Twisted History

I’m looking at the June 28th cover of THE WEEK. It’s a photo of the Grand Canal in Venice. Gondolas, overloaded with tourists, ride low… water up the gunnels and gondoliers look askance as they in line up to wait their turn passing beneath the Rialto Bridge which is three -deep with gawking spectators leaning over the abutment above.

The photo previews the article “Far too popular: Why summer destinations are against ‘overtourism.'” Quoting Kara Fox in CNN.com, “From April to October, some 32,000 cruise ship passengers disembark [in Venice] daily, joining 465,000 day-trippers.”

If you have been to Venice during the off-season and before the tourist glut, you can only cry. The city is not the same.

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DSCN8716Such was my recent trip to Santa Fe which I had not visited in maybe 45 years. My memory of Santa Fe was that it was larger than Taos. Ha! Today, Santa Fe is a densely crowded small city.

Santa Fe is not Los Angeles,  but it is so much busier than I remember. My nostalgia for Old Santa Fe is packed in the same box with my memories of playing hopscotch, ice skating on farm ponds, and roller skating with the key around my neck. And given that it is summer… I remember making daisy chains. “He loves me; he loves me not.”

I wonder if I ever cheated? Did I count the petals (and perhaps remove one) to assure myself that the very last petal would forecast love?

DSCN8724The density of Santa Fe came as a shock, but prior to my visit, I’d been reading Forrest Carter’s book, WATCH FOR ME ON THE MOUNTAIN – a story based on the Apache’s defense of their homeland under the leadership of Geronimo.

The preface includes an excerpt from Longfellow’s 1845 poem, “The Arsenal at Springfield.” Were half the power, that fills the world with terror, / Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts, / Given to redeem the human mind from error, / There were no need of arsenals or forts: 

How true! I find it sad that so much time has passed and we ‘higher life forms’ have made so little progress. Man’s baser instincts still call for conflict. We have learned nothing. Some hope that we can show the Chinese and Russians a thing or two and rocket to Mars. Why go so far when we have so many unsolved issues here on planet Earth?

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One of the Saint Francis Auditorium murals painted by Carlos Vierra and Kenneth Chapman on continuous display since 1917. Presently in the NM State Capitol. Note the Natives fleeing the Westward Expansion. As for the American goddess, she is stringing telegraph wire. And the book in the crook of her arm? A Bible… the Declaration of Independence?

Some of the quotes in WATCH FOR ME are chilling. Chief Josecito of the Mescalero Apaches tried to keep peace with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but he and his people were driven from the self-sustaining White Mountains onto an arid reservation at Bosque Redondo where they were dependent on and starving from insufficient government rations.

When Josecito protested, he was murdered. Quoting Washington’s Indian Bureau agent, E. A. Graves: “This race are destined to a speedy and final extinction, seems to admit of no doubt… all that can be expected from an enlightened and Christian government, such as ours, is to graduate and smooth the passway of their final exit from the state of human existence.”

DSCN8675Having taught on the Navajo reservation and the White River Apache Reservation (both in Arizona), I really enjoyed reading WATCH FOR ME.

Until…

a good friend mentioned that Forrest Carter was a known racist and had lied about his Native American (Cherokee)  heritage. His first highly acclaimed book, THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE, was not a memoir as he promoted, but fiction.

I must say that after appreciating Carter’s writing skills, I was shocked. A little research led me to learning that Asa Carter was a Ku Klux Klan leader in the 50s and a speech writer for George Wallace who was Alabama’s governor 63-67. Wallace was also a candidate for president in ’64, ’68, and ’76. As a speech writer, Carter’s oft quoted refrain was “Segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever.”

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The New Mexico capitol skylight reflected on the rotunda floor

How, I wondered, could I reconcile my appreciation of Carter’s writing style with the man himself? Who was Asa (Forrest) Carter? I don’t have the answer to that question. Critics who know his work better than I, are as confused as I am.

Seeing the Native American women on the Plaza…on their knees selling jewelry displayed on handwoven textiles was also troubling. How many tourists know our misguided, brutal Native American history?

Yes, the women are making a living – selling their handcrafts, but the women are also a commercialized brand. As a group or tribe, they are marketing their culture, but as individuals, they are so much more.  I found myself wanting to scream, “Get up off your knees!”

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Get up off your knees and tell your twisted tales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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10 Responses to Twisted History

  1. Caroline Vornberg says:

    The horrible self-righteous quote from E. A. Graves!!! Christian used in the same sentence as wiping people from the earth!! No wonder my daughter will not go inside a church any more!! I am enlightened with each of your stories and travelogues. Still, want to go to Ojo Caliente outside of Taos…Sante Fe is too expensive for me, and I hope to avoid crowds during most of my travel time–. Crowds are a definite downer

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Caroline, Despite the unknown, cloudy character of Forrest Carter, I enjoyed reading WATCH FOR ME ON THE MOUNTAIN. As for Ojo Caliete (mentioned in the book) the hot springs are well worth the trip. We rented a place on-site for a family reunion, and we had a wonderful three or four days. I’m still longing to visit Georgia O’Keefe’s place – on the bucket list.

      • Renee says:

        Georgia O’Keefe’s home / studio / garden outside of Santa Fe was a delight! I urge you to visit whenever possible… As for Asa Carter – he must have been a GOP stalwart!

  2. Thank you for another rivetting account, Doris! Or Kindred Spirit.

    • timeout2 says:

      Nice to hear from you Kindred Spirit. Should you come down our way to visit Lynn and Mike, keep me in the loop. Mark and I can meet you at Lynn’s or you can cool off in Westcliffe with us. You are always welcome.

  3. H Brent Bruser says:

    🙏🏿😘👌

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  4. Renee Tobin says:

    Haven’t read Carter but his story appalls; as do the quote and painting you include in your chilling essay. The seeds of our nation’s racism are so ingrained in our culture it is easier to understand how we came into this historical moment. Chilling. Go to Abiquiu! Her home/studio/and especially garden will warm you and her cultural moment gives me hope…

    • timeout2 says:

      At the very least, those who ignored/denied racism for so many years are finally talking/thinking about it. Seriously ugly. “so ingrained”: perfect word choice – for racism that lurks beneath the surface. Yes, Abiquiu! As soon as the 10-Minute Plays are done and dusted. Thank you for reading. Best wishes to you and Bob.

  5. Bar Scott says:

    Intense. Important. Challenging for all of us. Thank you.

    >

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Bar, Nicole is the one who gave me the heads-up on Forrest Carter, the man. I find myself thinking of Parker Palmer and the most excellent video you sent and I downloaded. xo

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