Friday, June 18, 2021

The Plight of the Native American Peoples of the US

 It is a disturbing and unavoidable reality that the westward expansion of the United States during the early stage of its development as a nation was accomplished at the expense of the native populations that occupied these coveted lands.  These native populations were conveniently viewed as less than human and treated accordingly, resulting in the near genocide of a an entire people.  As a result, they were violently displaced from the land they held as sacred for the sake of the unimpeded and ineluctable occupation by white settlers.

To this day, no substantive apologies have never been offered and no attempt at restitution made to help ameliorate the suffering that has been imposed on these native peoples and their descendants.  The following is a description of the tragedy imposed upon Chief Joseph and his people - the Nez Perce.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

 

was known to his people as "Thunder Traveling to the Loftier Mountain Heights."

The Nez Perce occupied an area of Oregon referred to as the Wallowa valley in Eastern Oregon. These people were first exposed to white settlers during the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804 – 1806). They were treated with kindness, consideration, and compassion. On this first encounter they were impressed by the technological advances and capabilities these strangers. To some members of the Nez Perce people, they were regarded as superior being whom they wanted to emulate. This embrace of these newcomers, however, would prove to be a relatively short duration.

It was not longer after this initial encounter, that the NEZ Perce was visited by Christian missionaries. An example was that of ****. An exposure to the ways of the white man as exemplified by the lifestyle of these missionaries led many Nez Perce to convert to Christianity.

Joseph’s father, Tuekakas, as chief of the Nez Perce was a convert and as a consequence, Joseph was exposed at an early age to the ways of these foreigners.

Although the homeland of the Nez Perce was remote and hard to reach served as a significant barrier to encroachment by white settlers, this protection was disrupted by two significant events in the early history of the U.S. republic. One was the California Gold Rush of 1848 and the other was Homestead Act of 1862 that granted up to 160 acres of land to those who would establish residence and make the land productive. This act resulted in the settlement of about 1.6 million on land mostly West of the Mississippi.

Although many individuals migrated to California In search of gold, few became rich. When the dream of becoming rich weathered, many were attracted to the West as a place to settle. As a result, these miners began to encroach upon the land of the Nez Perce.

In addition, the push to settle in the vast lands of the West promoted by the Federal government through the enactment of the Homestead Act was thwarted by the presence of Native American populations that were already resident. In the fact of this reality, the government attempted to come to some kind of peaceful arrangement with these populations through the instrument of treaties. However, there was no real incentive to honor the provisions of these treaties, since the newly formed American nation possessed a superiority in numbers and military capability. The historic record is replete with examples of the abrogation of these treaty arrangements.

When Joseph became chief following the death of his father, he naively believed that the U.S. was sincere in its efforts to find peaceful arrangements and would be true to treaty obligations. It is important to understand that the Nez Perce had a strong body of spiritual beliefs in which the land and all that resided upon it were considered a sacred and sustaining aspect of existence and could not be owned, purchased, or exploited. In this light, the attitudes and politics of the white settlers and the US government were inexplicable.

The turning point came In 1877 as a result of the conference held between many of the indigenous tribal leaders and General Howard representing the US government. The meeting was held at Fort Lapwai. It was Howard’s intention to use this opportunity to issue an ultimatum to those Native American leaders invited that they must leave their land and move to designated reservations. They could do this freely or be forced to migrate. The outcome of this conference demonstrated once and for all the unwillingness of the US government to honor its treaty obligations when it was not in its interest to do so. The ultimate conclusion was that Howard issued his ultimatum that the Nez Perce must either move out of their homeland to a reservation defined by the US government within thirty days or be forcefully driven out. When Chief Joseph attempted to suggest that this abbreviated timeline was impossible to adhere to, his entreaties were ignored.

Rather than accept this ultimatum, Chief Joseph fled with his people – there goal was to travel to Canada and remove themselves entirely from jurisdiction of the US government. This represented a 1400-mile trek (see map below) while constantly being pursued by the US army. This was a brave yet futile effort that resulted in the death of many hundreds of his people. He ultimately surrendered in 1877.


 

Following the final defeat of the Nez Perce at the hands of the US army, Chief Joseph gave a very poignant and unforgettable speech on October 5, 1877, upon his surrender to General Howard who had been pursuing him and his people for many months in their vain attempt to flee to freedom in Canada. His speech is shown below.

"I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, 'Yes' or 'No.' He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

It is a testament to his timeless courage and unshakeable conviction that there is a town in Oregon (Joseph, Oregon) near Wallowa Lake named after him and the Nez Perce Memorial National Park was created in the same region that is also the site where he is buried. Of course, whether or not the descendants of the Nez Perce will ever be justly compensated for the grave injustice perpetrated against their people is an open question.

