Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Frenchmen and Indians


Le Tellier's The Anomaly, winner of the Goncourt prize depicts the poor decision of an American president as being responsible for the destruction of all mankind.  I was disappointed in the novel, but others, perhaps sharing that French prejudice, loved it.

I turned next to the novel that won the Pulitzer prize for 2021, The Night Watchman.  I am only 20% through it, but the characters I've encountered thus far are mostly dirt-poor American Indians from North Dakota.  Thus, this too, if it continues on in the same vein, has a political element.  Liberal democracies intend that everyone is entitled to accomplish and earn however much he is capable of accomplishing and earning.  It made no initial provision for helping those who for whatever reason weren't as capable of competing in this sort of environment. 

As we all know, elements of Socialism have been incorporated into all Liberal Democracies over time.  Whereas in the past, in the West, the Christian church took care of the poor.  Marx proposed to do it better, and Liberal Democracies have followed his lead to varying degrees of success. 

I'll pause here to say that I don't know anything about the state of American Indians in North Dakota, but I have had considerable experience with Indians in the Marine Corps.  Also, according to my mother, my siblings and I are 1/8 or 1/16 Indian.  That belief turned out not to be correct as I found out when I had my DNA checked by a few years ago.  There are no Indians in our ancestry, but when I got to the Marine Corps base in Korea, I was approached by a large Indian from Oklahoma who "could tell" I was part Indian and inasmuch as he was full-blooded, he was chief Indian at the base, and I must follow his orders which were to show up at the slop-chute every evening I wasn't on duty and drink beer with all the other Indians.  My best friend during that period was Bill Salois who was 1/4 Blackfoot.  Bill wanted me to join him in Montana after our enlistments were up so that we could build up our own cattle ranch.  When I pointed out that neither of us had enough money for that, he told me not to worry.  We could earn money in rodeos.  I objected that I had never competed in a rodeo.  He told me not to worry.  It was easy. 

In addition to that "Indian" experience, I retired a short distance from the Soboba Indian reservation.   The Soboba Casino has become a great success, and every member of the Soboba tribe now receives a cut; so presumably no Soboba Indian is dirt poor at present. 

Thus, my own personal experiences haven't exposed me to any Indians that are as poor as Louise Erdrich portrays in her novel.  Erdrich is part Indian, about as much as I thought I was, and her grandfather or great grandfather fought against Custer and was later punished for it.  But those who are full-blooded and not a member of a tribe that has a casino, may well be as dirt poor as the North Dakota tribe Erdrich writes about.  I'll take her word for it.  We here in the United States are not so thoroughly socialistic that we raise the standard of living for every poor person to the extent we would agree he is no longer "poor," but we're working on it.

In the meantime, this non-poor, non-Indian who was educated in the ways of literature is leaning toward finding fault with organizations who award prizes based on their political prejudices rather than novels that comprise the best literature.

But, apologies to Louise Erdrich if I later discover that she has created a work of great literature.

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