to the church, when we can give to the government, or rather, submit to the government’s coercive power through unwilling confiscation even when we find it morally objectionable.  So why do I find the Francis way so…repulsive?

Because it is neither the divine way or the way of tradition.  In the very story which the Pontiff cited, Luke 19 and the story of the repentant Zaccheus, we do not find Zaccheus turning over the greater portion of his wealth to Ceasar for the Emperor to distribute according to his understanding of the common good, but rather, this man moved by God to give half of his wealth to the poor and to repay four-fold anyone whom he had harmed.  Perhaps the divine physician neglected the part about the state in this matter-although he seemed wise enough to the ways of the world to include Ceasar’s role here.

Catholics have always believed that corporal works of mercy are obligatory, that is to say:

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

After the ink had dried, apostolic successors continued to teach faithfully the essence of Christ’s message.  And yet even this has been co-opted by the Marxists.  Just today I engaged an apologist for the far left in a conversation about this matter and he dared to cite Rerum Novarum in support of Francis’ redistribution scheme.  For those 99% of you who have never heard of one of Pope Leo XII’s outstanding encyclicals, it is a brilliant defense of traditional Christian teaching regarding authentic “social justice”.  Nowhere in that encyclical will you find the word “redistribution”, and when Leo XIII mentions the role of the state he writes:

Now a State chiefly prospers and thrives through moral rule, well-regulated family life, respect for religion and justice, the moderation and fair imposing of public taxes, the progress of the arts and of trade, the abundant yield of the land-through everything, in fact, which makes the citizens better and happier. Hereby, then, it lies in the power of a ruler to benefit every class in the State, and amongst the rest to promote to the utmost the interests of the poor; and this in virtue of his office, and without being open to suspicion of undue interference – since it is the province of the commonwealth to serve the common good.

Regrettably, among modern Catholics, who are far more distasteful than a zealous bible-only evangelical whose simplicity covers up for an array of theological blunders, there is a tendency towards neo-ultramontanism, i.e., the “Pope is always right because he’s the Pope” argument.  This was condemned at the First Vatican Council but is popular today, especially among reverts and converts from fundamentalism.  They have rejected the personality cults of their former fundamentalist preachers for a similarly unthinking and mistaken cult-like following of the Bishop of Rome.  This is not the Catholicism that protestants, Jews and Muslims once respected and feared, but a ‘movement’ that is now laughed at.  If the people who have opposed the Church from the beginning are happy, and those who left it out of a sense of conscience now find it embarrassing and the Muslims who have fought it for 1400 years have long since abandoned respect, in what corners will the Church find sanctuary (or converts)?  If no one fears the Vicar of Christ, what does that say for the authority he wields or for the respect they would give He whom he represents?

I do not recall however, ever having heard, except from the lavender mafiosa and the Junta de la Theologica Liberacion, how these corporal works previously mentioned are mercy are to outsourced, or to use a less offensive and literal word, delegated, to the State.  Were we to follow this highly imprudent counsel, we would be depriving ourselves of the opportunity to do good works, to merit grace by our voluntary cooperation with the will of God and our co-redemptive act of sacrifice, and further, we would be squandering our wealth and depriving the poor of benefit, for we all know the government can be counted on only to do very poorly and at great expense what we could do easily, more effectively and quickly and at no cost.  Innumerable pompous community volunteers will be employed by the central government to give what remains of your money away to a very small number of their friends and relatives.  They might even be truly deserving, but instead of seeing in their benefactors the graciousness and selflessness of a Christian, they will see the benevolence of their ruler.  And they will vote for him, over, and over again.

I fear the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires has been infected by that same fallacious, Marxist reasoning which claims that if the rich are getting ‘richer’, the poor are somehow harmed.  Although my net worth today is only a fraction of what it once was, and in fact may be negative by many zeroes considering my future unfunded liabilities, I am in no way harmed by Warren Buffett’s growing wealth, unless it is my own envy that eats away at my heart, which is already troubled enough by the prospect of finding two suitable convents for my daughters (they don’t get along).

There is no evidence, however, the poor are harmed by the accumulation of wealth by the rich.  In fact, the evidence strongly condemns this theory; the poor today suffer from diseases which 100 years ago were rare even among nobility, viz., obesity and diabetes.  It is better to be poor today in the United States (and most places) than to have been royalty in the houses of Europe 100 years ago.  On yet another anecdotal level, I find as I drive through the ghetto that the average car parked in front of houses there  is many years newer than mine and the quantity of gold and silver worn by the people similar to that held by an affluent Indian jewelry merchant.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not envy their possessions, I have had them (and then some), and lost it, and found I don’t miss it.  Those possessions are like shiny anchors.  At best, they weigh you down and you worry about using them.  But they are not truly poor (except in the only way it matters).

And yet Francis is popular and so are those who share that sorely misguided worldview.  His popularity is a testament not to the world’s thirsty longing for truth but to their degree of surrender to envy.  If only Obama were a little less smug and a little more competent he, too, would still be popular.  But that’s another story.

Sic transit gloria mundi!

Special Night With Dad

As often as possible I host “Special Night With Dad” for each of the kids.  It’s their opportunity to have one on one time with me, doing something they enjoy together, or just watching a movie, or in the case of my teenage sons, my watching them set speed and quantity records at a local restaurant.

When you have a big family, the little ones fight for attention, and so often times their “Special Night With Dad” involves a lot of them talking to me and asking questions.  This happens even during the course of the movie they may have picked out to watch.  In the most recent case, it was Paul’s “special night” and he had chosen to watch “Hobbit 2:  Desolation of Smaug” and at the end of that movie, well past his bed time, he continued the conversation.  I thought some of you all might enjoy the very entertaining conversation that ensued.  Thanks to #1 for editing help.