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Sat May 12, 2012, 03:02 PM

United Exiles

“Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U.S. Constitution”
-- Oren Lyons & John Mohawk; Clear Light; 1992.


The head of the Sidney, NY Democratic Party contacted me earlier this week. She said that their notorious Town Supervisor, Bob McCarthy -- the man who put the town into the international spotlight two years ago, when he attempted to illegally force the removal of Islamic graves -- had been acting like a petty tyrant. I suggested that it wasn’t an act: Sidney’s town clown fits that description. She asked if I could attend the board meeting, and assist in putting Bob in check.

Out of habit, I arrived in Sidney early, allowing me access to a front-row seat. Soon, a local (retired) businessman, who serves as the head of the town’s planning board, sat beside me. I had attended high school with his daughters, and had been friends with their mother; all of them despised the old man. He and I have never been on anything less than hostile terms, and last fall, he and McCarthy had traveled to other community meetings, in part to heckle me when I gave presentations against hydrofracking.

The head of a regional energy corporation (who was also in school with me) had instructed both of these gentlemen to be “respectful” to me, probably because he was aware of my ability to use such clowns for props in front of the media. Thus, he greeted me with, “Hey, Pat. Haven’t seen you in a while.” This is the essence of a “company man” -- although he detests me, he submits to his superior’s instruction to be friendly towards me. Yet, this did not stop him from trying to secretly read my notes during the meeting. I, of course, made sure to let him see everything I wrote ….as much of it was for his consumption.

A friend who works for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation sat on my other side. His knowledge of environmental law makes him a thorn in McCarthy’s side, and as soon as he sat down, McCarthy called the Village Police. McCarthy insisted that the responding officer remove my friend from the meeting. When asked for what cause, McCarthy could only say, “Because I don’t want him here.” The officer refused to take any action beyond reminding McCarthy that it was an open meeting.

During the meeting, McCarthy continued to display his utter contempt for open government. First, he was verbally abusive to a town councilwoman, who questioned his “authority” to force board members to tell him how they planned to vote on certain issues, days before the meeting. Second, when the Town Clerk reminded him that Governor Cuomo had recently signed an “open government” law that he was violating, McCarthy insisted he didn’t have to obey “expensive” laws.

I could, of course, go on and on in giving examples of how this tea party republican, with his single-celled brain, governs. But I think that you get the picture. And as much of a buffoon as Bob McCarthy may be, he is unfortunately symptomatic of what is wrong in government on a state and national level -- much as his sniveling friend from the planning board is of business.

But what does this, you may be asking, have to do with the book I referenced at the top of this essay? Quite a bit, actually.

My intention here is not to debate the role that Native Americans -- in particular, the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy -- played in influencing the Founding Fathers of the United States. From previous experience on this very forum, I know that the majority of folks here are aware of that influence. It would be hard, perhaps impossible, to look at Franklin’s Albany Plan of Union, where the federal government was to be known as the Grand Council, and not see any connection. Or the Articles of Confederation. Or the Constitution. However, should anyone have sincere doubts, please read chapter six of this book, Donald Grinde’s “Iroquois Political Theory and the Roots of American Democracy,” and we can go from there.

The European experience had been something that should sound familiar to everyone here. Briefly, before there were nation-states, most of Europe was subjected to the system known as feudalism. The peasants were engaged in agriculture, and ruled by an imperial force within a castle. When the king needed soldiers to rob, steal, and kill for him, he “drafted” the young men of the peasant families into his service. While the king did have advisors and aides, he had the final word in ruling over everyone’s life. And this included his “taxing” the poor for his service.

As agricultural methods improved, and provided surplus goods, the Europeans began to engage in two things that would stratify their society: industry and a greatly increased amount of trade. Hence, a new powerful group arose: the merchants. As the “corporate” interests banded together, they became powerful enough to reach an almost-equal footing with the king. Added to this was the political power of the Pope in Rome. The balance was that merchantilism replaced feudalism, thus establishing nation-states; and with that, men who searched distant parts of the globe for gold, glory, and God.

