Tag Archives: Native Americans

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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The ugly (and yes, supremely punchable) face of white privilege

This is the face of a punk-ass prick that only a mother wouldn’t want to punch (maybe…).

The viral incident that happened in Washington, D.C., on Friday, is sad: A “Make America Great Again”-hat wearing young white punk smugly and aggressively smiling in front of a Native American elder (it’s widely reported that he’s also a Vietnam veteran, although I’m not sure how important that is, frankly; I’m not into veteran worship, but I do respect Native Americans).

Slate.com gives a fairly tidy account of what happened:

Nathan Phillips, the Native American elder who was mocked and harassed by teenagers wearing “Make America Great Again” hats in Washington on Friday [where he was attending the Indigenous Peoples March], says the whole thing started when he tried to defuse an escalating argument.

Phillips told the Detroit Free Press the teenagers, who appear to be from Covington Catholic High School [which is in Kentucky, apparently], got upset by four people who were with a group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites. The group of Catholic students kept growing and they made the displeasure at what they were hearing, which, at least according to videos posted online, included some disgusting homophobic rhetoric, very evident.

“They were in the process of attacking these four black individuals,” Phillips told the Detroit Free Press. “I was there and I was witnessing all of this. … As this kept on going on and escalating, it just got to a point where you do something or you walk away, you know? You see something that is wrong and you’re faced with that choice of right or wrong.”

Phillips acknowledges some of the members of the Black Hebrew Israelites group were also “saying some harsh things” and one even spit in the direction of the students. “So I put myself in between that, between a rock and hard place,” he said.

Phillips said he quickly realized the situation was much more tense than he had anticipated. “There was that moment when I realized I’ve put myself between beast and prey,” Phillips said. “These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.”

Speaking to The Washington Post, Phillips said he realized he needed to get out. “It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’” Phillips said. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way, and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

Phillips spoke as some tried to change the narrative, sharing longer videos of the incident to somehow say that Phillips elder was deliberately trying to provoke the teenagers.

In an e-mail to a local network, a student says they were simply cheering “to pass time” while they were waiting for their ride. “In the midst of our cheers, we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips with Phillips beating his drum,” the student wrote.

“They forced their way into the center of our group. We initially thought this was a cultural display since he was beating along to our cheers and so we clapped to the beat.”

The student also improbably claims that the white student who stood in front of Phillips with a smug look on his face was simply standing “where he was, smiling and enjoying the experience.” A mother of one of the students reportedly wrote an e-mail to Heavy.com, saying they had been harassed by “black Muslims.”

It’s clear just from the facial expressions of everyone captured in the screen grab above that the MAGA-cap-wearing punk-ass was not “smiling and enjoying the experience,” but was trying to impress his fellow white fascists by being a colossal prick to a Native American elder.

His behavior was aggressive and courted violence, and yes, he and anyone and everyone else who participated probably should be expelled from the Catholic high school.

And yes, the Catholics sorely need to get their shit together.

I’ll never forget or forgive them for their hateful, ignorant, fascist support of 2008’s Proposition Hate. (They lost that war, of course; same-sex marriage is now the law of the land throughout the United States.)

The whole rampant Catholic sexual abuse of minors thing aside, now we have Catholic punks wearing MAGA caps in public (they might as well wear fucking swastikas), and it’s interesting that they should be at a “pro-life” (“March for Life”) rally when clearly, the only lives they truly give a shit are their own white, over-privileged, fascist lives.

Part of me says don’t expel these punks, but try to rehabilitate them, because expulsion might make them even worse; we already have more than enough white, right-wing domestic terrorists. (As Vox.com noted in October 2017, “Since [“President” Pussygrabber] took office, more Americans have been killed by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners.”)

But can these young, white-supremacist punks be rehabilitated? They get their ignorance, hatred and bigotry from their families and friends — and from the Catholic church, which apparently is A-OK with them wearing MAGA caps in public to represent the Catholic church.

How likely is it that these young fascists are going to reject the sick and twisted worldview — pure evil masquerading as “Christianity” — that has been shoved down their throats by their social support system?

In the meantime, public naming and shaming might be our best weapons against these budding domestic terrorists (yes, even if they are minors — perhaps especially if they are minors).

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Oh, yeah. Liz is running for prez.

Getty Images photo

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is shown with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the background. Today Warren released an apparent pre-presidential campaign video that lays waste to years of Repugnicans’ lies about her.

