Tag Archives: Native American

Should Liz Warren drop out? (Probably)

When I recently saw this news image on The Washington Post’s website, my heart sank:

The Post reports that it’s Elizabeth Warren’s registration card for the Texas state bar. “Warren filled out the card by hand in neat blue ink and signed it,” the Post reports, adding, “Dated April 1986, it is the first document to surface showing Warren making the claim in her own handwriting. Her office didn’t dispute its authenticity.”

Past reportage that I have seen has indicated that Warren once had ticked off a box indicating that she is of Native American heritage, but if that indeed is her own handwriting above, um, yeah…

The accompanying Post news story to the news photo above begins, “Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that she was sorry that she identified herself as a Native American for almost two decades, reflecting her ongoing struggle to quiet a controversy that continues to haunt her as she prepares to formally announce a presidential bid.”

As scandals go, it could be a lot worse. It’s not a photo or photos of Warren in blackface, for fuck’s sake. And she wasn’t recorded bragging about having force-kissed anyone and having grabbed anyone’s genitals.

But for Democrats, especially intelligent ones (hi, Al Franken!), there usually is much less forgiveness and much more punishment than there is for Repugnicans.

I just don’t see Warren getting past this “Pocahontas” bullshit. It is, methinks, going to stick. Forever. At least if she’s running for president.

Not long after I thought that it’s probably all over for Warren, Sacramento Bee opinion editor Gil Duran posted an editorial titled “Elizabeth Warren Is Smarter Than Anyone Running for President. She Should End Her Campaign.” He writes:

Elizabeth Warren would make a great president. She’s smarter than anyone else in the race. She advances bold and unapologetically progressive ideas. She’s a truly fearless and earnest leader, not a cautious and mealy-mouthed politician.

But her candidacy would be a disservice to her ideas. The Washington Post’s cringe-worthy revelation that she claimed American Indian as her racial identity on official documents — despite denying she’d ever done so — should end her White House quest.

Days before her planned announcement, Warren’s once again apologizing for fudging her racial identity. It’s a devastating scandal for a campaign, with questions of character wrapped in explosive racial issues. It’s painful to watch.

I believe Warren when she says she grew up with stories about her family’s native roots. Many of us grew up with similar tales. …

He concludes:

… The vast inequalities American Indians face today are a festering wound of injustice in need of moral and economic redress. To fix such injustices, we need leaders like Warren who aren’t afraid to take on powerful forces, tackle inequality and reject the dismal status quo.

But presidential politics is a ruthless blood sport, and I doubt she can overcome this scandal. Her actions raise serious questions about her character and alienate people of color. She took Trump’s DNA bet and lost. If she runs for president, we’ll hear her apologies more than her ideas. How many more damning documents exist?

I believe Warren has an important role to play in American history. Maybe it’s not the one she really wants, but it’s the one we need. She should spare us this humiliating spectacle and continue to lead from the Senate.

For the very most part, I agree. That Warren very apparently affirmatively wrote that she’s “American Indian” on an official document does indeed raise valid questions about her character. Whether she ever actually gained anything by having claimed Native American heritage is irrelevant; she wants to be president, so this is a fair question of her honesty and character.

(Yes, indeed, “President” Pussygrabber is a thousand times worse than Warren ever could be — there is no comparison — but do we on the left really want to lower the bar to Pussygrabber’s level?)

Even if the whole “Pocahontas” fracas had never existed at all, Elizabeth Warren very most likely would have been torpedoed because she’s intelligent. (I don’t know that I agree with Gil Duran’s assertion that she’s “smarter than anyone else in the race,” but she’s definitely in the top tier where brains are concerned.)

History has demonstrated amply that American voters, many if not most of them not being all that bright themselves, usually don’t want egghead presidents — at least not presidents who act like eggheads.

It isn’t fair, and anti-intellectualism — a pillar of fascism — so often is dangerous, but it is what it is.

Warren has yet to hit double digits in any fairly recent nationwide poll of Democratic Party presidential preference that I have seen, so I’m not sure if she has a real idea of what she appears to be up against. I don’t believe in giving up, but when the fight is futile…

Warren is to make a big announcement on Saturday, presumably her official presidential announcement (on the very last day of last year, she announced the formation of her exploratory committee).

Her announcement on Saturday probably should be that she has decided not to run after all, but the Boston Herald reports that she plans to travel to several early-voting states after Saturday, indicating that she plans to stick it out, at least in the short-term future.

I still like and respect Elizabeth Warren — her having claimed some Native American heritage, in my book, is a bit weird* but not unforgivable — but I agree with Gil Duran: This is painful to watch.

*I don’t know. Being white is kind of boring, and maybe she wanted to try to spice things up a bit. I just don’t know. But Elizabeth Warren is no Rachel Dolezal

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‘Lone Ranger’: Bloat on the range

Film review

'The Lone Ranger' and the Trouble with White Horses

In what probably is the film’s funniest scene, Johnny Depp as the Comanche Tonto confers with the “spirit horse” Silver about the equine’s taste in heroes in director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s “The Lone Ranger.”

Reviews of “The Lone Ranger” have not been kind. As I type this sentence, rottentomatoes.com gives “Ranger” a “rotten” rating, with just 24 percent of critics having liked it — but tellingly, 68 percent of the website’s users have given the film a thumbs up.

