[ Please review this article first to see the billboard image in question: Pro-gun rights billboard depicting American Indians sparks outrage | GreeleyTribune.com http://ow.ly/kAyQT — * Full Disclosure: The inspiration behind this commentary came to me from journalist Joel Dyer when he asked me what I thought about this story when it first came to light. You can find his article about this issue (and a very concise response from Ward Churchill) in his piece for the Boulder Weekly: ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ — http://ow.ly/kEZD0 ]
Playing Politics With Genocide: Or How the Gun Rights Movement Became ‘Indigenous’
‘The justice and benevolence of God will forbid that … Texas should again become a howling wilderness trod only by savages, or … benighted by the ignorance and superstition, the anarchy and rapine of Mexican misrule. The Anglo-American race are destined to be forever the proprietors of this land of promise and fulfillment. Their laws will govern it, their learning will enlighten it, their enterprise will improve it. Their flocks range its boundless pastures, for them its fertile lands will yield … luxuriant harvest … The wilderness of Texas has been redeemed by Anglo-American blood & enterprise’.
— William H. Wharton, Texas senator, 1836
To be brutally frank with you, I am so disturbed by this advert that it is difficult for me to discuss this issue objectively and I won’t even try. Chiefly because it is achingly clear to me and any other sentient Indigenous person, (especially those of us involved in the anti-Mascot struggle) that the neoconservative geniuses behind this abominable banner are utterly oblivious to their own denied sense of racial entitlement, as well as their historical status as colonialist trespassers and the material beneficiaries of Euro-American anti-Indigenous murder.
In short, these folks are apparently either too stupid or too choked up with dreams of Aryan Americana supremacy insecurities to comprehend the exhaustively contradictory nature of this billboard’s argument against government gun-controls.
Let’s set aside, for a moment anyway, the ‘Constitutional / Pro-Gun / State’s Rights’ political brawl this placard tries to endorse as we deconstruct the failed logic behind the context of the advert’s visual language.
When I mentioned the crisis of my partiality in regards to politically evaluating this billboard’s message, I was being honest. Because at first glance, the visual impact of the advertisement appears to address the sentiments (of some) within the international Indigenous liberation movement as it relates to the historical struggles of Original Peoples in the Americas. In other words, it seems, at first, that American Indian issues were being starkly raised, artistically speaking, in regards to contemporary ignorance surrounding Indigenous rights, issues and interests.
It’s on the second, (or third in my case) longer look (and a moment of thoughtful consideration) that the conflicting content begins to slap your brain. What I mean to say is, what is really being asked of the viewer with this startling advert? And were they really serious? Because this is my question for the propaganda commissariat of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the entire right-wing spectrum of lunatic North American political thought behind this agit-prop:
Is the customarily Caucasian and overwhelmingly right-wing patriotic pro-gun lobby actually suggesting that if the US government had not forcibly disarmed Indigenous Americans that the eradication of more than 500 autochthonous Indigenous nations would never have happened? And if that is their position, who exactly are they suggesting those theoretically armed American Indians were supposed to be shooting at to preserve their own unique ‘Way of Life’? And, do they, as White Americans, accept responsibility, historically, for Indigenous genocide?
I’m just curious. Has anyone else thought to ask the producers of this advert that burning question? And, why would gun-advocates go there? And for what reason? This is the sort of barefaced disregard for the Indigenous American that painfully irritates, or at least should, the nerve endings of anyone with a modicum of respect or compassion for the plight of Native Peoples everywhere. That’s a given. But are we really asking what is actually being said here between the text and the symbolism used to convey an underlying message?
Like I said, it looks like a pro-Indigenous rights message. And this of course is a perspective that does not exist within the Europocentric mainstream of Canadian, US or Mexican popular discourse. And agit-prop such as this has the graphic power to emotionally shock the complacent into an instant consciousness of the blatantly obvious. However, I am of the mind that this aspect was perhaps largely unintentional. And I openly admit that this opinion is squarely based upon witnessing a long and embarrassing trail of public relations insensitivity and buffoonery that has come to define the right-wing and pro-gun lobby even before Barack Obama took the oath of office. But I still suggest that this dynamic, even if accidental, is nonetheless central to the cosmic-level befuddlement that lies behind the obviously bent reasoning of the ad itself.
