Nacotchtank

In Australia, it is becoming a relatively common practice to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where important meetings and government functions take place. They recognize the people who occupied the land they are on and sometimes are given a little bit of relevant history by a representative of the tribe. Australia has a VERY VERY shaky history with indigenous people, in ways similar to and distinct from the US, but that is evidence that at least some effort toward peace and justice is being made.

I had never heard of the Nacotchtank until yesterday, when I decided what I wanted to write my Independence Day blog post about. They are a tribe that is no more, one of the countless victims of White People in History. Facing encroaching violent settlers and dwindling numbers, they departed their homeland and became absorbed by larger tribes in the area.

They lived throughout what is now the District of Columbia, including on Capital Hill itself. Archaeological relics, including pottery and bones, have been found under and around the Supreme Court, White House, and Bolling Air Force Base. We owe them at very least the name Anacostia, some weird Latinization of Nacotchtank. In case you haven’t heard of it, the Anacostia is the river that flows into the Potomac in the southeast part of the District.

The National Museum of the American Indian (which, yikes, not even going to talk about that) has said that they only briefly mention the tribe because it essentially ceased to exist in the early eighteenth century, instead preferring to speak with the living tribes in the area–which they do, so that’s good. I’m not convinced we need to go back and find all the historical groups, especially on the East Coast, that’s just not really possible.

However. On some level, we need to remember. Not only were other people here first, people were here first and we deliberately exterminated them.

To be clear, I think America is a good idea. I appreciate the thought, and in many ways the reality, of the United States. But there’s a lot of very dark history that we consistently, as a nation, refuse to reckon with. I think that’s a big reason why there’s a lot of very dark present times. Because people who are not indigenous feel no compunction about railing against ‘illegal’ immigration.

ALL WHITE PEOPLE EXIST IN THIS COUNTRY BECAUSE OF COLONIALISM ie theft, murder, and genocide.

In a practical sense, yes, we are here and we have set up a government and that government should function appropriately. But in a sort of macro sense, we are still an occupying force hostile toward the local population. In a practical sense, immigration policy needs reform of course but is itself, in principle, a valid thing. In a larger way, though, borders are arbitrary and imaginary so why not let any and all people live anywhere they wish. Reality is a thing that we have to deal with, definitely, but so is morality so…

I do imagine or expect this country to be perfect. And as a citizen, I am certainly not exerting every possible effort to effect the change that I wish to see. Even so, I think it is important that we, collectively, at least are trying to work toward justice and peace in a meaningful way. And we aren’t. Instead, we’re setting up concentration camps and killing innocents, then dehumanizing them by calling them illegals.

This is a pretty good place to live. A good place to be born. Especially but not exclusively for white men. But most of the ‘American idea’ stuff also exists in other countries and a lot of them do it better. Now more than ever, I just don’t feel much like celebrating. I don’t know exactly what should be done, Australia is an example of some bare minimum effort but isn’t necessarily the template to follow. And I think that I, as a white guy, probably shouldn’t be the one figuring it out. At least not on my own.

But here and now I want to apologize for my complicity in the oppression of indigenous peoples here and abroad. And I want to continue to do better.


I apologize, I’m too upset thinking about all this to include cats. I don’t want to subject them to this level of negative emotion.

Leaving tomorrow morning for a brief stop in St Louis. Wish me luck, it’s a long drive.

Advertisements

My New Friend, Pádraig

A quick note on last week’s post to get started. A friend of mine brought to my attention the motto of North Carolina, a quote from Cicero (among others): esse quam videri or to be, rather than to seem. It just made me feel validated to share the same sentiments as a poet and old Latin guys (and an old Greek guy said something along the same lines). It’s a fun group to be a part of, apparently along with the State of North Carolina.

In other news. Last Saturday, I drove down to the outskirts of Portland and purchased a car for my very own. My initial ambition was to never own a car, then it was to have the first car I buy be electric. It is, alas, a hybrid but something is better than nothing. Also, after considering a variety of names, I have settled on Pádraig. I’ve just learned that the name shares its etymology with patrician which is fun. Also, for those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s PAW-drig. The other contenders were Paolo and Peter so participation trophies for them.

