The Indian as enemy (5×8 – 5/4/11)

Why ‘Geronimo,’ the war on pencil-necks, proof baseball hates the Twins, the new Dust Bowl, and I dare you not to click this link.



The White House is putting a lot of thought into whether to release photos of the late Osama bin Laden. It doesn’t want to be insensitive and inflame some people. But many Native Americans are asking where that sentiment was when it came time to pin a code word on Bin Laden?

The people who decided on the name — they came up with “Geronimo” — either had great respect for a man who was responsible for plowing planeloads of innocent people into buildings and the ground, or had no respect for Native Americans and one of their greatest historical heroes. It has to be one or the other.

For most many white people, the decision to name Bin Laden Geronimo probably won’t register as an insult. Think of it this way, then. What if they’d called him Robert E. Lee? Or Washington? Or Sibley? Or Mandela?

Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute puts it another way in Indian Country Today: “What the hell were they thinking?” he asks.

In the reported stories of Osama Bin Laden being killed by U.S. military forces, bin Laden was code-named “Geronimo.” According to a CBS news report, those who came up with that “inappropriate code name” apparently “thought of bin Laden as a 21st-century equivalent” of Geronimo. In other words, the code name was based on an extension of the metaphor “Indians Are Enemies” to “Geronimo was a Terrorist,” thus perpetuating the U.S. tradition of treating Indian nations and peoples as enemies.

Geronimo was fighting against the invasion of his country and the oppression of his people. He did not invade the United States. Rather, Spain, Mexico, and then the United States invaded the Apache Territory and the territories of hundreds of other Indigenous nations. Horrific atrocities were committed against the Apache, and men such as Geronimo, whose family was massacred by Mexicans, did not hesitate to retaliate. Geronimo died a “prisoner of war” in 1909.

St. Paul native Thomas Friedman, who appropriately fancies himself a learned man, piles on by naming today’s column, “Farewell to Geronimo.”

“I was celebrating that we had gotten this guy and feeling so much a part of America,” Tom Holm, a former Marine, a member of the Creek/Cherokee Nations and a retired professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, told the Washington Post Tuesday. “And then this ‘Geronimo EKIA’ thing comes up. I just said, ‘Why pick on us?’ Robert E. Lee killed more Americans than Geronimo ever did, and Hitler would seem to be evil personified, but the code name for bin Laden is Geronimo?”

What would have been a better code name for Bin Laden? How about Osama?

Leftovers: This is a topic for another day, perhaps. But last night’s Frontline look at the hunt for Bin Laden spawned a constant question: Why does the local PBS affiliate pre-empt these intelligent, well-produced shows for concerts with over-the-hill ’60s Motown singers during pledge drives?

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

When any major news story happens, many of us wait for the Taiwanese animation firm Next Media’s “interpretation.” The irreverent firm, however, may have crossed the line with its version of the Bin Laden raid, which suggested military people urinated on Bin Laden’s body, and pigs had their way with him in Hell. The firm took the video down yesterday and replaced it with this version in which Bin Laden wasn’t the story at all; the person who “tweeted” the raid without knowing it was a raid, is now the bigger story:

It’s a fine commentary — whatever it says — on national and social media’s ability to turn an absolutely irrelevant angle into a story.


Minnesota legislators, some of whom are facing the possibility of working five-day weeks before they take the next seven months off, are usually pretty testy at this time of the year as they race toward the end of the session. There still isn’t the whiff of a state budget and the state is still without an officially-designated state mammal.

But Rep. Matt Dean’s comment about author Neil Gaiman yesterday, quoted in today’s Star Tribune, was still pretty raw, even for this time of the year.

Dean said that Gaiman, “who I hate,” was a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”

Dean was “reminding” one of his colleagues that the Republican leadership isn’t happy about arts and cultural funding in the Legacy Amendment, the sales tax increase approved by voters a few years ago that constitutionally dedicates money to outdoors and arts programs (Trivia: The original concept of adding adding arts funding to an outdoors amendment came from a House Republican).

