Friday, May 27, 2016

A Family Letter

Hatito, hileni. [Greetings, cousin.]

I haven't written in some time, which I regret, as I used to look forward to our exchange of actual letters, as opposed to texts and furtive phone messages.  Perhaps it was during the flurry of exchanges in my parents', your aunt and uncle's, final months that I fell out of the practice of actually composing a letter designed to be put in an envelop and sent through a system that seems quaint and preferable anymore.  I've begun to associate electronic communication with the prosaic function of work and court matters, or as the purview of Twitter critics, Facebook ranters, and politicians.  A letter seems more apt, especially between two old buckeyes.

You are right when you observe that it was been too long since we've been to The Big Flat.  I miss it particularly in the springtime; I miss that familiar scent of new life that is distinct to rural Ohio.  I long to hear the turkey's call, the Bob White's mating song, and the slap of a bass' tail on freshwater.  It is not good to be so remote from nature, even though I spend much of my time in a rural portion of my state, it is not the same as being in the midst of land that has been home to The People for longer than even Tenskwatawa knew.

I heard a funny thing from a Waapa woman this week.  We have noted before of the tendency that educated, middle-class Waapa have of, in Grandfather's language, "hating their own home".  She observed that capitalism was, in essence, an unfair system.  The Waapa desire for fairness in all things is ironic given their historic treatment of The People; it is especially so when they expect it from either nature or economic systems.

But what I found particularly rich about this was that she and her friends live in the midst of plenty made possible by capitalism.  Many of them do not work, such as we understand it.  Because of capitalism, they live in a comfortable, sheltered community that rests apart from the realities that vex many others.  As usual, the comfortable see poverty as a form of omniscient victimization.  As you and I know, poverty often requires considerable participation by the individual.  I suppose, too, that they feel some guilt about their privilege and slake it through lamentation about what is the most liberating economic medium in history.

I know what lead our family, and many of our tribe, out of poverty and away from racial labeling was the capitalistic system.  Grandfather used his considerable talent as a furniture maker to start his own business, lifting him and subsequent generations to a more self-determined life.  We were no longer poor Indians, but business owners and artisans, just as we are now those things and also lawyers, CPA's, clergy, insurance company vice-presidents, teachers, nurses, law enforcement, etc. This would not have been possible under any other economic system.

This was the way we gained respect, too, as Grandfather went from being addressed at work as "The Indian" to being addressed as "Boss" by those to whom he gave a livelihood.  Because of capitalism, in one generation we went from the marginal to the mainstream.  The happy lives of our children and grandchildren are testimony to that.  I feel for those who have not had this experience; I begin to see life in my small town as just another kind of reservation, this one by and for the Waapa, and we all know how limiting any type of reservation may be to the human soul and its regard for the world.  They come to despair the means of freedom.

I hope to see you at the Great Reunion this August, but it will be hard for me to get away for more than a day or so.  I will always have happy memories of the two of us singing the life song for our fathers.  I hope that someone may do the same for us when the appropriate day arrives.

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people."

We have a beautiful literary tradition, don't we?