By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
On one hand, you can hardly believe that the level of intellectual discourse has plummeted so deeply and broadly since the start of 2017. You want to just put on a set of good noise-cancelling headsets and drown out the noise.
But then, you ponder the potential repercussions of giving free reign to ignorance and suddenly feel the compulsion to refute those who mistake as well as provide a beacon of knowledge for those trying to traipse higher ground.
So that teacher instinct overrides the temptation to dismiss ignorance as insignificant irrelevance – particularly when the dumbness emanates from the so-called leader of the free world. Global conversation has reached an all-time low.
In the face of nuclear threats in North Korea, deadly ISIS attacks everywhere, lingering hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, rampant hate crimes coursing the nation, growing environmental threats, disrespect for womanhood and deadly diseases still awaiting cure – Agent Orange opts to conjure Pocahontas.
The President of the United States is using, of course, the reference to the fabled Native American femme fatale in the pejorative sense as he attempts to malign political foe Elizabeth Warren; accusing her of feigning Native American heritage to win votes.
Invoking the slur during a press conference to honor heroic World War II veterans who happen to be Native American was almost as foolish as conducting the event in a room of the White House in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, known for leading deadly attacks on native Americans in the 19th Century.
But staying on point, many ask who was Pocahontas? Not the Disney cartoon character or glamorized Native American submission portrayed thro-ugh children’s books, short stories and novels. The truth about Pocahontas is an American tragedy – another shameful chapter in the book of this nation’s bigotry and genocide.
Some may reject the decision to elaborate on a seemingly trivial topic. Two factors dictate otherwise. The first is that when someone in power casually and recklessly projects images, it can have broad impact. But to know what’s wrong with what he is saying, you need to know the right information.
The second reason is to offer enlightenment, in general, in an area that is referenced not only by 45, but in literature and the arts on a frequent basis. The Bible says people perish for a lack of knowledge so there is never too much learning going on.
Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhattan Chief Wahunsenaca. Her birth name was Matoaka but when her mother died in childbirth, her grief-stricken father wanted the mother’s memory to live on in the name of their daughter.
Historians debunk claims that Pocahontas threw herself in front of colonist John Smith, pleading for his life. As a member of the royal family, she was too closely watched. Similarly, history refutes the myth of her sneaking food to John Smith for his survival. Smith was 27 years old and she was 10. They lived 12 miles apart.
Pocahontas befriended Smith but lived to regret it as the leader of his group of colonists robbed Native Americans in the villages of food and supplies at gunpoint. Treatment of Native Americans was brutal in the early 1600s. Contrary to reports, she never betrayed her tribe to assist John Smith or colonists.
The entire American landscape for the Native American took an abrupt detour into uncharted death and suffering on the arrival of brutal and ruthless colonists.
Before the arrival of colonists, tribes were comfortable wearing scant clothing during hot summer months – including exposed breasts of Native women and almost naked children. That comfort level changed when colonists began raping children and mothers who offered themselves to protect their offspring. Historians said the English government offered no protection from the assaults.
Pocahontas married and had a child. Her life took an awful and irreversible turn when her husband was murdered. Afterward, English colonists kidnapped Pocahontas and raped her repeatedly, say historians. Years later, she married English tobacco producer John Rolfe – with whom she had another child. Rolfe renamed Pocahontas, Rebecca.
Pocahontas never saw her first child or family after her abduction. In what writers describe as top health, eating dinner one evening with her husband, Pocahontas began having convulsions, vomited and died. She was just a few weeks shy of her 21st birthday. Some charge that her death was the result of poisoning but it was never proven.
These facts help us all better understand resentment Native Americans harbor as they are inundated with romanticized images of Pocahontas and other people from their tribes; portrayals that distort and discount their horrid realities. Americans simply need more truth in their diet so this column is this week’s entree. Intake and digest.
One pathetic person certain NOT to be more enlightened or better informed at any point of intelligent dialogue is the main perpetrator of deception – 45. His policy remains emphatically: “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].