We’ll skip over how Spain brought Christian civilization to Central America, even though it no doubt would appeal to Bob McCarthy’s sense of self-righteousness. Fast forward to England’s Thirteen Colonies, including its ruling class of merchants, who were caught up in a conflict: being under British rule had some comfortable advantages for them, but there were too many pesky taxes.

Certainly, those “Founding Fathers” were fully human, which included having faults and weaknesses. But they believed in the Power of Ideas. And many of them -- including those who met at Albany to plan their new nation, and those at the later Constitutional Convention -- were very familiar with Native American thinking in terms of freedom and democracy. And those less familiar had the opportunity to listen to the representatives of the Iroquois Grand Council of Chiefs, who attended both of these (and many other related) meetings.

The Iroquois had been guided by a socio-political school of thought that no Europeans had been exposed to before coming into contact with the Native Americans of the northeast. These include the concept that all human beings are equal, and have certain inalienable rights. They included the concept that one should never submit to the whims of a “king” or “merchant.” Listen closely to those who have proven themselves to be Good and Wise. Yet, “think for yourself, and act on the behalf of your people” was a basic truth.

Those Founding Fathers didn’t get everything right. Non-white people, and white women and children were obviously not included in the mix of those with rights in the United States. And while I’m not a person who would take a “be patient -- all good things in their time” position, progress has been made. Not enough: the “controversy” of equal rights in marriage shows that the Bob McCarthy virus still infects too much of our society to call us healthy.

What I will say is this: the message of the Iroquois -- that the white folk should “become Indian” -- did not imply that the Founding Fathers and their families should abandon the colonies and most to Indian communities. No, it meant then -- as it means now -- that they needed to think the thoughts the Indians thought, to behave in the general manner the Indians behaved in, and to refuse to submit to a cruel and criminal “authority” that morally sick individuals and institutions claimed. And that those colonists who banded together, and exercised the Power of the Good Mind, could overcome any stumbling block planed in their way.

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Reply United Exiles (Original post)
H2O Man May 2012 OP
H2O Man May 2012 #1
Beringia May 2012 #2
H2O Man May 2012 #3
mmonk May 2012 #4
H2O Man May 2012 #6
Zorra May 2012 #5
H2O Man May 2012 #7

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 12, 2012, 08:14 PM

1. I should also note

that I have a new puppy: half shepherd, half huskie. Looks a bit like a raccoon, and so his name is Rocky.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #1)

Sat May 12, 2012, 09:31 PM

2. Huskie


We had a Malamute when I was young. A very smart dog who would sit on top of small dogs when I took her out for a walk. I remember your pictures of your shepherd you posted before. That is nice you have a new dog.

I am making some small sculptures of wild animals, just learning. Making a red deer.

Good to read your postings.

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Response to Beringia (Reply #2)

Sat May 12, 2012, 10:19 PM

3. Thirty years ago,

I had a Malamute, too. Heck of a good dog. She liked to run, though, and had a habit to killing chickens and rabbits. I ended up with some hefty bills. The furthest she went was about 30 miles away.

And I've recently taken up carving soapstone. It is something that I'm not particularly talented in. But it's fun. I made a nice turtle-pipe.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #1)

Sat May 12, 2012, 10:27 PM

4. May Rocky have a smoothe life.

Maybe he can meet my new adoptee from the Animal Protection Society, Basil, a Pekingnese.

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Response to mmonk (Reply #4)

Sun May 13, 2012, 11:50 AM

6. Thanks.

I hope they meet!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 12, 2012, 11:31 PM

5. Excellent essay, thank you so very much, H2O Man.

"No, it meant then -- as it means now -- that they needed to think the thoughts the Indians thought, to behave in the general manner the Indians behaved in, and to refuse to submit to a cruel and criminal “authority” that morally sick individuals and institutions claimed"


Banding together in solidarity, and exercising this Power of the Good Mind, so that we can make the best world we possibly can.

I'm in.

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Response to Zorra (Reply #5)

Sun May 13, 2012, 11:52 AM

7. "Alone, we are like

individual fingers that our enemy can easily break; together, we form a powerful fist, fully capable of protecting all of our rights." -- Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman

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