Cowboy Country

Stephanie Fail

“What’s the frustration level in American people? One, we haven’t done anything for em’ but two- they see this threat of Islamic extremism.” -John McCain

The sun rises blinding the youth. He sits for a moment on the parched earth and watches in silence. A howl in the winds jolts him out of his peace. His enemy is near. With a nod to his partner, he checks his boots, grabs his gun, and crouches to wait. There is no time to rest. This is cowboy country. And so it goes.

Now this tale probably strikes you as nothing new, for it is not a new story- but neither is it an old story. For up until the very day that you are reading this, colonists have always been in some form or another engaged in combat with people who do not want to hand over their land to them. “Mine” say the colonists. “No, our people have been living here for thousands of years” say the natives. “Mine” chime the colonists. “No, now go.” say the locals. “Fine” the colonists say. “Fine what?” the locals say. “We are going to fine the shit out of you and make your life a living hell until we get what we want.” “Try” they say, “But over our dead bodies.” “That can be arranged” reply the colonists. And so it goes. This is the way of all empire. Any power that wishes to spread must dissolve the powers of those already there. Simple, no?

The complex part is winning over the “hearts and minds” of the people. For colonists at heart don’t wish to kill ALL the native peoples. They wish to kill those who will not bow down, of course. Yet they do not wish to kill off potential slaves. So the ideal way to go about this is to “stoke the fire with domestic wood” and create an opposition from within. To divide and conquer, as many a General has eloquently put it. Encourage the people to lose trust in each other to the point of civil war. This way, we can enter the scene donning missionary clothing and offer to save them. Then, then they will have no choice but to love and surrender to our immense beneficence! It is us, the colonists, who will sew their torn nations back together and guide them safely into the “modern” world for their own benefit.

Who wouldn’t love us? We have guns, and God, and universities on our side! How can they not love us!? The first European settlers in the Americas soothed themselves to sleep after the rapes and murders of the locals by saying “It’s God’s will to tame these heathens into Christianity”. Oh yes, cutting off the genitals of native women and pinning them to their hats as souvenirs makes God smile. Oh yes, passing out blankets shipped from smallpox hospitals in Europe with a beatific smile will enter you into the highest ranks of Heaven. Oh yes, these wildmen must be saved from their own incapacities! Those silly Aztecs of Tenochtitlan- a city that in the words of the Spaniards was more developed and impressive than any in Spain. They may have had complex indoor plumbing but they didn’t even know how to properly use their own gold and insisted on wearing it instead of melting it into coins and locking it in boxes! What foolery…

This is the way the West was “won”. The sorry fact is that this concept of enlightened savior to the ignorant savage is still circulating, fed with very fresh blood, today. These archaic attitudes continue to be found in the mindsets of our politicians, academics and warriors. The Republican National Convention has been especially difficult for me to stomach due to the uber-righteousness within the campaign. In the words of V.P. candidate Sarah Palin, we must “Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending out [troops] on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.” If this isn’t missionary wording, then what is? If anyone is claiming to have a direct channel into God’s mind then essentially they are claiming that they are a prophet. If McCain and Palin intend to represent this country we are setting ourselves up for a God-driven tyranny. How will they have time to listen to the people of this country or an occupied one if they only listen to “God”? They won’t, and they will most likely do anything they feel like under the guise of self-protection, including controlling our dissent through fear. According to Democrat Joe Lieberman: “They’re Islamic extremists and they wanna kill uhhh… as many of us as they can.” In an anthropology class I am attending we were watching a video about a famous British Anthropologist from the 1940s and a particular Pacific Island tribe. While the current host was describing this central ritual to the tribe’s life he was holding sacred objects. They were giant necklaces and shell bracelets that had been circulating through a ring of island nations for as long as the tribe could remember, for hundreds of years. Just after he was commenting on how the “savages” greatly revere this elaborate custom he accidentally knocked one of the sacred items callously on the side of the boat while surrounded by about 15 tribe members and did not even flinch or quit talking to apologize. The natives looked like they were going to cry. No wonder we had no issue wiping out 6 million indigenous people from the American continent if almost 500 years later we still don’t have the decency to respect their view of life.

The psychological training of all the U.S. Army often focuses on dehumanizing the enemy. Most members of the armed forces escape this racist brainwashing. However, I have heard accounts from a member of the military about how in basic his drill sergeant said to him things like “They’re not human Private, they’re animal” or calling them dirty for wiping themselves with their hands. Just last week I was speaking to an Iraq veteran about how he felt about the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He offered me an example of how after Saddam had left Baghdad the people did not change their clocks for daylight savings time because no authority had told them to. These people, he reasoned can’t even keep time by themselves; how can we leave them to run their own country? They are used to dictators and will only be functional with a “hard” leader. So what, man, they are incapable of utilizing their freedom to determine the future of their own country? That same freedom that Americans supposedly represent?! Are we really that surprised that most of the world wants to pretty much pie us in the face? Or does saying this make me anti-American and a terrorist?

I am pro-American, and I believe that what is in the best interest of this country is to quit chasing down new colonies to make our rich even richer and spend some of our hard-earned taxes on the people that live here. This War on Terror is like chasing a boogieman, whenever anything or anyone decides to nip us we are going to be so paranoid that we blow up an entire continent in hot pursuit. Leave the locals of other countries to decide their own manifest destiny and quit assuming they are too “savage” or “tribal” or “archaic” to understand what is best for themselves. If our actions in Iraq, Vietnam, Palestine, Hawaii, and Latin America represent the face of a truly secular democracy then to most of the world we Americans are coming off as hypocritical blue-assed baboons. And I don’t like the smell of that.