Sep 2, 2021 • 9M

we killed off all the buffalos

and the radicalization of rohn

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We killed off all the buffalos. Have you ever thought about that? There used to be millions of them roaming the vast prairies of the American West; from northern Mexico to Canada, from Idaho to Pennsylvania. The white European buffalo hunters with their .50 caliber rifles hunted them to near extinction in the late 1800’s, partly to force the Indians into submission. They depended on the buffalo for sustenance: food, shelter, clothing, tools and as part of their spiritual cosmology. By 1902, there were fewer than 100 wild buffalos roaming the Great Plains and the proud American ‘Indians’ (what were left of them) were in reservations.

Photograph from 1892 of a pile of buffalo (American bison) skulls near Detroit waiting to be ground up for fertilizer.

We kicked the Indians off their ancestral lands where they had lived for generations in the Southeast: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. The Choctaw, the Creek, the Chickasaw, the Seminole and the Cherokee were living peacefully as farmers and willing to integrate with the white settlers but their fertile river bottom lands were coveted by the encroaching settlers and with the help of Andrew Jackson and his Indian Removal Act of 1830 they were exiled to a foreign land in Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears.

Trail of Tears 1839. Painting: “Forced Move” by Max Standley courtesy R. Michelson Galleries.

When I learned of these atrocities and became aware of the effect they had on the native people, my attitude was - you know what, this society has no legitimacy. The American nation is built on the conquest and destruction of the nations who were here before - their culture, their language and most of all their inhabitants. I felt empowered and liberated. I felt like a radical anarchist and still do. I am a member of American culture and society, have benefited from it and am a product of it but I don’t believe in it.

This is the same behaviour that we manifested in the 20 year war in Afghanistan, the same behavior we exhibited when we invaded Iraq, a sovereign state that had committed no aggression against us. This was the same behavior behind the Vietnam war and the Korean war before it. Dominate and control using overpowering force has been our habitual behavior ever since the Indian wars of the 19th century and before. We (the Europeans) arrived on these shores not to collaborate and live peacefully with the natives but to conquer and subjugate them and then remake the world in our own image.

On the other hand there is a great American tradition of altruism, kindness, compassion and non-violence. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Henry David Thoreau, the Transcendentalists of New England, it goes all the way back to William Penn and the Quakers, doesn’t it?

William Penn believed, as was common among the Quakers back then, that all people had the light of God in them and that they could personally know Divine Revelation as sure as the Bible. He negotiated a treaty with the Delaware Indians who controlled the land around his growing colony (which later became Pennsylvania), treating them as equals and sovereign in their own right.

When I learned about these folks I became a peacenik. If they could do it, I could too. Yeah ok, Muhammad Ali was a boxer, he knocked people out. That wasn’t too nice but he was also a poet (some say the first rapper) and he also sacrificed his career for his principles - he lost his boxing licence for 5 years for refusing to be drafted into the military because of his religious beliefs and his opposition to the Vietnam war.

Muhammad Ali pop art painting by John Stango.

The history of America (of which we are writing the current chapter) has been one of empire building and carrying the blessings of democracy to the world. Now that our empire is winding down and democracy turns out to be a fancy name for oligarchy, there is a deep divide over what America actually is.

We killed off all the buffalos but now we are rebuilding the herds. The Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, is a Native American. But we pulled out of Afghanistan in a humiliating defeat, and left all kinds of military gear to the enemy. They like the Humvees. If it were the Indian wars it would be like counting coup, embarrassing your enemy by sneaking up on them, boinking them with your tomahawk and then escaping unharmed.

Serves us right, is my attitude. And there are more humiliations to come - seeing our coastal cities flooded by rising seas, our vaunted economy fractured and fallen, our united states dis-united and devolving into some kind of civil war. Hey I ain’t no prophet but I am a radical anarchist and I can see what’s obvious without the weight of the buy-in that most people carry.

We never should have killed all those buffalos. Gentlemen from the East shooting them from a moving train until the barrel of their Sharps long gun was too hot to use and they had to pick up a second gun. Littering the plains with the rotting carcasses of a once majestic beast. Driving the Indians insane with the wanton murder of their totem, their spirit animal, their spiritual guide and benefactor.

These things can never be undone but they can be remembered. Wisdom comes from our disasters and mistakes, isn’t that the truth? Hard earned wisdom, if we survive, comes from the shit hitting the fan - that’s the way it’s been in my life atleast. Why should it be any different for our nation?

America has lost its spirit animal in the desecration of other people’s spirit animals. We have subdued nature and the natural people but have lost our nature in the process. We go to work, we pay our bills and we keep the economy humming but have less freedom than the street people living under a bridge downtown. Atleast they can get up when they want, take a nap when they want and don’t have to pay taxes or mow their lawn.

Something will arise from the ashes that will be new and brilliant, that will reflect our glorious past with all its triumphs and disasters. The kids will come thru with a brave new world. I believe that with all my radical anarchist heart. What can be more radical and anarchist than to believe that there is the light of God in each person and that with that light we can find our way?

Buffalo Hunt, Chase, painting by George Catlin, 1844.

Human

I am, I have

I breathe in and out
I own a heart
An ear and an eye
I've only been here one time
It's passing me by

Been in and out
And in front of my judgmental eyes
My precious disguise
Business so cold
Can't cope with my own
How to not fail

I am flesh, bones
I am skin, soul
I am human
Nothing more than human
I am sweat, flaws
I am veins, scars
I am human
Nothing more than human

I am human
I am human
Human
Human
Human
Human

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