Today U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, in a rather brilliant video that as of this writing has had more than 1.6 million views, announced the result of a DNA test that shows Native American genes in her lineage.

The video also features snippets of interviews with individuals stating that her ever having indicated that she has Native American blood never was a factor in her hiring to teach at Harvard Law School and at other law schools; besides “President” Pussygrabber repeatedly offensively calling Warren “Pocahontas” (and daring her to get a DNA test), Repugnicans (starting with her 2012 opponent for the U.S. Senate, Scott Brown) for years have claimed that she lied about her background in order to give her an unfair advantage in the workplace.

The “Pocahontas” bullshit already has been dismissed by the majority of the voters of Massachusetts, who in 2012 elected Warren as the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate for the state. She beat Brown with 53.7 percent of the vote, pushing him out of the Senate after he’d “served” there for only two years after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, and I expect her to do even better in next month’s election.

Therefore, Warren had nothing to prove to the voters of Massachusetts, and so I can’t help but think that Warren, anticipating the “Pocahontas” bullshit as the Repugnicans’ main criticism of her — and it’s pretty fucking lame and fucking juvenile criticism — is running for president in 2020.

I’m already committed to Bernie Sanders should he run again, but if he doesn’t, then Liz is my candidate. I cannot support Joe Biden or Cory Booker or Kamala Harris or anyone else over Bernie or Liz. Just can’t and won’t. Not in the primary season, anyway.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong. For me, anyway, it’s not about Elizabeth Warren’s heritage. I mean, I’m sure that it’s important to her, but I personally don’t care how much Native American blood she has coursing through her veins.

I care that she fights back against the Repugnican liars and traitors among us and does so effectively, something that the Democrats too rarely do. But more than that, I care that Warren truly cares about socioeconomic justice. It’s her No. 1 concern, and it’s long past time that we elect a president who makes socioeconomic justice the centerpiece of his — or her — administration.

Our first female president being the second coming of FDR would be more than just fine with me.

P.S. In Warren’s video, her family members call her Betsy, which is the first I’ve heard of that moniker for her.

And although Pussygrabber said on camera at one of  his KKK rallies in July that he’d give $1 million to Warren’s favorite charity if she took a DNA test “and it shows [that she is] an Indian,” I’m sure that he’ll weasel out of it by saying that she’s not Native American enough. He is, after all, a fucking liar; he even denied today that he ever made that statement, even though it’s on fucking video.

Reportedly the Cherokee Nation isn’t pleased that Warren had the DNA test done, but not only did Pussygrabber dare her to do it and promise to give her $1 million to her favorite charity if she did, but the charity that Warren picked is the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

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Attacking their allies isn’t a winning strategy for black-rights activists

As dozens protesters shout, Tia Oso of the National Coordinator for Black Immigration Network, center, walks up on stage interrupting Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, right, as moderator Jose Vargas watches at left, during the Netroots Nation town hall meeting, Saturday, July 18, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Associated Press photo

Black-rights activists commandeered a progressive forum in Phoenix on Saturday, even taking the microphone from the frustrated moderator, left, while Democratic presidential aspirant Martin O’Malley, right, who had been trying to speak, looks on. This was a bad political move. Those gathered at the event weren’t there to have an outside group take over the event, and those gathered at the progressive forum aren’t the enemy. It was a safe target for a hostile takeover, however, since the attendees at the progressive event didn’t really need the lesson.

So if I understand the “#BernieSoBlack” meme correctly, democratic socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is to be derided because he isn’t black.

Wow.

Of the five-thus-far announced candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination (all of them white), a President Sanders probably would be the best booster of black Americans – probably even better than Barack Obama has been (which isn’t saying all that much, I know [I mean, Obama is great with the rhetoric…]) – but Sanders is to be derided because he isn’t of the “right” race. (Not that that’s racist or anything…)

As I’ve noted, yes, it would be nice if the most progressive presidential candidate weren’t another older white man, as we’ve had more than our fill of older white men in the White House and in other positions of power, but the bottom line with Bernie Sanders is that he is the most progressive presidential candidate that we have today.

It’s not Sanders’ fault that no black (or Latino or Asian or…) American is running for president on the Democratic Party ticket (but hey, black Americans have Ben Carson!), and the demographics of Sanders’ home state of Vermont aren’t exactly his fault, either. (Vermont was about 94 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 estimate.)

