Postcard From The People’s Republic Of Lincoln
October 12, 2016 (Fault Lines) — SHG, our mean-ass editor, has rightly decried the bastardization of language. He correctly points out that making language mean whatever we want it to mean makes us dumber and dumber. The same concern exists when we fiddle with history to suit our feelz.
For those of you who don’t live in the middle of the country, you probably think Lincoln, Nebraska is the hot bed of skinhead wackos who drive pickups with gun racks. Not so. It is a university town with tons of Birkenstocks, smelly tweed and facile thinking.
As this goes to press, it is a Columbus Day, a perfectly innocuous federal and state holiday that celebrates when Chris sailed the ocean blue all those centuries ago. For Italian-Americans, Columbus Day is a big deal, but not in Lincoln. The city never celebrated Columbus Day until now.
But here’s the trick. This year the Lincoln City Council unanimously adopted October 12 as “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Supporters speaking at the city council meeting explained why:
Christopher Columbus did not discover North America, many who spoke Monday pointed out, and Columbus was a murderer, a sex trafficker and a slave trader, they said.
“When I was in school I was taught to believe Columbus was some kind of hero,” said Bernard Vance, a member of the Omaha Tribe. “It is well documented he was a mass murderer and a rapist among other things.”
Nancy Hicks, Council adds Indigenous People’s Day to calendar, Lincoln Journal-Star (Sep 26, 2016).
Now, I am all for revisionist history—highlighting what you like and ignoring the rest. Used acerbically, it can be great fun! But if you aren’t careful, it can make you terminally stupid.
You can always make old white guys out to be monsters. Take for example, Presidents’ Day. Truth is that Thomas Jefferson, one of the (former?) patron saints of progressives everywhere, owned slaves and was too damn cheap to free them at the time of his death. He did not even free Sally Hemmings, his black mistress with whom he fathered six children. See The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings: A Brief Account.
But the same is also true for indigenous people. They could be murders, sex traffickers and slave traders just like our boy Chris.
Consider this excerpt from the Journals of Lewis & Clark:
Thursday, 27th September, 1804
Captain Lewis and Some of the party went over to See the Indian Camps. their lodges are about 80 in number and contain 10 Souls each. . . . about 15 days before they had a battle with the Mahars. They killed 65 men and took 25 women prisoner. they took the 65 of the Mahers Sculps and had them hung on Small poles, which their women held in their hands when they danced. . . . they danced war dances round the fire which was curious to us.
Gary E. Moulton, Editor, The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, The Journals of Joseph Whitehouse, University of Nebraska Press, at Vol. 11, pp. 87-88 (1997).
“The Omaha, or ‘Mahar’ as Lewis and Clark called them[,] . . . were villagers and farmers who lived in earth lodges. Just prior to the period of Lewis and Clark the Omahas had been fighting invading Sioux tribes from the northeast, but lost their fight due to a devastating smallpox epidemic in 1802.” Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Information on the Omaha Indians, National Park Service.
On September 26, 1804, Clark himself wrote, “I saw 25 squaws & boys taken 13 days ago in a battle with the Mahars, in which they destroyed 40 lodges, killed 75 men & boys, & took 48 prisoners[.] . . . Those are a wretched and dejected looking people, the squaws appear low & coarse, but this is an unfavorable time to judge of them.” Id.
Well, it is time for me to celebrate, so I shall close. In that regard, I wish all of you a happy Indigenous Peoples Day. Just don’t refer to our nation’s indigenous predecessors as savages. They were every bit as civilized as Christopher Columbus.
Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)
 The feds celebrate the holiday on the Monday before so those of us who labor on the government’s dime can have a long weekend. Sweet!