Thursday, August 8, 2013

Custer's Last Stand

We're all part of a family today. The world and everyone in it is interconnected.  Once it wasn't like that.  Everyone was a tribe and each tribe fought all strangers.  My enemies' enemy is my friend was the by word of tribalism.  Alliances only work so long as there is a threat.  The history of western and eastern civilization has been the forming of alliances to defeat threats and expand one's hegemony.
Today the principal tribes are Christian American, Aetheist Chinese, Ecumencal European, and Moslem Meccan.  The rest are subsets and being incorporated as once USSR and US took over regions as colonies or serf states.  There have always been secular and religious ideologies for these formations. No one is 'necessarily' right.  Might is right to some.  Technological and scientific struggles have resulted in advances giving one side greater advantage over another. Hence, Leonardo da Vinci's day job, was with the Arms Industry of the day, as Einstein was funded by the military industrial complex later.
A fascinating history is the study of military medicine.  At Custer's last stand, civilians and medics died.  Individually Custer and Sitting Bull were outliers. A fascinating recent book of that title looks at the odd ones who by their very contrariness and difference often have speckled careers.  Public figures are 'in or out' depending upon their usefulness to the powers behind the powers.  General Patton and General McCarthur despite their military genius were shamed and humiliated by the political and financial forces of the day.  In Rome, the fear of the Emperor and Senators was that a general's success would make him popular and a threat to those who lived off the work of others.  It's always been such.
So in my genetic background, Scottish and Irish, the English, attacked our "tribes" at Culloden and many times and for many years we 'beat them' at their game.  Lowlanders fighting us Highlanders.  But eventually with only a Culloden and no 'Custer's Last Stand' but rather a Robert Bruce and a Wallace we became 'vassal states' of the empire of the day.  The highlands were 'reserves' by a different name.  In Ireland they wanted the potatoes and sheep and forced us all off 'our lands' to be 'relocated' in America.  Compared to the Irish and Scottish, the Indians got it pretty easy.  Some of us were even forced to go to that horrid place called Australia.  We'd all have been glad to stay home rather than be shipped across an ocean. Ask the blacks of Africa who were exiled by their own tribe leaders, sold to Arabians who sold their slaves to the white folk who subsequently lost the American Civil War to the northerners who preferred mechanical labour to human labour.
If the wee state of America didn't take the West, Spain, England, Russia would have.  There is always a tendency to think in either/or terms with 'win/or lose, 'my way or the highway' alternatives. Reality offers more tangible solutions.  The Russians like the Chinese were more brutal in their dealing with minorities than even the Romans who routinely killed everyone when there was an uprising by a few. The history of Israel under the Empires of the day isn't about even letting them have their lands. After a final act of resistance these earlier empires 'dispersed' the Jews in what is called the 'diaspora'.  Modern Day Israelis are finally having a little land back with self autonomy under the protectorate of the West and it's guidance and cooperation because Meccan Moslem threat is huge.
Russian Communism killed 80 million in a few years while Chinese Communism killed 120 million in record time.  The Dalai Lama is still complaining about the Chinese solution to the Tibetan 'problem'.  The Chinese machine guns decimated the Buddhist monks returning fire with WWI English rifles.  To date Communist countries build walls, either Iron or Bamboo, to keep people in.
Of course Sitting Bull and everyone else in those days,( even before health care and Troudeau encouraging everyone to be  stoned on government marijuana cake)  wanted to come to Canada.  But after 5 years even Sitting Bull had enough of the bad weather and maudlin politics. The American Draft dodgers were delighted to return to the States, sometimes to prison, with only a few remaining in Canada. Even now Gay couples, finally allowed to marry in the US are returning, having only tolerated tolerable Canada so long as their own country was intolerant. Even now United States is the principle country in the world desired for relocation and immigration.  America has to have walls to keep people out and despite this they have millions of illegal aliens living there. Indians don't want to leave America.