Thus far there isn’t a “#BillarySoBlack” meme because, I suppose, Billary Clinton is seen as an extension of Bill Clinton, whom black American writer Toni Morrison in 1998 billed as “the first black president,” even though his “welfare reform,” his support of NAFTA, and his other right-wing, pro-plutocratic and pro-corporate policies harmed, not helped, black Americans as well as Americans in general.

The Clintons are great at saying that they’re on your side; actually acting in your best interests, however, is much more challenging for them (as it has been for Obama).

But, I believe, I get it: Barack Obama is in office for only another year and a half. Statistically speaking, while the door has been at least cracked opened, we probably won’t see another black president any decade soon. If the Repugnicans take back the White House in November 2016, of course Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be replaced, and if the Democrats keep the White House, she may or may not be kept on (I’d like to see her kept on).

Black Americans very apparently are concerned, and rightfully so, that the work that Obama’s Justice Department has started on civil rights won’t be continued after he leaves office. If the Repugnicans regain the White House, of course that work will stop. If the Democrats keep the White House, black Americans want to ensure that they don’t drop the ball.

It’s a big ball to drop. Unarmed black Americans are more than twice as likely to be slaughtered by a cop than are unarmed white Americans, and in 2009 almost 5 percent of black Americans were incarcerated, compared to fewer than 1 percent of white Americans. Black Americans have the lowest median household income of all of the races in the U.S. (Latinos have the second-lowest, while Asian Americans have the highest and white Americans have the second-highest).

I could give many more such statistics. Black Americans, by almost every measure, indeed struggle more than the members of any other racial group, and of course institutionalized racism is the largest factor in that. And of course symbolic actions alone, like banning the Confederate flag (while that’s a necessary step), aren’t going to reverse these grim statistics.

As much as these statistics capture the real suffering of real human beings, it disturbs me that mindless, knee-jerk political correctness has driven us to the point that it widely is considered to be quite unseemly to assert these days that all lives matter. Billary Clinton and Martin O’Malley now know this after both of them made the political mistake of recently publicly asserting that “all lives matter,” which very apparently is interpreted by many if not most within the black American community and the black American community’s uber-politically correct supporters to mean that black Americans’ concerns are being minimized by the blithe pronouncement that “all lives matter.”

All lives do matter, of course, but of course it’s critically important to note that not all Americans have it the same, that the average white American and the average Asian American, for instance, have it much better than do the average black American and the average Latino American.

I know – I’m not supposed to mention Latinos and Asians, because so many of us are addicted to the binary view of race relations, the view that race relations really are only black and white (and black vs. white and vice-versa).

But that’s just not the reality of the United States of America.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates for 2013 are that 62.6 percent of Americans were white only, 17.1 percent were Latino only, 13.2 percent black only, and 5.3 percent Asian only, with the rest being of another race (such as Native American) or of more than one race. The pie graph looks like this:

(The lettering of this pie graph, which I found online, is small, so, if it helps, the blue area represents whites, the reddish-pinkish area represents Latinos, the green area represents blacks, the purplish area represents Asians, the turquoise represents those of more than one race, and the orange-ish represents Native Americans.)

Seeing it graphically helps to give us some perspective, I think. We are a diverse nation, but we also are supposed to be (in my book) a fairly proportionately representative democracy, albeit one that still protects minorities’ equal human and civil rights.

To those who think it’s just awful that Bernie Sanders was born white (as a Jewish American, however, he is a minority [Wikipedia notes that Sanders’ “father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed in the Holocaust, while his mother was born to Jewish parents in New York”]), I’d point out that a solid majority of Americans are white. (And, of course, Jewish Americans weren’t always considered to be white in the United States. And we’ve yet to have a Jewish U.S. president.)

I state this obvious fact (that most Americans still are white) because “Black Lives Matter” so often off-puttingly, offensively comes off as “Only Black Lives Matter” – especially since you get into trouble for asserting that “all lives matter” or even that “black and all lives matter.” Again, black Americans inarguably have it worse, as a racial group, than does any other racial group in the U.S., but black Americans, at 13 percent of the U.S. population, don’t comprise even one in five of all Americans (Latinos, whose numbers in the U.S. overtook blacks’ around 2000, are reaching that point, however).

For such a relatively small piece of the American pie to be demanding political power that is much greater than its actual numbers – such as the apparent demand that Barack Obama be followed only by another black president (even though the only black American who is running for president right now is the unelectable wingnut Ben Carson) – is not only unseemly and undemocratic, but it’s a shitty political tactic.