The story of this remarkable human being is an extraordinary one.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Biology of a Virus

 


It has been over a year since the world population has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a result of intense scientific investigation and study, effective vaccines have been developed and are being distributed worldwide.  

Given this reality, it would be of value to more fully understand what viruses are and how they function.

The following document may be of some help in this regard.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

An Analysis of the Human Condition

 For some ten thousand years, human civilization has propelled humanity along a course that has ushered in remarkable advances in our collective understanding of how the universe works; of an ever-increasing grasp of the nature of life; and the development of fabulous tools wrought from the basic materials and resources of the planet we inhabit – these tools provide glimpses into our future potential.


However along with this progress, the flaws in our biological nature especially the architecture of our organic brain have been magnified and left us a burdensome legacy of prejudice and bigotry, extreme narrow-mindedness and avarice, destructive wars, and needless suffering. Ideologies based upon beliefs in wildly erroneous suppositions have imposed an often-horrendous burden on human societies that have created great divides amongst the wondrous diversity of humans on this planet, earth.

All of this represents a paradoxical and complex mix that suggests a wild array of possibilities for the future of the species known as Homo sapiens. Human history has been earmarked by inflection points throughout the timeline of human existence – from the first appearance of self-consciousness in our earliest ancestors to the transition of the human family from hunter-gathers to agriculturally-based societies, and to the current industrial and technologically-driven age.

What makes this particular inflection point so different from all that have preceded us is that the juncture we have collectively arrived at is the result of a convergence of factors that could conceivably lead to a decimation of the entire species. In my mind, this is not an exaggerated claim, for individual humans now live in a world where communication is global and immediate; where a significant side-effect of our technological advancement threatens the very fabric of natural world that sustains us, and where needless wars and unsustainable violence has successfully thwarted many aspects of human progress and have even propelled some societies backwards.

The threat to humanity’s future does not lie in over-population, for we do have the collective capacity to feed, house and nurture everyone. The threat to humanity’s future does not lie in the unfettered increase in green house gases, for we do comprehend the nature of the threat, the ultimate consequences of climate change and the capability of countering this trend. The threat to humanity’s future does not lie in the onslaught of illness and disease, for we have the conceptual and practical tools to handle any crisis in regard to public health.

The real source of the current state of the human condition lies within the realm of the human brain and the manner in which the intrinsic reality of the external world is processed. Data from many sources constantly stream into the human brain. Data from the external world comes in mainly through the senses and data that is generated internally from within the body is channeled through the systemic nervous system. Most of this data is stored and subsequently processed. The result of this processing is an analysis of that information. This analysis occurs on two levels. One is on a higher level within the intricate circuitry of the cerebral cortex and especially involving the frontal lobes. The other involves the lower or more primitive brain where the seat of the emotions lies. Ideally the analysis generated from these two processes are then successfully integrated to produce a relatively accurate representation of the external environment and its relation to the state of the individual. The final conclusion reached then becomes the basis for either action or inaction.

However, more often than not, the reactive emotions can hold sway and override a more rationally-defined conclusion. An example would be the behavior of a white male when confronted by a situation in which a black man, at a social gathering, approaches and asks a white woman of his acquaintance to dance with him. An individual without any bias based upon the color of one’s skin would interpret this as a quite ordinary event that does not substantively involve him and is therefore of no consequence. But, to a male harboring an unshakeable belief in white supremacy, this scene could take on a completely different meaning that may require him to take some kind of precipitous action. In this latter case, the emotional response supplants a more reasoned analysis that could precipitate a violent reaction. In this case, the preconceived idea of being in a superior position, leads to the interpretation of the kind of event cited above as a threat even though the idea of racial superiority has been clearly shown to have no basis in reality. In fact, the concept of racial difference is a contrived construct as all humans are members of the same species.

Human history is filled with horrendous events that are a consequence of collective human behavior that is generated from a perception of reality based upon irrational beliefs that are formulated predominantly from the emotions, and that have little relationship to the truth. The impact of such a pattern of collective behavior over the expansive of time through which human institutions have developed has significantly thwarted true human progress.

If humanity is ever to break free of this constraint, it is absolutely essential to discover through a process of self-awareness our true place in the fabric of existence and evaluate each other, and the natural world of which we are a part, unobstructed by blinding conceptions of ignorance, bigotry, prejudice, selfishness, and hate. If this were ever to be accomplished, the trajectory of human history would be forever transformed.

