Mankiller in America
by D. J. Herda
She grew up.
And the world--and America--would never be the same.
From Section C, Row 14, Seat 1 of the Colony Theater on the south side of Chicago, a young boy watches great men wearing white hats defeat less-than-great men wearing war paint and feathers.
The cowboys of the Old West, the real West, are the same cowboys that Hollywood gave us long before most of us even knew there was an Old West. Hollywood did so for a reason. It wanted America to know at a glance what was real--for Hollywood never exaggerates or exacerbates or otherwise paints an unreal portrait of life. It wanted us to know what was real and to believe that the cowboys of the Old West always win in the end. That’s because they stand for truth and justice and the American Way of Life, and they always win in the end.
They are America’s heroes.
As fortune would have it, the cowboys' archenemies, their nemeses, their mortal foes throughout the history of this great nation have been easy enough to single out: they are dark of skin and wear a lot of ultra-suede. They race past trees carrying ponderous primitive clubs that never once snag on a bush or a shrub. They eat raw meat and plunder, rape, and pillage those who are different from themselves. They live in tents and dance around in frenetic circles, half-crazed, beneath the silvery light of the moon, and they always lose in the end. They stand for savagery and brutality and unbridled ignorance, and they always lose in the end.
They are America’s villains.
Life is filled with ironies and misconceptions. That the “noble savage,” as America’s native inhabitants have been called, could be anything other than a wretched throwback to primordial time seems preposterous. Hollywood tells us so. Not only Hollywood but also literature. Who other than Natty Bumppo himself could have shaped a nation besieged by prairie-dwellers completely devoid of spirituality and scruples? Who but Davy Crockett could have opened the West to civilization? Who but Daniel Boone could have rid the landscape of deer-slayers and scalp-takers and brought morality and internal fortitude back to a peace-loving people?
But spirituality and scruples and morality and fortitude are not the first character traits that come to mind when perusing the history of humankind. In fact, they are among the last.
Unfold the history of great men and women, however, and examine the lives of some of humanity’s brightest thinkers and wildest achievers, and those concepts are right there in the forefront. They are the mark of greatness, and they belong to no one race so much as they do to every race.
Enter, Stage Right: Wilma Mankiller.
Accidentally. Arbitrarily. Coincidentally. Unmistakably.
For nearly half a century, she has not been in the vanguard but has been the vanguard, on the cutting edge, emerged in social reform, devoted to spirituality, mired in scruples. She has struggled with the cookie-cutter image of the American Redskin, the Injun, the typically ignorant brave and the typically bumbling squaw all her life. With the patience of Job and the persistence of the ages, she has endured while she has endeared. She is nobody’s idea of a Native American, and she is everybody’s.
And when she came reluctantly to Political America, she came complete with her own instruction booklet written in her very own language. Charley. Irene. Oakes. Sitton. Indian Center. Soap.
These are only words to most people. These are more than words to others. These words are to Mankiller what life is all about. These are some of life’s most valuable lessons. These are the inspirations that drive humanity forward. These are to a young girl growing up in abject poverty and near-hopelessness life’s greatest inspirations.
To a woman named Mankiller, the world held/holds/is holding/will hold forever the promise of a greater tomorrow. She can afford the luxury of clinging to the notion. She has been there, walked the walk, talked the talk, and accomplished what needed to be done when the world needed to see it happen. Regardless of the consequences.
If Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln had had a daughter, she would have been a Mankiller. If George and Martha Washington had had a daughter, she would have been a Mankiller.
If anyone throughout history had had a daughter--not only a daughter, but a daughter destined to pick up the struggle heaped upon the shoulders of humanity, to bear the brunt of every American’s mistakes, to revel in the glory of everyone’s victories and no one’s defeats, she would have been a Mankiller.
She would have been Wilma.
As in Pearl.
As in Mankiller.
And the story has just begun.
NOTE: All material is copyright protected. No portion of this material may be copied or reproduced, either electronically, mechanically, or by any other means, for resale or distribution without the written consent of the author. All copy has been dated and registered with the American Society of Authors and Writers. Copyright 2009 by The Swetky Agency
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