One of those nights
Tonight was the final episode of the miniseries “Into the West”, helmed by executive producer Steven Spielberg, a six week television event, as touted by the commercials..
It was the story of several generations of two family groups, one white and one Lakota, during the 1800s. Naturally it was the story of the systematic annihilation of the Native Americans by the American government.
My roommate is Native American, which added to the awkwardness of watching a not-so-proud moment of history.
Learning about the history of “white people” is a little like waking up with amnesia…although I might be a decent guy now, apparently I was a bit of a bastard before.
What do you do with the guilt of the past? How do you keep it from spilling over into the present? How can I stop seeing myself like one of those soldiers in the TV show?
I mean you believed the posters and signed up, right? The girls thought it was cute, the older guys gave their nods, the higher-ups give their “attaboys.” But then you get here and it’s different.
You see how people live. You see what they have to deal with. You see them pushed and searched like criminals, guns leveled at their children and wives.
I keep thinking about that night where I almost shot that guy. I wonder what that young boy in the back seat was thinking, as his father, mother and sister sat with their heads down and hands up. Were they praying they wouldn’t be shot? Were they afraid? Was the young boy angry?
As we shouted and cocked our rifles and voices continued to rise, the armed man/uncle/friend fearfully shaking and pleading…how was I not like one of those soldiers on the 19th century plains, far from home, “containing a situation” with a bunch of “savages” (now called Hajji, the slur used against the Arabs)?
What will that young boy think? And if you’re saying it’s not important, I think it is. He’s the future for this people.
Will he think that such experiences were necessary to curtail the expansion of violent extremist aggression against the agents poised to unleash a healing wave of political reformation? Or will he remember the blinding spotlights, the guns, and the prayers?
When our lights faded and the car crept away, did the children cry? Did the father tell his son to “never forget” something? Who he was, where he came from? That, although the Americans were here now, soon, they wouldn’t have to be afraid? Was it just another night, like finding out the theater doesn’t sell Junior Mints — “Oh well”, and the movie starts?