The Indians of their day wanted things to remain the same.  Nobody likes change. My Scottish forefathers would have gladly continued to hunt and fish in the highlands but the dastardly English wanted to use our lands for mining, fishing and farming hundreds of years ago. The Israelis had the same problem with the Romans thousands of years ago. The Spanish were enslaving their Indians as gold mining work force with an attitude not dissimilar to the Germans in WWII who used forced labour of Jews, Poles, Ukranians, effeminate gays and anyone else who wasn't of the German tribal consciousness.
I don't want the tax man to bother me in Canada today. I'd like people to leave me alone and let me do my thing on my land.  The land is always 'my' to the person sitting on it at that moment. "Ownership" of "property' has always existed and even the Potlach ceremony was a gamble to gain more property in the form of material or personal.  A poor leader may have the capacity to 'command' a million strong army while living in a cottage while a 'rich' leader may have a castle but only the popularity to 'command" a thousand troops.
The Indians today and then talked about a "way of life".  It was essentially 'tribal' and no different from the Israeli or Mongol or Kurdish or Scottish MacDonald or Frazer way of life.  These tribal 'ways of life' were predominantly 'patriarchal' , war and competition based, pre 'nation state' and loosely allied along kinship traditions with the women predominantly involved in child making raising and sexual satisfaction of the male.  The Taliban are an attractive tribal group to 50's brylcream sliced back muscle car driving sorts of guys not known for saying "i'm sorry'".
These are decidedly 'pre feminist' times though in Scotland there was a matriarchy at times with female leaders and warriors whereas in the Plains Indian traditions despite Hollywood and rewriting of history to serve ideology, the fact is women were too busy making babies and cleaning up the camps and doing all the work after the kill of the animals.  Indeed pre refrigeration, pre advanced agricultural techniques, herding, farming advances, the tribes indians were primitive and unhealthy. Today life expectancy is in the 70's and 80's for many whereas Sitting Bull was considered an old man of 45 who didn't actually fight Custer because 45 was too old for more than talk. The life expectancy for the normal folk was in the 50's. Life was harsh.  In the Old Testament men lived long lives but they had many wives who fought among themselves and tried to serve and be the best for their man.  Men didn't do a lot of work if they survived the younger years of slaughtering and had enough children to command.
War is a young man's game fought by old men usually wanting to win yesterdays lost battles.  Women leaders are as quick to kill off young men as old men are so it's the lot of young men to die.  In China today girls are merely aborted.
So Custer, a good soldier is sent off to subdue the Sieux in the Black Hills because there's an economic crisis, gold has been found and the government, as is the history of Governments all over ,has reneged on it's promises.  Income tax was only a war measure and was to be stopped with the war over.  Taxes have grown like promises and all leaders have broken their promises. Indian leaders break their promises as well as white leaders. Today in Canada Indian Leaders are millionaires and their people are still poor just like there are White Billionaires in Canada and white people, yellow people, black people, and brown people living poorer than red people.  Corporate world is a world of 'individualism', post 'family' and 'post tribe' and individuals form alliances of wealth to keep other corporate individuals in check. Nations and tribes and individuals are probably all serving the new competitors called 'corporations'.
Historically families trumped individuals, tribes trumped families, nations trumped tribes, and now corporations are trumping nations.
Naturally we think there was a better time in the past. That's called being a Luddite.  Also we think theres' a better future. That's called fantasy or science fiction.  Those who can go inward and that's called spirituality.  The best laugh.
In any case Custer rode out to 'police' the local 'gangs' who were not following the law of the land which was broken treaties and all the stuff we all take for granted with our own Tax Department.  Americans today fear the IRA more than they fear the government.  Custer was probably sent by the IRA.
Soldiers succeed by following their commands. Think too much in soldiering and you become a poet. or better, a dead poet.   Alive you may become a politician.  But the minute you lose track of the immediate problem you aren't soldiering well.  Custer wasn't interested in policy. He was interested in getting the Indians back to the reserve. They'd gone antelope hunting on mass.  They probably had pony bumper stickers that said a 'day hunting is better than any day working on the reserve."  Bob Dylan didn't want to work on Maggie's Farm.