Admittedly, the likelihood that such a transformation would ever occur amongst the humankind is a small one especially given the tendency towards actually moving backwards to more authoritarian models of societal organization is evident in many parts of the human world. Given this reality, it is the actual history that unfolds, as determined by present and future choices, that will determine humanity’s ultimate fate.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Democracy at Risk

 Historically, the United States is in troubled waters. It seems that the very core of our democracy is at serious risk of being torn asunder. This is due to the enactment of a plethora of laws by various states with the goal of curtailing the process that lies at the very heart of a viable democracy – that being free and unobstructed access to the fundamental right to vote. It has become obvious that these laws have been geared to target the most vulnerable voting populations, especially people of color. The insidious nature of these laws is reflected in some of the particulars of this kind of legislation – one of which involves making it a crime for others to provide food and or water to those waiting on prohibitively long lines to vote. The shear callousness of this kind of regulation is reminiscent of the dark days of Jim Crow.

The disturbing reality of this constellation of laws is that those who design and encourage this kind of legislation intend to impose minority values upon not only individual states but the entire nation. The proponents of this kind of legislation realize that the philosophical basis of their belief system is not shared by the general population, especially the young. This belief system is sustained and nurtured by hatred and bigotry. This belief system clearly embraces the erroneous notion of white supremacy, as embodied by the behavior of the mendacious and mentally disturbed former president, and blindly refuses to accept the widely held and scientifically-supported understanding that all humans are clearly members of the same species and deserving of the same benefits, rights and privileges regardless of their place of origin, or color of their skin, sexual orientation or particular social and religious beliefs.

The fact that this particular distorted view of reality has gained so much traction even in the face of reality itself, is very disturbing, for it portends a dark future in which hatred, bigotry and ignorance become the model for accepted behavior. This kind of future is not to be wished for; it is a declaration of the ascendency of the lie over truth. This kind of future would necessarily place ignorance and stupidity at the forefront of government and policy. The disastrous way the COVID-19 pandemic was handled by the previous administration is a clear object lesson on how serious issues would be handled within such a toxic environment.

Should the nation take such a path, it would invariably lead to the disintegration of a truly democratic republic in which the serious problems we must face such as endemic racism, climate change, social and economic injustice, the sustainability of our infrastructure and our natural environment would be effectively bypassed, ignored and in the worst possible political environment, exacerbated.

Should the nation take such a path, it would be strangely ironic, for those who are adhering to the big lies for the sake of feeling more secure in their own judgments would not appreciate the necessary outcome of their beliefs for themselves, and, most importantly, their future generations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Four Hundred Years

 

400 Years

Four Hundred Years

ago

human beings,

stolen from their home,

from their kinships,

from the beauty of their world,

from their families,

their lovers,

their children.

 

Four Hundred Years

ago

human beings

piled into the holds of ships,

shackled  and abused,

barely able to move

stripped of their humanity,

denied their freedom,

humiliated,

often drowned.

 

Four Hundred Years

ago

humans beings

treated somehow

less than human,

like expendable chattel,

like mere property,

disposable, exploited, murdered

with impunity, with indifference,

with carefree and deadly violence.

 

Four Hundred years

from then until now

intervening decades

this insidious poison

spread through the generations

periodic massacres of innocents,

near genocide of

native americans

treated as nameless obstacles

to colonization and conquest,

bloodbath that was the civil war

hundreds of thousands of bodies

left dead on forsaken battlegrounds

twisted and mutilated wreckage

forged from an erroneous notion

of supremacy based

not on merit

not on reason or logic

nor justice

but on accidental whiteness

now faithfully eulogized and

solemnly remembered,

blight and contagion spread to other

hapless victims

Chinese

Japanese,

Hispanics,

Muslims,

Human beings mostly of color,

of difference

in outlook

in custom

in dress

in persuasion,

their collective sin

their unforgiveable characteristic,

the true nature of their threat

to be born with

non-whiteness,

with gradations of color

no matter how slight

no matter how innocuous,

this overweening fallacy that

forged so much carnage

that ushered in Jim Crow,

that gave birth to the

Ku Klux Klan and the

NRA and

Tea Party politicians

inevitably spread to other lands

under the guise of foreign policy

national defense

beneath the umbrella of justifiable wars

leaving millions upon millions dead

immense carnage

and grief

Korean and Vietnamese and Iraqi

and Afghani and Mexican and Filipino

mothers to grieve for their children

their elders

their families.

 

Four Hundred Years

and yet

this unspeakable terror,

this fearsome and unimagined horror

still persists,

some human beings using

power and wealth

to dehumanize others

based upon the color of their skin

and yet

mindless bigotry, hatred and

violence still

plague this nation

even in the twenty-first century

with all that science teaches,

with all that we know,

yet senseless prejudice is

sustained and nurtured

in spite of all that logic and reason dictate,

in spite of all that we understand as truth.

 

For Four Hundred Years

In spite of all that we know,

the killing goes on,

mothers continue to grieve,

justice is denied

unnecessary suffering roars through this country

in a hurricane of grief,

those who live on stolen lands

arm themselves

preparing for a conflagration

that they cannot possibly control,

those who possess inordinate wealth

callous to the suffering

indifferent to the injustice

refuse to relent in their insatiable greed,

this poison passed around in giant goblets

that touch the lips and infest

so many precious hearts and minds

with pure nonsense.

