It’s been almost four years since I was last inspired to write a column for my blog. It’s not that I’ve not been paying attention. It’s just that I’ve been enjoying the life of a retired person. BUT Scott Brown really picked open an old scab of mine, and I find that I cannot rest until I say my piece. So here it goes.
I was flabbergasted when I heard Scott Brown insist that we could look at Elizabeth Warren and tell that she was not a Native American. REALLY? Really, Senator Brown? REALLY?
Well, I wish to inform the “good” Senator from Massachusetts that he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground on this particular subject. As a person who is three-eighths Native American and doesn’t look like it, I was offended more than I realized I could be on this subject. Let me just explain a little bit about growing up in Oklahoma as a “partial” Native American in the days of Elizabeth Warren. Now, it just so happens that this is a subject that I am an expert on due to very personal experience.
See, it was like this. My parents were embarrassed about their Native American heritage and failed to inform my brothers and me of it. They were afraid we would go to school and tell our classmates and then the “world” would know we were “dirty Injuns.” There was a great deal of prejudice toward Native Americans (dirty Injuns) in those days even in a state like Oklahoma. Yes, even in a state whose name means “Home of the Red Man.” Now, perhaps Senator Brown is a little too young to remember this, but there was a game we used to play called “cowboys and Indians,” except it was somewhat peculiar. Nobody ever played the parts of the Indians. They were always imaginary and we would shoot at them with our pistol and rifle cap guns. But the saying, expressed in many a Hollywood movie of the time, was “The only good Injun is a dead Injun.”
So, it’s pretty easy for a thinking individual to understand that it wasn’t the most popular thing you could do to go to the schoolhouse and identify yourself as an Indian, as we were called in those days. Of course, I am not seeing much in the way of thinking individuals over on the Republican side these days. FAUX NEWS has figured it all out for them, and they just jerk their knees in that direction.
As for me and my ethnic heritage, it is an interesting story—at least to me. Once my brothers and I were grown up and gone, my parents came clean on the whole “Indian” thing—well, as far as they knew the story themselves. They told us that two of our great-grandmothers—one on each side—were American Indians. Turns out one was most likely a Choctaw, and the other was a Comanche.
Now, I have to admit that I was pretty naive and unquestioning as a child and even as a teenager. I remember the Comanche great-grandmother from my earliest childhood, and she was a woman with very dark skin and an amazing head of gray hair. But the one that really gives me a good laugh at myself now is the one I presume to be Choctaw—she lived until I was a senior in high school—a little dark-skinned woman who no one with any knowledge of what a Native American person looked like could have mistaken for anything else. But nobody ever identified her as an “Indian” so it never crossed my mind that she might be one.
One of these women was the grandmother to my father and the other to my mother, so that made my parents each one-quarter Native American, which then, in turn, made my brothers and I one-eighth Native American. At least that’s what we all thought until just a few years ago. Due to all the interest in family trees, et cetera, one of my cousins on my dad’s side found an interesting branch that was hitherto unknown to any of us. It seems my dad’s mother, my beloved grandmother, had a Native American mother as well. Here’s why she didn’t know. Her mom passed away when she was three years old and my great-grandfather re-married. He and his new wife raised my grandmother without any knowledge of her own mother’s Cherokee heritage. So like my grandfather on my dad’s side, she was also one-half Native American making my father one-half Native American, thus making my brothers and I three-eighths Native American. Who knew?
Okay, now here is why Scott Brown’s inane and hateful comments really made me mad. My mom, who is one-quarter Native American, has blonde hair and green eyes. She was the only sibling in her family that inherited this coloring from her mother’s side of the family, who are descended from Francis Scott Key—can you sing, “Oh, say can you see”? My late dad had sandy brown hair and hazel eyes despite being one-half Native American. His non-Native American family tree traces through South Carolina, to Salem, Massachusetts where my family probably knew Scott Brown’s family—who knows, maybe we’re even related—in the infamous witch burnings that led to their being not so politely asked to leave due to their complicity in the bearing of false witness. Why, in all the digging that was done, it was found that I am even descended from Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. So there was plenty of DNA available to keep us from looking like a bunch of “dirty Injuns.”
Now, I can’t let this go without addressing just one more of those pesky issues that seems to trouble Republicans across America these days—that is PAPERS. It seems that only WASPs in our society have no requirement to carry around papers proving that they, indeed, belong here. Here’s the rub on Native American “proof of citizenship.”
It seems that the WASPs in power in the 1800’s were not terribly interested in making complete records that would preserve the heritage of the Native Americans they dealt with. Either through lack of caring or malicious intent, the records left behind are extremely difficult to navigate. There is no one database that lists all of the Native American people relocated to Oklahoma by Indian name, new American name, birth date, and tribe. It makes it extremely difficult to prove up the oral history that each family has maintained over the years. It is very difficult if not completely impossible for people like myself to “prove” our claims to our Native American heritage.