How did Gaiman steal the money? Doing this, giving a speech in Stillwater:

But Gaiman accepted — stole, if you will — a $45,000 speaker’s fee from the Washington County Library, if by stole, you mean donated to charity, which would make him a modern-day Robin Weasel, if anything. As Gaiman relayed the last time he became a political football...

I figure money like that, sort of out-of-the-blue windfall money, is best used for Good Deeds, so I let a couple of small and needy charities (one doing social work, the other library/book based) know that I would be passing the money on to them, after agents had taken their commission, and did not think twice about it.

Gaiman charges a lot of money for his speeches, he acknowledges, but part of the “problem” here is the legislation that created the Legacy Fund. The money can’t be used for books, or computer equipment. And when the library paid Gaiman his fee, it either had to spend it, or lose it a month later. That’s the way the bill works; a bill, for the record, that Rep. Dean voted against.

In an editorial today, the Pioneer Press says the amendment was a bad idea:

Yet at the same time, the state has plenty of money for the environment, parks and trails, water quality, the arts and our “cultural heritage.” That money cannot be used to help mentally ill people whose services may be cut. It cannot be used to blunt the increase in college tuition or to help schools and nursing homes that are cutting back.

That’s because in 2008, Minnesotans cemented the environment-and-arts spending, and the sales tax hike that pays for it, in the state constitution. Minnesotans voted for the Legacy Amendment at the same time they and the nation voted for Barack Obama for president. They can change their minds and vote for Obama’s opponent next year but it would take a multi-year legislative effort, against tremendous odds, followed by another statewide vote, to undo the Legacy Amendment. On this page, we opposed the Legacy Amendment, reasoning that budgeting by constitutional amendment is a bad idea.

But one of the reasons there isn’t money for the things the Pioneer Press (appropriately) thinks there should be money for, is because legislators and governors have skimmed the money for other things. MinnesotaCare, for example, is funded with a tax on providers. The reason MinnesotaCare may not have enough money isn’t because voters approved a sales tax for arts and outdoors, it’s because lawmakers made a choice to skim the surplus in the Health Care Access Fund to keep from having to do what the voters decided they were willing to do for arts and outdoors programs in the state: raise their taxes.

There’s a legitimate debate to be had, of course, over whether constitutional amendments are the way to budget — yesterday, the GOP unveiled yet another constitutional amendment to do just that, by the way — but it’s simply wrong to portray the Legislature as having their hands tied by voters who favored the Legacy Amendment. If the Legislature’s hands are tied, that’s the fault of the Legislature.


Now that Minnesota and North Dakota have mostly passed on their floodwater to neighbors, flooding is getting more attention nationwide. What’s not getting any attention is the second-coming of the Dust Bowl. Oklahoma is having its driest four months since 1921.


Everybody who knows that the game of baseball is played with a baseball knows that the biggest superstition in the game is never say the word, “no-hitter,” when a pitcher is pitching a no-hitter.

So what does have against Francisco Liriano?


Liriano, however proved the superstition is without merit by pitching a no-hitter last night.

More sports: Commentator Frank DeFord says America’s love of team sports comes at a price: The U.S. is no longer a power in tennis and golf.


A West Virginia man found wearing women’s underwear and standing over a goat’s carcass told police he was high on bath salts.

And for no particular reason…


Google has taken first place in a Harris Interactive poll ranking the reputations of major corporations. Johnson & Johnson took second place, and Minnesota’s 3M took third. Today’s Question: What corporation do you hold in high esteem?


A pledge drive starts today. Some of this programming is repeat material.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The private life of George Washington.

Second hour: What if John Kennedy had been assassinated before he became President? What if Robert Kennedy had not been killed and went on to defeat Nixon in 1968? A longtime political reporter looks at how American history might look different.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Both hours: On the 50th anniversary of the first “Freedom Ride,” Midday presents an American RadioWorks documentary, “State of Siege: Mississippi Whites and the Civil Rights Movement.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: TBD