CONTEMPORARY: When Politics Aren’t So Politically Correct

More than a few Native references have been made to describe the search for Bin Laden that culminated with his capture and shooting in May 2011–each seemingly made with poor judgment. BBC  News reports in “Osama Bin Laden–Why Geronimo?” that in

”referring to US military possibilities in the tribal areas of Afghanistan’s mountainous regions, Allan R Millet, a retired Marine Corps colonel and Ohio State University professor, said in 2001: ‘It’s like shooting missiles at Geronimo… you might get a couple of Apaches, but what difference does that make?'”

In lamens terms, Geronimo=Bin Laden, Apaches=his allies. The transitive property suggests quite an ugly rep for this former courageous warrior who led one final fight for Apache resistance against the white Americans in the late 19th century.

While US military has refused to officially comment on whether or not the search for Bin Laden was in fact code-named “Geronimo,” modern warfare in the Middle East has often paralleled the Old West disputes, claims BBC reporter Kathryn Westcott, and not always in the kindest ways.

This isn’t the only case of common jargon being ridden with Native terms or references. From my hometown NFL team of the Washington Redskins (okay, sometimes I root for the Baltimore Ravens…like when they won the Super Bowl a few years back), to MLB’s Boston Red Sox, Native words find themselves all over American pastimes and in our daily vocabulary, for example. Is such use appropriate? Does it show an incorporation of ancient cultures in our everyday life, or is it an exploitation of societies many of us know little about? I myself stand to learn a lot, and admit this earnestly.

Shows like Seinfeld have poked nervous fun at the ease at which we may say something which, in retrospect, could be deemed offensive –without even realizing it  (see clip for an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpGfyp6MxkM).

Should we feel guilty about all these terms? Should we cause for a change of name, or a change of ways? Often we shrug our shoulders and say, well…that’s just too much work. When things get REAL offensive, then we’ll fight. In my opinion, dubbing Bin Laden equivalent to the valient Geronimo is a clear sign of going too far.

Part of what NATIVE(X) is about is bringing up these subjects, and inviting honest discussion. So, what do you think?

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