Garbage Cans and Identity


It’s the end of the semester, it’s been busy and I have all sorts of random brainwebs in my head. Today’s ideas, product of a lovely evening run: 1) Garbage cans have to be installed in order to function, and 2) Why do so many of us feel identified with the past if we share culture/race/creed with someone more so than just being people folk like that other person standing right next to me, especially when the person in the past we may never have met? I guess that’s really a question.

Do you ever listen to This American Life? Today’s was a good one. They are talking about the “Dakota-US War” and how so many people haven’t heard this history in school. Listen if you want the details. I found it particularly interesting when they were discussing the Minnesotan’s new approach to include this story in their sixth grade classrooms. They spend a week on it. Anyhow, there is a short interview with a teacher and her approach to “teaching” the subject. She discusses how the Dakota used weapons to kill the white man, while “we use our words”as she put it. That statement is kind of untrue and ironic at the same time. How is that possible? There was violence on both sides, showing that all kinds of folk resort to it – duh. That, and the settlers in the mid 19th century actually scalped the natives, after teaching them about farming. Talk about exchanging information. The ironic part is that much of the Native People vs. U.S. Federal Government problems were created by the feds drafting up treaties (or “words“) that they either 1) planned to violate, 2) did not plan to violate but did anyway, or 3) gave the Chiefs copies to sign with key information missing from them in order to trick the people into agreeing to something that had not been agreed upon. Isn’t that violence by words? Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” springs to mind.

Another woman interviewed on the show is a Makato resident. Her family tree can be traced throughout historical records; she’s descended from the tribe. She was at a hearing wherein they were discussing what had happened a century and a half ago (for a planned ‘day of recognition’ type event). An audience member asked, What do you want? Reparations? I think questions like that eloquently display the me-versus-you attitude that we got way too much of rolling around this planet. If that particular audience member were later informed that she too were from the Dakota tribe, I’d bet you all of the junk I own that she would quickly identify as part of the tribe and rush to reclaim her heritage. It’s like the neo-nazi skinheads in eastern Europe who find out they’re Jewish and go out and learn the history of the Jewish faith and convert fully to the religion. That sounds like I’m being extreme, but it’s a story oft-heard. I’ll send you references if you want ’em.

And returning to my first point. After some of the student protests here in Santiago, a few assholes who like to follow up the legit protestors breaking things for the simple thrill of it, burned down all the garbage cans where I live. We had small ones and big ones and now they’re gone. It’s been over a year since they’ve been burned to the ground, so people started putting the trash by the tree on corner X where they were instructed to put it on day Y and hour Z to be picked up (per the local neighborhood group’s instructions). You’d think that by now the cans would’ve been replaced. Ha! Instead of doing something sensible, someone got paid to tell someone else to design/create signs and then have someone else put them up all over my ‘hood, saying “Call in to the authorities and denounce mini-dumps in your neighborhood!” Okay. Gee thanks for the phone number. I’m running out of room for compost, and the flies are starting to bite.


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