Now the Cheyenne were also fought by the Crow. The Crow didn't want the Cheyene on their land so they sent scouts to help Custer get the Sieux Indians back in their reservations.  The Crow wanted the antelope too. And everyone wanted the buffalo. The trouble with the buffalo was they were over hunted by Indians and white alike. Once everyone had rifles the buffalo was toast.
It was the same with the Cod off Newfoundland.  The Newfies of Canada for centuries fished cod and sang Newfie songs and told jokes about Toronto and Boston folk then the Japanese came along with the Norwegians with better and bigger nets and took all the cod for their people. The Canadian government in Ottawa didn't give a dam about the Newfies and offered them jobs in the Albertan oil fields instead, relocating tens of thousands of clean fisherman to become dirty oil men.
Custer was a policeman.  Acting on the advice of the informants he found the Cheyenne but what he didn't know was that there were ten to one odds.
In all war and police actions 'information' is critical.  Ruling the skies allows America today to have the greatest intelligence.  When I was in Europe I was fascinated by the European wars of the 15th to 20th century because no one knew who they were up against. Wars were all about 'information.'  It's only this last week that a British gay man who cracked the computer code for the Enigma that allowed British to know what Germans and Japanese were saying to each other, was absolved of being a condemned pervert , for his saving the British people.  Having consensual sex with another man had got this fellow who saved the Western world pilloried.  In absentia he's been exonerated despite being a dirty boy like Lawrence of Arabia who may not have been gay but did like being spanked liked the greatest historian of our day "Spanker" Johnson.
Looking at the battle site of Little Big Horn today you can tell Custer would have done a whole lot better if he'd had Satellite Imaging.  Even better he'd have probably won hands down if his job was just 'war' but he was trying to stop the women and children from escaping, capturing them and holding them hostage, to force the Indian warriors to accept terms and return to the reserves.
This was not Sand Creek.  If Custer had been simply interested in war and killing Indians he could have easily done a 'Sand Creek" and keeping his men together charged right into the camp and slaughtered the unsuspecting Indians en mass. Instead he divided his command to create a pincer attack , to capture the fleeing non combatants as hostages, with the hope of 'surrender'.  He wanted 'prisoners'. His whole aim was to minimize the death toll and get it over fast. He'd been court martial led for being too harsh and reinstated on the understanding that he'd be a 'gentle' 'beaurocratically' acceptable warrior. This is indeed what he was doing when he got whacked.  If anyone deserves to have been shamed for 'failure' it was the beurocrats who told him to be a 'nice boy' because he was being 'nice' when the Indians whacked him.  He'd done far bette when he'd been a simple soldier.
Not Sitting Bull.  He wasn't there.  Crazy Horse was and he was as mean and weird as his name. But ironically 'Lame White Man" seems to have been the principle force behind the defeat as his attack was so strategically significant.   Here he was the Judas.  The significance of 'betrayal" is its never done by an enemy.
The Hell's Angels are a modern day tribe and their principle problem like the east coast Mafia was the 'witness protection program' and the 'betrayal' of members.  Even Peter denied Christ three times before the Cock crowed. It's a weakness of humans. You threaten to hurt my mother, my sister, my penis, my testicle, my face, my dog and I'll quite possibly tell you what you want to know.  The evidence of war is that everyone 'cracks' under torture except if one truly believes that giving up the information will bring about their death and they have a reason to live.  The studies of Auschwitz by Logotherapy giant are particularly informative about human behaviour.  Communism lives on 'betrayal' and children are taught in school to 'betray' their parents just as the Nazi Youth Movement attempted to instill 'gossip as a virtue, like 'crimestopper' anonymous phone lines today.
So Custer was trying to be a good boy and here he was all my life skewered as 'arrogant' and 'glory seeking'.  He was no more 'arrogant' than Obama or Bush or Donald Trump , Gandhi or Bob Dylan when I look at his life. He was just a guy doing a job with a really cute wife, Libbie.  He was a great success in the Civil War and then he was sent off to at the territories and it's pretty clear this was like a bad posting in the foreign services.  This was like getting posted to Afghanistan when you really wanted London England and had hoped to go to the opera but instead were left dodging terrorist attacks.