Perhaps you’ll meet Pádraig someday, he’s a pretty cool guy.

On Monday morning, I was up early and off to Issaquah, which I don’t think I’ve ever visited before. I was meeting a friend of mine to hike Poo Poo Point because why not. My erstwhile hiking partner has recently relocated and I haven’t been out much since, so that was nice. It was also lovely to catch up with my friend and his brother, who I met for the first time. The views were beautiful, draped with plenty of mystical clouds.

Not much has been going on here otherwise. Slowly acquiring a few more household accouterments necessary for the move and furnishing my place. More reading in the sun. Snuggling with cats.

Yesterday, I did go to a friend’s house to celebrate the most American holiday. He lives on a lake but there wasn’t much swimming because, though it was warm, it wasn’t sunny one minute and did in fact rain a little. Even so, it was a lovely time just hanging out, having nice food, watching pretty fireworks.

I recognize that I am very blessed by being an American alive at this time. But I also did not feel quite up to celebrating America. There is so much work yet to be done and so much of ‘America’ is only America to some. It’s a bit of a balancing act, recognizing the incredible gifts that we are given and also being convicted of the need for radical change.

I’m not really sure what else I want to say about it and I don’t really have other news to report. So there you go. Until next week.

Why Dissertations are like Vampires

So my parentals left on Sunday, we had a nice last few days. We walked through the War Memorial Gardens (with some amazing flowers) and then along the river to Chapelizod, the supposed final resting place of the legendary Isolde (or Iseult or however you want to spell it).We had a casual dinner in Chapelizod village and then a leisurely stroll back into Kilmainham, where they were staying. It was a pleasant conclusion to their visit and I’m glad I got to see them.

Also, shoutout to the family with whom I am now living. They are super cool. I’m so glad to be staying here 🙂

Monday was Independence Day in the US and so that happened, I guess, though I’ve never been particularly attached to it as a holiday (gasp! how unpatriotic–my REC senses are tingling!). We went to a little barbecue with some Americans and it was very nice, but the weather was typically Irish–mostly cloudy, fairly windy, spots of rain. After we got back, there was a downpour. So yeah, like I’ve been saying this whole time, sweater weather year round. Anyway.

For the thoughtful section this week, I’d like you to watch this video. It’s a song from a musical, and I apologize in advance for the strong language. But the rest of this post will make zero sense if you don’t watch it.

I’ll wait.

Seriously.

So there you have it, basically. Writing a dissertation is hard, there are so many vampires involved. Pygmy vampires are everywhere, and they’re so distracting. And they make it so easy to just put things off. And just…gah.

And, without getting into my rant about why we have dissertations at all, the ‘establishment’ (if you’ll excuse my use of such a hackneyed word) can be so constraining in their actual production. I mean, standards and formatting stuff I get (as annoying as it can be) because you want to be able to have some sort of base line by which to look at academic research broadly, and also within your field. But at the same time, we’re told that we can’t go too far out of bounds just because no one else has done it. You have to simultaneously say something new and something that someone else has already said. It’s a little ridiculous and, I think, more than a little air freshener vampire.

The vampire of despair, man. That hits me.

The Voice of Reason indeed.

Sometimes, it seems like even opening my computer requires wading through seas of vampires. But I’ve written before that it’s important to do hard things. If that hard thing is just getting out of bed, you gotta get up and exercise for twenty minutes. If that hard thing is leaving the house and speaking to another human being, you gotta go to a French National Day party for at least two hours. If that hard thing is writing a dissertation, you gotta write 1,000 words today.

This post is as much (probably more, actually) to psych myself up than encourage you. But if you’re facing some hard things–be it getting up in the morning or making major life decisions–maybe that song can be your anthem too.

Go forth, then, grab your stake, and get to work. You have a story to tell. Or, in a totally unrelated allusion: you is kind, you is smart, and you is important.

Die, vampire. Die!