e article was written and submitted by Lee Marcus of Arkport.
What a week. Angry white man mails 14 pipe bombs to top leaders of the Democratic party plus CNN, a liberal philanthropist, and an actor. Oddly, this is the same hit list the president calls on in his raucous, sometimes frightening rallies across the country. Days later another angry white man attempts to attack an African American church, but fails, only to go to a supermarket and kill two people there. And on Saturday, another angry white man attacks a Jewish synagogue during services, killing eleven worshipers. The president, unable to stick to his teleprompter, blames the victims for not having armed guards protecting the congregation. In other words, right of way belongs to the shooter.
Where have we heard this before? In the Kavanaugh hearings we learned (as usual) that right of way belongs to the would-be rapist. If the victim didn’t run immediately to the police, or if she doesn’t remember the address where the attack happened, then not only is the accusation unproven, the accused is proven innocent. There will always be a mitigating “if,” because in Trump’s view, right of way belongs to the white male, period.
Okay, how did our regional leadership respond to these events? Did Congressperson Tom Reed offer his female constituents any kind of reassurance that would help to break the silence we all maintain as the bitter pill, the only option, when recovering from sexual discrimination or assault? No.
Did he decry political violence as un-American and unworthy of his party? No. Tom Reed’s response to our current political malaise is to run an ad full of lies so brazen that anyone who knows anything about Tracy Mitrano is almost forced to laugh out loud. But the ad ends with images of a computer monitor, on which Mitrano’s face appears, being thrown through a second-story window and then smashed by someone wielding the keyboard. Right of way to the angry white man.
This isn’t the America for which our fathers and grandfathers fought and died 75 years ago. It is, sad to say, the America millions of indigenous people, African Americans, gays and lesbians, and women have died for. This America’s byword is All White Men Are Created Special. (Everybody else, dog eat dog.)
We seem to be on a precipice. I’ve been on a precipice myself before, and I know it takes extreme will to get back to safety. Let me suggest something.
The Haudenosaunee (also known as Iroquois) Nation, right here in New York State, has a well-worn tradition that I believe could help us now. It is called a Thanksgiving Prayer. Of course, our traditional Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner. As Americans we take one day each year to come together and share our thanks for the blessings that surround us. Members of the Haudenosaunee tribes do this every time they gather. In a series of poetic pronouncements they thank the Earth under their feet for the food it grows; the water for nourishing life; in turn the wind, the sky, the animals, the sun, the moon, and so on. After each message of gratitude, they declare, “Now our minds are one.”
Imagine it. Here’s where we stand. Here’s what we have to be grateful for. And now our minds are one.
It would be hard to turn on each other after an invocation like that.
I would like to point out that the huge crowd in Pittsburgh that gathered on Saturday night shared their grief over the synagogue shootings with a chant. Did they call for revenge? No. They chanted, “VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE.” This means we still have leverage.
If you visit the wonderful Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, you will discover that the founders of our fledgling nation borrowed shamelessly from our indigenous neighbors even while attempting to exterminate them. The result was a version of democracy that set forth principles of equality and human rights, even if its authors didn’t really mean to suggest that all people were equally human. White women in the Finger Lakes region later took as a revelation the discovery that their female indigenous neighbors lived lives of equality, respect, and power. It is doubtful our foremothers could have conceived the robust Declaration of Sentiments without this connection to the Haudenosaunee tribes.
America, at last, seems to have gone sour. Can we muster the humility to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbors, again? Something like:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now our minds are one.
If we were to share these words at every gathering (instead of the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, both of which have been all but weaponized), maybe we could begin to imagine a national story again. An American identity. And people who cannot accept this American premise would at least recede from public life, even if they cannot be persuaded. I hold out this hope.