In addition to that, good Christian missionaries—such as my mom’s grandfather who came to Oklahoma to convert the heathens and married my thirteen-year-old great-grandmother—changed the names of the children in their schools to “American/Christian” names, thus further cutting off the ability of those of us who came later to trace their ancestry.
Now, hopefully, Senator Brown, you will be a little more informed on a subject that you obviously know nothing about but feel free to shoot off your big fat mouth on. In my opinion you owe not only Elizabeth Warren but all of us like her an apology for your thoughtless remarks about our heritage.
And, Ms. Warren, good luck to you. As a fellow Oklahoman and graduate of your sister school, Classen High School in OKC, I salute you for your amazing accomplishments. I hope soon in addition to the proud designation of professor, “Senator” will come as a title before your name.
I’ve been pretty busy lately and unable to keep up with correspondence due to the fact that I’ve been collaborating on a play with Broadway playwright (No Crystal Stair) Pressley Giles, Jr., on a play called Positively Resilient. The play deals with the HIV/AIDS epidemic as it stands today, in hopes of bringing knowledge to a burgeoning population of newly infected people.
It has been a thrill to create characters that address the issues surrounding an epidemic that is now in its third decade with only the slimmest hope on the horizon for a cure. It’s our desire that the play will bring about new discussions of what has become an old problem.
This upcoming Saturday we will be auditioning actors and actresses at Montrose Counseling Center, one of our sponsors, and are looking to mid-March as our first performance date. I will keep you posted as I learn more about our schedule.
Looking back across the vast span of the past 60 years, there are visions that present themselves just as they did on the day they happened. Many of those visions are of my brother just younger than myself. While I was the “brilliant” child, he was, hands down, the “golden” child. While my coloring reflected a hint of the American Indian heritage we shared—dark hair, olive complexion, his was that of the brightest, purest sunlight flashing in the sky.
I still remember how he would look on a summer’s day on the prairie hilltop on which we grew up outside Edmond, Oklahoma in the 1950s, his golden hair bobbing up and down through the seemingly endless fields of high grass in which we played, and his sleepy hazel eyes squinting against the blazing sun above protected by those amazingly thick ginger lashes. Sometimes I found myself just wanting to grab him and hug him because he was so cute, but he wasn’t a touchy-feely kind of kid. You know, all boy. So he would have none of that. It sometimes seems like a magical time when I look back on it, as we frolicked and played in those overgrown fields for a good bit of our childhood before we left them behind in a move to Oklahoma City.
There was another brother tagging along before we left Edmond. He was cute and funny and always willing to be our guinea pig, but actually one of my earliest memories of him is coupled with that of my golden brother. Although it may seem distasteful to some, this is my most hilarious first memory of them both. My brother came to get me and show me something. For some reason, nobody seems to know why, I was the only one who appeared to be able to understand him when he was a pre-speech toddler, and since he always accepted my translation, my parents communicated with him through me, but I digress. On this particular day he tugged on my shirtsleeve, then led me into the living room where the new baby’s crib was sitting. Once there, at eye level for him was a single baby turd had somehow managed to escape the diaper of our brother. We both giggled as little boys do. Why is that funny to me? I don’t know. It just is, and it is my first memory of communicating with one and observing the other of my brothers.
There are other memories of my childhood that I could never forget and always bring a smile. There’s the time we built a tire swing in the backyard and tested it with our little brother, flinging him on the bouncing tire across the length of the yard when the flimsy rope we used snapped. He only received a few scratches and bruises, which accounts for our survival when the wrath of our mother descended upon us all. And then there is my all time favorite childhood memory when the golden child and brilliant child—now teenagers—teamed up to bust our father’s recliner chair while launching ourselves as high as possible into the air by tromping on the footrest. We escaped that one by barely propping it back up long enough for our dad to sit in it and spill himself out into the corner behind as he opened his morning newspaper. We only confessed once we were old enough to avoid a good spanking—you know, in our early twenties.
Our parents’ divorce and cross-country moves along with the Vietnam draft separated us in our late teens, but we were reunited in Houston in the early Seventies, each in our early twenties and going through our own divorces. It was a time of reunion for us both and a chance to forge a new relationship as grown men—at least, we thought of ourselves as grown. My brother had a great apartment not far from the Houston Ship Channel, where he worked, with a large upstairs bedroom complete with what every young man needed: a king-sized bed. The night I remember so well is one of laughter and mirth as we sat cross-legged in that great big bed, clad only in our underwear, passing a joint back and forth between us as we assessed our marital situations. He perfectly mugged the nagging, unhappy expression that my ex so often wore while I giggled uncontrollably, and we both admitted our worst fear about being divorced: What does Grandma think? It was one of those moments where we both realized our common link in a grandmother who loved us and that we wanted to please with the way we conducted our lives. The irony of it all is that our grandmother was also divorced and probably thought nothing about it, but she was still the arbiter of all that was right and wrong in our world even as young adults. So we laughed uncontrollably and continued passing the joint back and forth until we were ready to sleep. My golden brother, reflecting his melancholy of the period, put Jim Croche’s “Time in a Bottle” on the record player and set it to repeat over and over through the night. If it hadn’t been for the sheer beauty of that particular song, I would have gladly ripped it from the turntable and busted it against the wall.
