Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I’ll apologize for my own sins, thank you very much

Note: This is an editorial written for the Valley City Times-Record, in response to an editorial by Lloyd Omdahl, former Lt. Governor of North Dakota (1987-1992), professor of political science at North Dakota university and newspaper columnist. I believe my piece states his position well enough that I don't need to reproduce his in full, but I'll post a URL for his if it appears online.

I post it here because it states my position on the general issue raised, beyond its local manifestation.

Heavy sigh. I should probably be more careful about making enemies...

Lloyd Omdahl said in these pages yesterday that it’s time for the Great Plains states to 1) adopt legislative resolutions conceding guilt for offenses against indigenous peoples, 2) engage in dialog with Native Americans, 3) eliminate “points of pain” between the two societies, and 4) generously enhance economic and educational opportunities for Native Americans.

Mr. Omdahl cited the example of Southern states apologizing for the sins of slavery. He further cites the teachings of Christianity as justification for this proposed collective apology.

I am insulted by this, deeply and personally. That’s putting it mildly. What I am, is furious to the point that I needed to collect myself before I could reply coherently.

Let’s take this point by point.

“Adopt legislative resolutions conceding guilt.”

Whose guilt? Got news for you, I’ve done plenty of things in my life I’m embarrassed and ashamed of, but I’ve never killed a single Indian - or owned a slave for that matter.

But Mr. Omdahl evidently thinks that I, through my elected representatives, ought to apologize and concede guilt for things done by members of the same racial group as myself, mostly before I was born. (Although in point of fact, like many families long-established in this country, my ancestry is not entirely White.)

There is a name for this position. It’s called “racism.”

Second point, “engage in dialog with the Native Americans.”

I am a Native American. I was born here, descended from peoples of different nations, Scots, Irish, English and yes First Nations, who were until quite recently still cheerfully slaughtering each other. That’s part of what being “American” is all about. You’re supposed to give up those old loyalties and hatreds when you become one.

But I’m definitely in favor of dialog. It beats monolog any old day.

“Eliminate points of pain.”

Specifics please. This is vague, feel-good political rhetoric that doesn’t tread close enough to any concrete proposals that the speaker would actually have to defend.

“Generously enhance economic and educational opportunities.”

First point in reply, voting other peoples’ money away is not generosity, any more than sending other people to war is courage. In either case it may be necessary, but it is not the same thing.

Second point, creating “educational opportunities” is in fact one of those “points of pain between the societies.”

Generations of children of the First Nations were sent to government boarding schools, deliberately mixing peoples of different languages so that they would forget their native tongues and culture.

Perhaps the First Nations would rather be given control of their own education through something like a voucher system, rather than trust their children to the tender mercies of their White benefactors.

Mr. Ohdahl cites Christianity as his justification. But Christianity teaches that every individual is individually responsible for his/her own sins and own salvation, not collectively as a race, state or nation.

Mr. Omdahl’s appeal is to what theologians call “cheap grace,” a way to feel good about yourself without any actual sacrifice of comfort or convenience. The kind of grace that is, alas, all too common these days.


  • At 10:08 AM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    I'm accustomed to politicians making dumb arguments that are absurd on their face. But if this guy is now a college professor, then why is he publicly flaunting his propensity for stupidity?

    Your response is a good example of why politicians always have the upper hand. Their irresponsible, dishonest rhetoric, made in bad faith, takes longer to refute than to recite. Their ability to remain vague, while appealing to commonly held beliefs, enables them to stir the waters while remaining brief. And since commonly held beliefs are the implied support for their statements, any response relying upon reason and logic must be spelled out to be effective. By my estimation, for every word of foolishness in a politician's statement, five times the quantity of reason is often necessary to refute it.

    In that regard, your response was pretty good. I am guessing that your reasoned response was shorter than his purposely deceptive jive.

  • At 2:54 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    Omdahl has clearly been listening to too many preachers of the "Reverend" Wright atheo-illogical bent.
    For a man of letters and academia, he doesn't appear to be able to read between the lines very well, as most "persons of color" know a shake-down when they see one.
    This causes me to ponder most seriously the point of how worthwhile an "education" First Nationers would receive at the hands of a socialist system that produces public officials who lack critical thinking skills.

  • At 5:59 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Actually, the good news is that I limited myself to approximately the same length of his editorial, for reasons of space and fairness.

  • At 12:24 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    Well said Steve. I'll not add more.

  • At 7:46 AM, Blogger dchamil said…

    Giving away other people's money is not generosity, any more than sending other people to war is courage. This is a very persuasive remark. I think I have read this in one of Thomas Sowell's essays.

  • At 11:47 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Is it? Might very well be, I'd read Sowell's laundry lists and I've got this pack rat memory that stores all kinds of junk I can't remember where I got.

    If I'd have known I was going to have a memory like this, I'd have kept a clearer conscience.


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