Libbie and Custer were kind of nice folk. There's a book I read part of in the Custer Museum by Libbie in her own words and she seems like a grand gal and Custer like the amiable guy at a barbecue.
Indeed there are also books that describe  Sitting Bull as a bit whacked as a medicine man, kind of like Jerry Farwell in religious circles , not at all a Dalai Lama or Bishop Tootoo kind of guy but a real loud, heavy weight , trancing out , trouble making, bad mouthing kind of Hockey Player for the Canucks enforcer sort.  Lame White Guy comes across like Castros favourite Chez.  Crazy Horse is a regular horse riding Mohammed.  No one comes across in this dispute like Churchill when he rode a horse into battle except maybe Reno.  He's definitely Conservative in his style.  Gall is really by far the most fascinating Indian.
The whole battle only lasted less than a day.  It carried on over a few miles with obviously a lot of galloping and crazy making all round.  The battle ended in an hour and a half with the "last stand' looking like it was a horribly grizzly affair of minutes with horses shot for barricades and the Indians with their own rifles probably a hundred to one in the last effort. The archeological evidence and the stories and reports are amazing with the recreation of the battlefield now showing  , with the greatest accuracy possible due to the genius of science mostly, where the deaths occurred.  All the white guys would have been wounded early and the Indians were killed at a ratio of 1 in 5 or so of the white guys because not only superior numbers but it looked like the white guys were going 'oh shit," and trying to escape.  In routs there's a lot of dead from back shooting and no doubt a lot of white were shot in the face begging for their lives ,their guns emptied.  It was a mess like war is supposed to be.
The battle field is one of the most remarkable and informative places I've ever visited. Frankly I prefer churches and holy grounds but the history and archeology and all the mythology around this battle make it a fascinating experience. I loved the guide books, and the guides and the first nations and white folk working together to tell a story with all it's permutations and digressions. (Custer's Last Battle, Little Bighorn Battlefied -self guided Auto Tour (or Harley Davidson Motorcycle) with Archeologist Richard Fox, Fireside Productions, Livingson was great.)
America, which now included all the Indian, Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Irish, Italian, English, Chinese etc tribes got pissed off just like the Romans did when the Jews stood up to them a couple of thousand years ago when they crucified Jesus to 'send a message'.  They whopped Indian ass for the next decades, took away the Black Hills from the Lakota and gave them a few little privy land areas not fit for pig farms.
Today I pay a fortune to 'play' at having the life my grandfather had when he was 'relocated' from Scotland , to uninhabitable northern Canada where he could hunt and fish like a Lord though the work or ranching and farming was near impossible. He went on to be a huge success, a leader among men, generous, sober, high minded, careful in his ways, elected REEVE.  A lawyer stole all his land and fortune and years later I'd meet the German son of my grandfather's rich relocated neighbours whose fortune was also stolen by the same lawyer who took the money and ran off to hide in the legal wasteland of America.  Dad went on to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force that saved the world from Nazism and freed the Jews and Poles from German work camps. No one to date has taken credit for freeing the homosexuals from Auschwitz.  Lincolns northern army freed the blacks from slavery.
It was a banking crisis that lead to the breaking of the Treaty with the Lakota and the miners flooding the black hills. After the banking crisis the new governments felt the old governments had been too generous with the money. Today in Canada every Canadian is getting 'less health care' , 'less old age pension', and less of most things because of a banking crisis.  Indeed there are those conspiracy theorist who think Elvis was behind 9/11 having secretly converted to radical islam's "Peace Train'.  That consider the Lakota Indians were the 'first' 'test case'.  Now our government is promoting marijuana for the masses and euthanasia to add to it's abortion policy.