The utilisation of the genocidal plight of the very Indigenous population Euro-Americans have actively and consciously attempted to ethnically-cleanse (as a matter of national policy) as the basis of a public service announcement in support of Anglo-Saxon, White Christian male gun-rights is more than just disrespectful. It’s perverse. And for a multitude of reasons. It is like asking someone who has been sexually assaulted to advocate in favour of their attacker in court because theoretically, in the immediate environment of the legal system, he or she is just as powerless as the victim was during the attack in question.
This is why simply saying the advert is insensitive and stupid completely misses the point. And the underlying thought process behind this senselessness display in a nation plagued by racialised, class-disparities is alarming. When neocons begin connecting their pro-weapons culture to the genocide of Indigenous Americans as an issue of ‘solidarity’, be certain that this particular advert goes far beyond the bogus Second Amendment argument these demented folks incessantly rage about. A cryptic message is being sent — history is what White conservatives say it is. And according to this particular billboard ad, White folks are an endangered species without unlimited access to combat-grade weapons and the legal right to stockpile guns without ever going through a background check.
Am I still alone in seeing that this ad is about more than ‘equal time’ for gun-rights?
This advert is not about guns. But we knew that already. [SEE: The Black Panthers And The Right To Bear Arms – disinformation http://ow.ly/kACSx] This is about insecure Caucasians twisting their own history like an Orwellian newspeak editor with no concern for the fact that this ‘patriotic’ PSA is not only a complete lie, but a queer, LSD-fuelled stroll through Alice’s Wonderland complete with jack-booted white rabbits beckoning the stupid into holes that lead absolutely nowhere.
Further, it is an absurd and ugly theatrical cabaret of blunt-minded, White supremacist desperation. This is reactionary angst against a changing national demographic brought on by a 500-year programme of continuous European domination and ethnic exploitation. And it is a striking cultural perpetuation of the traditional revisionist narrative that purports to explain the high-minded colonialist’s sense of personal loss and apprehension when things turn sour.
Since the rise of Obama, it is not uncommon to hear pro-gun advocates, ‘Birthers’ and some 911 ‘Truthers’ tearfully expressing their esoteric sense of, ‘Feeling like an Indian’, when it comes to ‘Real Americans’ losing their natural rights and lands to communists, homosexuals, ‘Brown-Skinned’ Muslims and American Aboriginals native to the territories south of the Rio Grande. And here again, the Rudyard Kipling sense of European patrimonial hegemony is, at least in this example, radically turned completely on its head.
In claiming to identify with the victims of an European-led genocide that was carried out by their own national founders and ‘White’ forefathers, these dim-witted souls, in effect, are actually acknowledging the reality of what they normally would angrily deny. That is, the historical truth of the European’s wilful destruction and displacement of the American Indian for the benefit of White occupation.
In trying to defend their racially-partisan political position by pointing out the wrongness of a genocide that European Americans are unquestionably responsible for, they are also ‘admitting’ that it actually happened. After generations of abject denial. Further, they add insult to this grave injury by suggesting, with a straight face, that their ‘plight’ — the loss of their unrestricted gun rights — is equal to the genocide that occurred to Native Peoples faced with aggressive European territorial encroachment and racial violence. Moreover, they suspend reality even further by promoting this idea as a ‘civil rights’ issue. [SEE: Rush Limbaugh: If Civil Rights Activists In The ’60s Had Owned Guns, “You Think They Would Have Needed Selma?” | Video | Media Matters for America http://ow.ly/kADpG]
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to put something forth like that much less take it seriously. And the varying degrees of insult presented in this advertisement hurts. Deeply.
This stunt pushes a lot of politically sensitive buttons and that was the intent. It also, by way of intellectual misadventure, helps to illustrates the sort of venomous ignorance that Indigenous Americans must cope with when encountering the intentional corruption of Indigenous ‘isms’ in pursuit of colonialist pipe dreams. Such acts of xenophobic angst rub salt in wounds that have never been allowed to heal, much less be recognised with respect towards the victims both living and dead. What seems to just a turgid, ‘Think about that for a moment’, commie-style, agit-prop roadside PSA using American Indians as a rude motif for the far-right concerns of conservative White men is in truth, much more than just an insult. It is a blackhearted parody intended to confuse the discussion surrounding the debate on gun-control as well as raising a highly questionable and morally bereft historical comparison between themselves and the Indigenous Peoples they still extra-legally deny the basic material, social and legal necessities of life in the 21st century. That is the greatest insult of this advert. The knowing application of fantasy presented as fact.