“The Lone Ranger,” to be sure, is flawed, but its moments of brilliance make it worth seeing.

“Ranger’s” biggest flaw is its bloat. It’s OK to make a tw0-and-a-half hour film if you can keep our interest the whole time, but “Ranger” sags seriously in the middle. It would be interesting to see cuts of films that are improved not by restoring footage that was cut from the original releases, but by tightening up overlong films like “Ranger.” Sometimes less is a lot more.

The carnivorous rabbits in “Ranger,” for instance, could go. Even the scorpions. Hell, the filmmakers even could have stripped the Lone Ranger’s love interest (his brother’s wife) from the movie entirely and it wouldn’t have been a huge loss. (The actress who plays her, Ruth Wilson, does a fine job, but why the “mandatory” love interest? Might we mistake the violence-hating and book-loving Lone Ranger — who at the end of the film goes off with his same-sex companion Tonto — for a gay man otherwise? [Horrors!])

And as much as I like Helena Bonham Carter, she’s not given nearly interesting enough stuff to do in “Ranger” to justify the inclusion of her character. In “Ranger” Helena Bonham Carter is wasted as a one-trick pony, and she doesn’t have to appear in every film that Johnny Depp is in.

Speaking of Depp, “The Lone Ranger” more aptly might be called “The Lone Comanche,” because, as others have noted, this is Tonto’s and Depp’s film, not the Lone Ranger’s and Armie Hammer’s.

As adorable as the promising young actor Armie Hammer is, his Lone Ranger is not a born stud, but is a bookwormish nerd who stands in the shadow of his older brother (who is a born stud) and who needs Tonto’s guidance.

Indeed, without Tonto’s guidance, in this new version of the Lone Ranger, the Lone Ranger wouldn’t be the Lone Ranger. Tonto is not the Lone Ranger’s servile sidekick in this reboot; he is the Lone Ranger’s Yoda, the young, clueless hero-to-be’s reluctant mentor (although Yoda wasn’t this reluctant).

On that note, while some have dismissed Depp’s version of Tonto as a condescending and thus racist parody of Native Americans — I’ve even seen Depp’s Tonto compared to Stepin Fetchit — Depp’s Tonto is not a buffoon, but is a mixture of the shaman and the trickster, two important Native American archetypes, as I understand the Native American culture.*

And that is a definite promotion from the Tonto of yore. In Lone Ranger 2.0, Tonto is the hero, and the white man is not portrayed as the brave pioneer, as he was for decades in Westerns, but is portrayed as “wendigo,” the term for a Native American belief in a cannibalistic, demonic entity.

True, there’s only one actual cannibal in “The Lone Ranger” — its effective villain Butch Cavendish (played well by William Fichtner) — but “Ranger” makes the point that you don’t have to be an actual cannibal to be evil nonetheless, a point that is played out with its villain behind the villain, the railroad tycoon Latham Cole (played by Tom Wilkinson), who in his own hypocritical way is a cannibal much worse than Butch Cavendish.

Indeed, that is what the white man did to the Native Americans, so to speak: ate them up, consumed them, so that they were (and are), to a large extent, no more.

Again, this portrayal is progress, it seems to me, from the cowboys-and-Indians movies of before, in which the white men were always the brave heroes, the good guys, and the Indians always were the bad guys — standing in the way of what “rightfully” was the white man’s, you know, manifest destiny and God’s will and such (in a word, wendigo).

That said, in “The Lone Ranger” we get plenty of nostalgia from the Westerns of yesteryear, even if the story apparently is to take place entirely in Texas yet the film actually apparently was shot mostly in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. Indeed, Monument Valley, which is a prominent backdrop in “Ranger,” is not in Texas (but is in Utah and Arizona), and the transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Summit in northern Utah, which is quite a distance from Texas, where “The Lone Ranger” very apparently has the transcontinental railroad completed.

But while “The Lone Ranger” mixes up the entire Southwest into one generic mass that’s supposed to be Texas (where it apparently barely even was filmed), it does apparently pay attention to some historical details, perhaps especially where the history of the transcontinental railroad is concerned; “Ranger” portrays the exploitation and the abuse of the Chinese immigrants who did so much of the hard, dangerous labor for which the white men, at the railroad’s completion, congratulated themselves with pride, pomp and circumstance.

And “Ranger” gives us a sense of what was lost when the white settlers decimated the Native Americans. Non-native Americans sorely could use the wisdom of the Native Americans right about now, but with the misinterpretation of Johnny Depp’s Tonto as a buffoon rather than as a hero in his own right (as a shamanistic trickster), non-Native Americans appear to be no closer to getting it now than they never have been.

Unfortunately, the worthwhile messages in “The Lone Ranger” do get a bit buried in all of the busy and loud action sequences that we inevitably are going to get in a Jerry Bruckheimer production released in the summer.

I want to see more Westerns like this, but I want them leaner, without all of the fat that is in the current version of “The Lone Ranger.”

I, for one, am up for a low-fat sequel.

My grade: B

*On that note, as to whether or not Native Americans should be outraged that the character of Tonto is played by Depp and not by a full-blooded Native American, I’ll leave that decision entirely to actual Native Americans.

I hate it when people (usually guilty white “liberals,” it seems) are “outraged!” on behalf of another group of people with whom they have little to even no actual contact.

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