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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Chief Crazy Horse

The British empire ruled over relatively few people. For the most part it governed Nig-Nogs, Chinks, Fuzzy Wuzzies; and, closer to home, Paddies and Jocks, Taffies; even the English soldiery didn’t escape such labelling, referred to as scum by many of their commanders. Today we have Chavs.

Labels disguise or sweeten unpalatable truths and they allow one race or nation to more easily fight and steal from another. It’s easier to kill a Hun than a German father or boy.

So Americans napalmed ‘gooks’, Germans gassed ‘Yids’ or ‘Kikes’ and justified their eastern expansion by referring to Poles as Dungvolken, the Slavs as subhuman. In 1982, in a speech to the Knesset, Prime Minister Menachem Begin said, “The Palestinians are beasts walking on two legs.” A year later, Raphael Eitan, then-Israeli army chief of staff told the New York Times, “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”

In the C19th the tribes and nations of America were designated savages. In the C20th broken and sectioned in reservations, these same savages became Chugs.

At least they had souls. That was established in 1537 in response to Spanish colonists who wanted the ultimate excuse to treat them as beasts. The Church in its wisdom ruled otherwise, the Papal Bull Sublimus Deus establishing that depriving anyone of their humanity was the work of Satan.

Theft however was permissible. Satan won that one long ago.

They made many promises
More than I can remember –
They never kept but one:
They promised to take our land,
And they took it
Chief Red Cloud

We travelled eight miles from Rushmore to the Crazy Horse monument and I stared in awe, both at what had been achieved and at the grand concept behind it. Crazy Horse himself was killed in 1877 under a flag of truce. Some time before his death he was asked in scorn: Where are your lands now? His reply was: Where my people are buried. And one day both his reply and his monument will dominate a landscape.

In 1939, Ziolkowski received a letter from Chief Henry Standing Bear, which stated in part "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too."

Ziolkowski acted on this invitation. In 1948 and refusing government grants, he began the project largely single handed. He died in 1982, but his work goes on. I think he was an exceptional man.

Truth is though, you cannot please everyone. In a 2001 interview, the American Indian activist and actor, Russell Means, stated his objections to the memorial: "Imagine going to the holy land in Israel, whether you're a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, and start carving up the mountain of Zion. It's an insult to our entire being." It must be nice to speak for everyone. Indeed to speak for the dead: "The whole idea of making a beautiful wild mountain into a statue of him is a pollution of the landscape. It is against the spirit of Crazy Horse” Lame Deer, a Lakota Medicine Man.

Opinion is man’s curse and greatest gift. See, how easy it is to make the grand generalisation. This however I find genuinely funny. "In Mexico one points with the chin, whereas American Indians and certain other people point with the lips.” So, to be genuine to the spirit of Crazy Horse, the pointing finger should be replaced by a pout.

The monument in 2004. Still someway to go.


Maria Zannini said...

I have to admit, as impressive as it is, I've never been fond of carving a big chunks out of Mother Earth simply for man's edification.

I'm impressed by the sheer scope, but I would rather see the mountain.

Mike Keyton said...

An opinion as good as anyone's Maria. My opinion is that there are hundreds of thousands of mountains but as yet no significant monument to a people dispossessed - and if it's taken fifty years just to get this far, I don't see many other mountains being carved up. Anyway, nature's more brutal - just slower timescale. And open cast mining is both more obscene and lacks moral heart.

Looking at it another way, you could argue that the open desert was sullied by the Great Pyramids, whole quarries gouged out, and come to think of it the Egyptians carved out a whole rock face to depict a gargantuan Rameses.
Damn it, Maria, we should be in a pub arguing over a pint of beer!