I can think of no better way to sink your own minority cause than to act like your minority cause is the only cause, or at least, the most important cause.

As a gay man, I’ve long recognized that without the help of our heterosexual allies, we of the non-heterosexual minority never would have achieved same-sex marriage (we still have a long way to go toward full equality, of course).* I’ve never advocated that we non-heterosexuals kiss heterosexual ass or beg for crumbs from the heterosexuals’ table, but at the same time, some political tactics that alienate one’s supporters or would-be supporters – such, as, oh, say, interrupting presidential candidates who are trying to speak to the members of a progressive group, even commandeering the microphonearen’t smart.

These tactics make you feel good about yourself – you rebel, you! – but they run counter to your own stated objectives. People who already are on your side or who could (have) be(en) on your side now have less respect for you; you have shown that you have no concerns outside of your own immediate concerns for yourself and your own group, and those toxically narrow identity politics don’t work anymore (if they ever did).

And when justifiably aggrieved blacks attack a progressive like Bernie Sanders, isn’t that just because they know that he won’t respond in a vicious, violent way? I mean, are these same people going to even try to similarly crash right-wing events? I much doubt it. So why attack those who already are on your side? Just because you can?

I hope that the “Black Lives Matter” movement continues. It’s vital to keep the issue of police brutality against blacks in the national spotlight. If it’s not, the deaths – the (negligent) homicides and the murders – of black Americans at the hands of the police will continue unabated.

But if the “Black Lives Matter” movement wants to succeed in the long term, it’s going to have to stop attacking allies (because they probably won’t fight back, being allies), and it’s going to have to realize that blacks comprise a minority of Americans, and that there are other oppressed minorities of Americans – and that yes, all lives do matter.

To acknowledge that simple fact is not to dismiss the living hell that the United States of America is for so many of its denizens, a disproportionate number of them black and Latino (and otherwise non-white). To acknowledge that fact is to gain and to keep allies on your side, because as powerful as you think you are, you can’t do it alone. You do need allies in this fight, and that means taking an interest in others’ interests and concerns, too.

Echo chambers are an awful lot of fun, but they don’t bring about a lot of lasting political change.

P.S. I see that long-time Billary Clinton stooge Joan Walsh of Salon.com predictably used the Phoenix incident to try to bash Bernie Sanders and boost Billary (even though Billary, like her hubby, always has been all words and promises but little action), as though Sanders needs a lecture from the DINO-loving Walsh, but vox.com notes that “Hillary Clinton was invited [to speak to the progressive group (Netroots Nation) in Phoenix on Saturday], but declined the invitation.”

At least Bernie showed up. You can’t fuck something up if you can’t even be bothered to be there, can you? No, Queen Billary prefers much more controlled, stage-managed “events.”

And of course Walsh won’t point out that it’s pretty shitty to interrupt and commandeer someone else’s event, no matter how just your cause might be, and that it’s pretty pointless to attack those who already support you — um, how about crashing a police officers’ convention when your main grievance is police brutality? — because that doesn’t fit in with her little narrative.

Some have posited that Billary was behind the crashing of the Netroots Nation in order to try to make her challengers look bad. That doesn’t strike me as impossible.

But after Bill Clinton’s record, anyone who believes that Billary Clinton would be “the first female black president” needs his or her head examined.

Finally, I note that not to be outdone by “Black Lives Matter” in alienating allies based upon toxic identity politics, Joan Walsh gleefully indirectly but surely calls Bernie Sanders’ white-male supporters “bro-cialists” and “bro-gressives” — because to be a white male by definition is shameful and bad, you see — even though about a third of Americans are white males, a group that’s too large for progressives to be able to afford to alienate entirely.

All white males should support Walsh’s DINO candidate, Billary Clinton, you see, simply because Billary is a woman who calls herself a Democrat, or they’re — we’re — to be demeaned as “bro-cialists” and “bro-gressives.” (Har har!)

You know, some might call Joan Walsh a “femi-Nazi.” Not I, of course, but some!

*On that note, on the day that I cast my vote for Barack Obama for president in November 2008 – happy to be able to vote for the first non-white president in U.S. history – 70 percent of California’s black voters voted for Proposition H8, which banned same-sex marriage (which the U.S. Supreme Court just last month ruled is unconstitutional).

It was, to put it mildly, a slap in the face to have had the black community’s back but to be betrayed by the black community like that.