I couldn't help but think that it would have been fun to ride around on horse and have a 'love in' antelope barbecue with the girls doing all the chores then fighting the police and singing and drumming about it like Woodstock in leathers.
I had just been to the Motorcycle Rally in Sturges so I'd seen a whole lot of the modern wild men and women and the tribal society with it's patches and Harley "hoss'.  I was a good time listening to Kid Rock from Detroit on his Rebel Tour and enjoying ZZ sing 'Sunglasses'.  All that was needed was antelope burgers .  I had Angus steak instead at the Saloon.
It's all not so different.  It's blurry at the edges.  In the Custer Museum I bought a Union Calvary sword but the first two I looked at were 'made in China'.  I thought that was priceless. There's probably an American Indian chef making chop suet at the finest Chinese restaurant in Bejing where tourists go for 'authentic' Chinese experience.
We're a global society and we have to think locally. Still I loved Buffalo Springfield's song  not because of the Buffalo but because of the line, "People carrying signs, mostly say, hooray for outside."
I rode away on my motorcycle as usual wondering whose side I'm on.  I'm a citizen and for law and order today so I'd have to side with Custer doing his job for the Government which supposedly I've elected but then I'm Scottish Irish Canadian with a lot of tribal roots and the Government didn't help my grand dad when the lawyer stole the family farms and fortunes.  Even today I wonder about who really killed Kennedy and was Marilyn Munroe just a pretty face.
I'm riding alone on my motorcycle across thousands of miles of US soil and thinking this is the greatest nation in the world. They're definitely #1. I've travelled around the world a bit and I'm still impressed with how well they treat everyone especially those who complain. Elsewhere everyone gets shot or banned or ostracized and the amount of freedom even in Europe compared to the US is marginal.  Sturges was definitely tribal but so was the spiritual medical conference I attended earlier in Colorado.
I was just sad looking at all the graves of all the young soldiers of the Indians and the United States.  Glory is a good word.  It's been tarnished.  There's been a lot of reductionism in the last hundreds of years.  Corporations are ultimately primitive and tribal.  There's a sense that advances are always made with two steps forward one step back. The Indians of Alberta are rich oil men. They were put on reserves which had oil on them.  They are making the decision today in the major board rooms of the world.  The Indians who were fighting Custer wouldn't have known he was just doing a 'police action'. They were probably thinking like the folks at Waco.  I have trouble trusting men in uniforms with weapons but that goes back to my first bad childhood experience with a dentist.  There weren't any counsellors or prozac in those days and women didn't have bras to burn or tampons.  Sanitation was a problem.  There wasn't even work for plumbers because everyone 'gathered at the river' even before the Christian song encouraged them to do what they already were doing of necessity.
The Little Bighorn River is a very pretty river today with the shady forest along it's sides and all around hot baked grassland.  I think the ponies I saw there were probably descendants of the ones that survived the battle. At least the ponies were peaceful.  People who know horses know they can be gnarly.
I really liked the plaques that laid out the first skirmish and retreat by Reno. I wondered if the great gambling city was named after him.   You can see the battle at the Last Stand but it's more like a brawl where as the Remo fight actually moved.
The woman in the gift shop said, "Were it not for Custer dying, we'd not have jobs here in tourism".  She was a white woman.  The Indian woman who took my money for the tour was native.  I was thankful I had money to give them.  For a few hours out of my Harley Davidson Journey to and from the Sturges Motorcycle Rally I was able to take time out and learn about another 'war to end all wars'.
I liked driving away having a sword strapped across the pack on my Harley.  I would have preferred a Glock 9 mm but Americans don't like Canadians bringing arms into their country. Despite all the best efforts of the Freedom Fighters for the National Riflearms Associations they won't sell a Canadian a firearm without an American government permit.  While I mostly feel like I'm following Custer or Calhoun or Remi and don't know which, some folks think I'm too much like Lame White Man.  The  Indian chief who reall kicked ass was Gall.  You had to have Gall to do what he did.
Soldiers describe various 'thirsts' in battle. This would have been a particularly thirsty battle, regardless of the glory.

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