Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hero of the Week

I'm in the midst of reading The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell. It's a series of stories, connected musings, on the impact of puritan ideology in America. She kind of sloughs through the usual fear/hatred of our bodies, witch hunts as the original national pastime, and the Christian nation tracts in favor of a more thorough examination of the idea of what our puritan legacy really is. She argues it's the notion of the "city on the hill," verbosity, and public education. That's all good and fine. I love her points, but I love her tangents more.
Sarah Vowell, incidentally, is not my hero of the week. But she does get points for introducing me to Chief Osceola of the Seminole people. How did Osceola snag this dubious honor? When he rejected Andrew Jackson's relocation plan, veiled as the Treaty of Payne's Landing, he stabbed it through with a knife. Other chiefs of higher seniority had signed and agreed to move the Seminoles from their native Florida to Oklahoma. It sounded like a bad deal to Osceola. So he led the resistance until he died, captured in a federal prison, of malaria. His objection to Jackson's treaty, apart from the obvious, came because of Jackson's pro-slavery stance. Married to a black woman, and well aware of white perceptions of natives, Osceola was far from keen on giving Jackson anything.

It takes a specific kind of badass to stab a treaty. My friend, May, once claimed that if she could travel back in time only once, it would be to punch Andrew Jackson in the face. I'd like to travel back in time to be Osceola's best friend.

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