Barack Obama didn’t come on board with same-sex marriage until 2012; he had to “evolve,” he said. Bernie Sanders already had publicly “evolved” on same-sex marriage before both Obama and Billary Clinton finally did, and arguably, Sanders publicly was supporting same-sex marriage way back in the 1970s.

There are plenty of pseudo-progressives — DINOs like Billary Clinton and Barack Obama — whom one can attack as being pseudo-progressives, as not really having oppressed minorities’ interests in mind or at heart.

Bernie Sanders isn’t one of them.

If all that matters is that our next president is black, then by all means, let’s elect Ben Carson, right-wing lunatic that he is.

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Is Ferguson a symptom of black American panic?

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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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‘Black’ is the ‘new’ black?

The Associated Press has an odd “news” item — timed for Black History Month, apparently — that many if not most black Americans don’t like to be called “African-American.” The AP story begins:

The labels used to describe Americans of African descent mark the movement of a people from the slave house to the White House. Today, many are resisting this progression by holding on to a name from the past: “black.”

For this group — some descended from U.S. slaves, some immigrants with a separate history — “African-American” is not the sign of progress hailed when the term was popularized in the late 1980s. Instead, it’s a misleading connection to a distant culture.

The debate has waxed and waned since “African-American” went mainstream, and gained new significance after the son of a black Kenyan and a white American moved into the White House. President Barack Obama’s identity has been contested from all sides, renewing questions that have followed millions of darker Americans:

What are you? Where are you from? And how do you fit into this country?

“I prefer to be called black,” said Shawn Smith, an accountant from Houston. “How I really feel is, I’m American.”

“I don’t like ‘African-American.’ It denotes something else to me than who I am,” said Smith, whose parents are from Mississippi and North Carolina. “I can’t recall any of them telling me anything about Africa. They told me a whole lot about where they grew up in Macomb County and Shelby, N.C.”

Gibré George, an entrepreneur from Miami, started a Facebook page called “Don’t Call Me African-American” on a whim. It now has about 300 “likes.”

“We respect our African heritage, but that term is not really us,” George said. “We’re several generations down the line. If anyone were to ship us back to Africa, we’d be like fish out of water.” …

This is news? Since when did the majority of today’s black Americans prefer to be called “African-Americans”?

If “white” isn’t offensive (and it isn’t), then why would “black” be offensive? And “black” is economical — one syllable, as opposed to the seven-syllable “African-American.”

“African-American” seems too politically correct and stilted to me — its use seems overly conscious of race. “African-American,” it seems to me, is used primarily by whites who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with blacks, just as those who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with us gay men and lesbians call us “homosexual(s)” — a term that the vast majority of us gay men and lesbians don’t use to refer to ourselves.

But even aside from that, “African-American” a poor term to denote one’s race.

If you want to be technical, all human beings had their origin in Africa, so every American, strictly technically speaking, could be called an “African-American.”

And not all black Americans, it seems to me, consider Africa to be the place of their heritage — they could consider Brazil, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica or one of several other nations to be the place of their heritage, not entirely unlike how it’s woefully inaccurate to term all Latinos as “Mexicans,” as though Mexico were the only nation that produced Latinos.

And, as the two black individuals are quoted as having said in the AP story above, “African-American” connotes a connection to Africa that many if not most black Americans don’t really feel — any more than I feel a connection to whichever foreign land my ancestors came from (the United Kingdom, I believe, but I’m not certain of that). I don’t call myself an “Anglo-American” because I’ve never set foot in the UK and I am generations removed from it — and because “white” is one syllable versus six, and I believe in keeping it simple. (Ditto for the clinical-sounding term “Caucasian” — why use three syllables when “white” is perfectly acceptable?)

I routinely use the term “black” to refer to blacks and never have been corrected by a black person, and I generally believe in using the term that the majority of the members of a group use to refer to themselves. Thus, I say “black” and not “African-American” (and certainly not “Negro” or “colored” or another woefully outdated term), “Latino” and not the outdated “Hispanic,” “Asian” and certainly not the horribly outdated “Oriental,” and “Native American” and not “Indian” (since Native Americans are not from India and since here in the United States we have plenty of people who are from India or who are only a generation or two removed from India, and so to call Native Americans “Indians” is to confuse them with actual Indians).

Like the use of “homosexual,” though, the use of such terms as “African-American” and “Oriental” is useful in identifying bigots — or if not outright bigots, individuals who obviously aren’t very familiar with the group of people they’re referring to, or they’d be using the term that the group uses to refer to itself.

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