 

It has been Four Hundred Years,

It needs to stop,

this moribund and

dangerous idea of superiority

based upon  the fallacy called race,

needs to be extinguished once and for all

not by the power of intimidation,

not by violence,

not by fiat

but simply and resolutely

through a transformation of ideas,

it is up to the people of this wondrous land

to teach the children and ourselves

what is fundamentally the truth

that we are all members of the same species

Homo sapiens

we share the same architecture

of body and mind,

the same panoply of

emotions and desires

the same capacity for love,

for reason and harmony

for logic and intellect,

for imagination and

creativity, inventiveness and

for art,

each and everyone of this

family of human beings

deserving of  equal measures of

social and economic justice,

equal access to health care

to shelter

to nutrition

opportunity to thrive and to prosper,

to learn and to grow

without any fear of reprisal or

bigotry or baseless retribution,

all worthy of the love that mothers

naturally give,

of being embraced and included

without hesitation or reluctance

or trepidation

within the all encompassing arms of the

human family.

 

After Four Hundred Years

is this

really too much to ask for?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Judgment and Forgiveness

 




It is easy to arrive at a summary judgment in regard to an individual, familiar, or not, family member or stranger. It is facile, indeed, for any of us to believe that we have the categorical right to judge another human being on whatever evidence seems to be at hand whether directly experienced or purely anecdotal. It is far too tempting to reach a harsh and immobile conclusion in regard to another individual’s perceived character based upon the assumption that one has a complete understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

In truth, is anyone ever truly able to make a judgment without fully comprehending how reality is perceived through the eyes and mind of the individual being examined through such a myopic lens? Good and evil are terms used far too often with a false and misleading sense of certainty. Far too often, the pronouncement of evil is applied from the standpoint that the one(s) making this determination is decidedly good.

There are no absolutes in the context of human behavior. It is not possible to comprehend another human without seeing through the same eyes, co-existing within the same mind and understanding the cumulative impact of life experiences upon his or her view of the world. Those who are abused in childhood are more than likely to become abusers as adults. Mental Illness has many and myriad manifestations, and those who suffer from severe chemical imbalances within their brains, often exhibit erratic, irrational, and sometimes dangerous behavior. An historic example of this reality was that of Adolph Hitler who was ultimately determined to be a schizophrenic psychopath.

The best we can do and still remain true to the vagaries and vicissitudes of human nature is to judge the behavior and not the person. This is not to suggest that dangerous behavior that does harm to others can be ignored by the society at large; this is not to propose that the person guilty of crimes against his fellow humans is not to be held accountable for his or her actions. We cannot however, with any confidence, determine the inner-workings of another mind and come to any unambiguous assessment of that individual.

Paradoxically, we do have the capacity to condemn a behavior yet forgive the individual responsible for that behavior. Forgiveness is a recognition of the innate frailties of being human. Forgiveness can open the mind and heart, shattering the constraints that judgment imposes. Forgiveness can provide a gateway to the liberation of the spirit, for it lightens the burdens imposed by judgment and loss. Under certain circumstances, forgiveness seems impossible, yet it often becomes a necessary feature of acceptance and growth. Without forgiveness, reality becomes distorted and superimposed by a bleak world of black and white, devoid of color. Without forgiveness, the human world is destined to follow the trajectory that is an unavoidable consequence of violence and retribution. The path of forgiveness and reconciliation that South Africa took following the fall of apartheid under the guiding influence of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu is an excellent example of the power of these actions in forging a more peaceful future.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Lightness of Being

Dance of the mayfly,

storm of fire ants

beneath the jungle canopy,

thundering herds of wildebeests

across the serengeti,

bones of a stegosaurus

millions of years deceased

in some faraway world

on earth’s perpetual sojourn

around its parent star,

human journey through time

illustrious home of earth

generation upon generation

stretching from tortuous past

into an uncertain future,

star going nova within the

expansive cosmos

engulfing its planets in a

momentous release of enormous energy,

owl beckoning for the

fall of night

to awaken its predatory spirit,

mothers in labor all over the

this wondrous world

on the same day,

destined to perpetuate the species.

 

Life transient

Impermanent

like the passing breath,

like a singular beat of the heart,

gift of existence

exquisitely present,

surprisingly brilliant,

intensely felt,

momentary,

often blinding,

unsettling,

full of sadness

and poignancy

and joy.

 

Life bonded

to emotions,

forged by love,

grounded in consciousness,

imbedded in now,

shaped by myriad experiences,

haunted by shades of past and

shadows of future.

 

Yet, there is an

Intrinsic lightness to being,

that embraces the present,

created and extinguished

moment to moment

within the indefatigable

arc of time.