The Trail of Tears

I saw a documentary about the Trail of Tears last night, the relocation of the Cherokee and other native peoples to Oklahoma in 1830, and I thought of my daughter when she was a little girl. What if she and I had been dragged from our homes with nothing but the clothes on our backs?

I thought that might be a good check-off for political candidates. They have to watch this documentary about the Indian Relocation Act of 1830 and then fill out a three-by-five card: “The United States of America blundered and committed a terrible crime.”  Then two boxes, Yes or No.

If they check No, they’re psychopaths, a type of person that historically does well in business and politics.  If a nation has no moral sense and does not learn from its blunders, what can you possibly say in its defense?

Apologists for Andrew Jackson say he relocated the Indians to save them from extermination, and being from Massachusetts where the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies contrived a war to exterminate native peoples, I can’t say he didn’t think he was doing the right thing. But a crime is a crime.

 Now, thankfully, by some unaccountably serendipitous confluence of circumstance, we have given native peoples the resources they need to reclaim their ancestral homelands by allowing them to levy a tax on the one thing we, as a nation, have in abundance: stupidity!

As I get set to fly off to Oklahoma, I think about the terrible injustice that was done to the Cherokee Nation, and then I think of the soft answer to that injustice that we see in the life of Will Rogers, who famously said he never met a man he didn’t like.

I hope you’ll Google this guy and find out more about him, because I certainly can’t do him justice in a blog post. He also famously said he was not a member of any organized political party — he was a Democrat!

He was one of America’s first movie stars and he used his popularity to do the right thing. He became a newspaper columnist, and it wasn’t unusual for presidents of either party to call him up and explain what they were trying to do. They knew he spoke for the American people.

Will Rogers, Henry Fonda, Ernie Pyle, these guys would all be voted off the island today, but to me they represent what is truly great about America. There are a lot of powerful people who want to turn this country into Potterville (strip joints, prisons, liquor stores and pawn shops), and I just don’t see the next wave of heroes — yet!