Now, that is all at least 40 years in the past, and, yes, “If I could save time in a bottle….” I would open it up and return us to that night so many years ago so that we could re-experience the love and camaraderie that we shared that night. Why, you ask? Because 40 years is such a long, long time and so many things happen on the roller coaster of life. Lives, especially among ambitious brothers in our country, lead us far and wide and rip at those commonalities that we shared in our youth. Different career paths take us in different directions and into different belief systems. The chattering heads of our leaders and their paid spokespersons rip and tear at the very fabric of our love and acceptance for one another and make us believe that we must somehow take up their banners and follow them on their selfish marches to the halls of power. And in the end, because two brothers chose two different pathways in their adult lives, they become tossed about on the seas of political change, one being hurt by the political leaders that helped the other succeed, leading to unnecessary bitterness and division.
So since I was unable to save that time in that bottle, I have a different wish for the New Year, perhaps one that will bring us the comfort and joy that we sing about at this time of year. My New Year’s wish is that we all put down the angry signs and turn around and go back home, hug those we love and be glad they’re there to love. The infamous Mame Dennis is credited with saying, “Life is a banquet, and most poor bastards are starving to death.” I have always admired that sentiment and done my best to live by it, and I see a country full of families like mine that are starving to death because of a competition between people who don’t even care that we are alive except when they need us to advance their cause. It’s time for us all to realize that our lives are in our homes and communities, not in the faraway halls of a government run by and for people we don’t know and who don’t know us, and to reject the bitterness and hatred they are selling. It’s time for some real family values, not a slogan being used by one side to beat up the other. Go find someone you love and give them a hug.
Happy New Year, and peace be with you all.
Dec. 1, 2010
Reviewer: Greendragon at NightOwlReviews.com
Score: 4.75 / 5 – Reviewer Top Pick
Irreversible Error by Wolf Phoenix was one of the best mysteries I have read in a very long time.
Erik Steppenwolf is asked by his former partner’s widow Lilah Patterson, to help solve her son Marcus death. While dealing with some ghosts of his own he plunges head first in an investigation.
Along the way Erik meets some very interesting characters. The first is a very outrages drag queen named Lola. Erik also meets Red a young man who enters a wet undies contest. The sparks fly right away with these two.
There are so many twists and turns in this story. Wolf Phoenix will keep you guessing right up until the end. I can’t wait to read the next installment to this story.
I got my first review on Amazon.com. Had to share it with my readers.
5 out of 5 stars.
By Amos Lassen
Lately Dreamspinner Press has been publishing some really first-rate novels and such is the case with Wolf Phoenix’s “Irreversible Error”. Erik Steppenwolf is a cop who finds himself in the middle of Houston’s drag scene where hustlers are also found. He got there because he was asked by an old friend to investigate her son’s death. He manages to get Lola, a flamboyant drag queen to help him and she introduces him to the hustlers who may know something about the murderer. As Erik sits at one of Lola’s shows, he meets a dancer, Red, and the two are immediately attracted to each other and as they start an affair, the murder puzzle begins to come to light and hints and clues that will lead to a murder conviction are exposed but there is still the idea that everything has not been uncovered. Things between Erik and Red begin to sour and they go their separate ways and Erik decides that his foray in Houston is over and he thinks about moving on. However he still wants to find the truth and is not sure that he is over Red.
Phoenix gives us quite a look at Houston and the characters that dwell in the seedy underworld of drag queens and hustlers. He has created several interesting characters and Erik and Lola, along with others, are wonderfully drawn. I do not want to disclose any more about the plot because to do so would spoil the read. Take my advice, you will keep reading this until you close the covers and then want to start it all over again.
[NOTE: The book can be purchased from Dreamspinner Press and Amazon.com in several formats: paperback and digital versions that can be downloaded to your PC, phone, PDA, or Kindle gizmo.]
This is the book trailer for Irreversible Error by Wolf Phoenix, a gay romance mystery/suspense novel set in Houston, available now in paperback and ebook format from Dreamspinner Press, Rainbow eBooks, Amazon.com (in Kindle format), and other book vendors. Check out the trailer below.
Then, on November 22, 2010, the sequel, Acts of Redemption, will be available also.