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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Attention Europeans: I have never killed an Indian

I have never killed an Indian. I know that this is hard to believe with all of the cowboy movies you watch over here. I have never really cared for the genre myself—not even the movies where the white men were sort of nice to the Indians, like Dances with Wolves. I have never understood American filmmakers' fascination with these violent, uneducated, itinerant farm laborers. I never felt that this mostly apocryphal archetype represents the American ideal of individuality; for that matter I don’t really believe Americans are big into individualism, but if you guys here in Europe find them entertaining then keep on watching. Can you turn down the volume a couple notches? I can hear the shoot-outs and banshee cries through the wall in my apartment.

You probably won’t believe me when I tell you that I absolutely hate John Wayne. He never actually killed an Indian in real life either, although in dozens of films he was something like Hitler to the Indians. John Wayne was too much of a physical coward to do harm to anyone, let alone do battle with a Native American warrior. He never even bothered to volunteer in the war against the real Hitler. Hell, the Duke may have never met a real Native American. When you look at those old films you can see that they just used white dudes with lots of make-up to portray Indians—Hollywood’s lighter toned but equally-as-insulting version of black face. Hollywood either used make-up to create Indians or they hired Anthony Quinn. He was Hollywood's idea of ethnic diversity for about 50 years of cinema.

So stop looking at me funny when I come into the bar where you are watching some hoary old horse opera. Now I know what Germans must feel like when they are traveling and they interrupt someone watching Hogan’s Heroes or Saving Private Ryan. All of the atrocities committed in those cowboy movies and television shows happened before I was even born. My forefathers came to America well after the west was won, or whatever euphemism for genocide you care to use for that unfortunate episode in American history. If I happen to laugh at what is on the television in the bar it’s not because I have no empathy for the plight of Native Americans; it’s just that I think that it is funny to see Gunsmoke dubbed into Greek, or Gary Cooper speaking Catalan.

Twenty years from now, if I live that long…cough…must…eat…cough...less…pork, twenty years from now I’ll be telling people sitting in a bar somewhere in Europe watching an American war movie about Iraq that I wasn’t down with that caper. I never liked George Bush when he was president (It feels good to say that in the past tense, even if it is, at this time, hypothetical). I didn’t vote for him twice. Because we vote in secret I can’t prove that I didn’t vote for Bush so perhaps I should take the canceled checks I sent to his two opponents (Gore and Kerry) and wear them around my neck. You’ll just have to take my word on the part about not killing any Native Americans. Can we change the channel?

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