Saturday, April 5, 2008

American Outrage

I am not prone to espouse my political or ethical convictions publicly, but certain issues seem to transcend partisan politics.  Lately, as we all know, the act of questioning U.S. policies has been discouraged—conflated with a false notion of a lack of patriotism (of course, the real misguided conflation here is between patriotism vs. nationalism).  

About a decade ago, Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes was sent to Nevada to cover a story of two sisters—Mary and Carrie Dann—from the Shoshone tribe.  Horses and land belonging to the grandmothers had been illegally seized by the U.S. government, in violation of a treaty (The Treaty of Ruby Valley) and also, according to the United Nations, the sisters' basic human rights.  


Adding insult to injury (quite literally), the U.S. government audaciously justified the land/horse grab using an almost two-century-old Supreme Court case, Johnson v. M'Intosh. In his majority decision, Chief Justice Marshall called Native Americans "savages," claiming that those people indigenous to this continent had no rights to the very land on which they lived for centuries.

The story gets even crazier and more infuriating (see here and here for more information), but back to Ed Bradley... The episode never aired, because the network didn't want to appear too "political."  Hmmm... Does it jeopardize my patriotism to find fault with that "journalistic" logic?

Beth and George Gage have made a documentary on the Dann sisters, American Outrage, excerpted in the latest issue of Wholphin (from which I learned about the story and gleaned most of the details in this post).  As the filmmakers point out in their interview with Wholphin editor/curator Brent Hoff, "[the U.S.] is only too anxious to expose human rights offenses in other countries while ignoring the same abuses going on right under our collective noses." 

With ongoing civil rights issues such as the injustices in Tibet and Darfur gaining (deserved) media attention, it is all too easy to miss abuses occurring on our own soil.  Kudos to Wholphin for educating its audience about this domestic outrage.

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