And while it may sound passé to ostracise this individual act of stupefying, idiosyncratic American White arrogance as mirror-quality Naziesque propaganda, I’m sorry, but it’s accurate. But this isn’t saying enough. I suggest, without reservation, that it is pro-Western European fascist propaganda in it’s most classical sense. And that it is indicative of traditional US colonial denial, only with a new twist. So let us please, just this once, simply identify conservative xenophobia repackaged as ‘White Rights’ for what it is. A vacuous and pitiful cry for attention from a very frightened and paranoid segment of the European-American population fearful of the future because they know their past. And they fear a backlash. Hence the hidden metaphor embedded within the visual power of the poster’s design:
White People are at risk of extermination.
This paranoid vision is the the consequence of what some in the American African community call the ‘Actual Obama Effect’, the complete psychological unsettlement of the White American mentality deathly frightened of anti-White retribution. Whether it is actual, or not. Now that the door has been opened for ethnic minorities in executive positions of power, many White Americans of all political shades openly worry about what will happen to them after centuries of extremely brutal Western Europocentric domination. If South Africa and the US can be used as indicators, nothing of any consequence will happen. And raising Mugabe’s political corruption, as many Whites will do defensively, selectively ignores the long-standing, long-ignored capitalist roots of the numerous problems that have plagued Zimbabwe before and after Ian Smith. And it all centres around the concept and practise of energetic and militant, European empirical power.
I do not claim to speak for anybody in particular, but this particular American Aboriginal is not only offended by this advert, but stunned by the sheer doltishness of the project. Not that this will matter to the ‘first-rate’ minds who concocted this farce. They think they are smart. And clearly, grown men who are afraid to look at the world beyond the length of their own penises without brandishing a firearm as a security-blanket cannot be cured of their preposterous insecurities with common sense arguments. They must be exposed, like the mythical European vampire, to the hard light of day. The world is changing, for everybody. Only these people refuse to accept that and have no qualms about altering history in an foolishly conspicuous effort to revise American his-tory.
This advert was created by and for people living in mortal dread of a non-European dominated sociopolitical future. What they fear most, is that moment the populations they have abused for so long might decide to take the mighty whip of retribution and exact emotive restitution purely of out of spite. So far this has failed to happen to any serious degree, which says more about the victims of Euro-colonialism than it does about the people that believe in it.
Within a strictly Indigenist context, this advert brings to light a candid glimpse of something that has existed in popular US media for a very long time. In this light, the pro-gun cult, like every other neoconservative scheme in recorded history, is simply a red herring issue masking a broader, far-rightist, vulture capitalist, xenophobia Europocentric agenda. And those who understand the logical idiocy of colonialist Euro-American ethical perversion have seen this many times before. Just recently, the US right-wing has promoted campaigns of racially-targeted and highly moronic propaganda geared towards the American African and Latinos communities to fish for voter attention towards their own anti-abortion, anti-homosexual rights and pro-gun legislation issues. [SEE: Racist to oppose President Obama’s gun control proposals? | Interviews | Hannity http://ow.ly/kAF0U]
This is where they will take an empirical fact, (maybe two) add three parts fear, four ounces of loathing and just a smidgen of vermouth to round out the Jonestown kool-aid powder at the base of the cocktail. Now, since the Obama machine has surpassed the two-term mark, their appeal to ‘mainstream’ disenchanted minorities has proved to be a disastrous failure. So, who’s left they must have asked themselves and you guessed it. The last truly culturally conservative (and invisible) ethnic group left in the United States with a stake in its future. The Native American with a voter’s registration card resting next to their federally-issued Tribal ID.
Not that we vote conservative mind you, we just believe in keeping things in a certain kind of social order instinctive to our respective communities. And neoconservatives have decided to try their luck manipulating that cultural dynamic in the one group nobody mentions unless its convenient to furthering someone else’s agenda.
These people operate under the assumption that any little bit of attention from the Master Race will be welcomed with open arms.
They don’t understand Indian Country very well, do they?
[Typos corrected: 2013-05-03T00:44:24+00:00]
- American Indian images on Colorado gun-rights billboards stir debate (denverpost.com)
- Greeley billboards compare modern gun advocates to historical Native Americans (kdvr.com)
- Controversy brewing over depiction of Native people on pro-gun billboard (pangaeaarchivalnetwork.wordpress.com)
- Pro-gun billboard featuring Native Americans causing controversy in Colorado (usnews.nbcnews.com)