Samuel Hayim Brody
The Other Rally, p. 4

Or maybe not. Speaking a few minutes after Norton was Tex G. Hall (Red Tip Arrow), President of the National Congress of American Indians. He gave Gale Norton a ceremonial blanket and thanked all the government people profusely for allowing him to be there. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. Then again, I thought, I should have expected this. What did I think, that all Native Americans are proud, unbowed rebels, waiting for the call to revolt? You give someone a little power, they lick it up and want some more. Of course Indians will have their sycophants and climbers like the rest of us. It's racist to think otherwise. So: signs of encouragement, signs of discouragement.

(An aside: after getting home, I wondered if I hadn't been a little presumptuous in my mental characterization of Tex Hall's actions; perhaps Norton's record on Indian rights is somehow better than I'd been led to believe. Or maybe Hall was merely playing politics and buttering Norton up so she'd take action on a currently pending issue. After a little bit more research, I concluded that while the latter possibility may have been the case, the former is out of the question. In addition to the aforementioned support of commercial interests seeking to destroy Native lands, Norton is responsible for continuing the Department of the Interior's mismanagement of federal trust funds, which owe more than $40 billion to Indians across the nation. She even faces a contempt-of-court citation from conservative federal judge Royce Lamberth on this issue, but seems unlikely to budge. According to, the case "now stands as the largest class-action suit in history, with more than 500,000 claimants." )

Everywhere you turn, the choice has to be made between hope and hopelessness. The big question these days seems to be how much America can take. What's the extent to which people can be frightened, terrorized, defeated, discouraged, distracted? What's the extent to which people will just swallow lies and more lies, and never get up when they're beaten down? For me there are two reasons to stay hopeful. One of them was the overall tone of the Lewis and Clark event, and the way Gale Norton stuck out as against what every single other speaker stood for, even at this most mainstream and flag-waving of American events. There was a basic liberal decency to what everyone except Norton had to say, which surprised me and gave me hope.

The second reason is the group of friends who went with me to Monticello. We tried to provide some content to the message being preached from the stage, explicit or implied, tried to remind people that "We Have A Long Way Still To Go." The rhetoric from the stage was warm and fuzzy, but without my friends and I there to "disrupt this nice event," the people there might not have known that Native Americans still had any conflicts with the government, or that Gale Norton was so opposed to her own job's statutory requirements. It's a sad fact that our contemporary political culture doesn't do well in the area of substance - the headlines are pretty much the same day in and day out, and all Big Media seems capable of doing is uncritically reporting the Administration's every utterance. So someone has to do the filling in. Fortunately, there are small minorities of activists who are neither so satisfied with the oligarchy of corporate wealth that they can't wait to get their taste, nor so angry that they can't speak intelligently about its evils. If we'd wanted theatrics, we would have been better off in DC, where the lines were more black and white, Big Media was watching (eager to get their story, capture the freaks on video, and again refrain from any substantive analysis), and the grandstands were full. But I'm glad I was at Monticello on January 18, for another kind of rally, and another, all the more threatening kind of political engagement. Threatening not because we're throwing garbage cans through windows or chanting slogans against a Wag-the-Dog war. Threatening because we're not.

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Samuel Hayim Brody is studying antirepresentationalism at the University of Virginia.

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