This weekend I had a “comment” deleted from a posting -- by a system administrator. I never saw the comment so I don’t know whether it was libelous, obscene, unreadable, or what. (It was about the posting on Jonestown.) What’s rather more concerning is that I had no idea that “administrators” were reading what I wrote -- Dick Cheney excepted, of course. I don’t know what formula triggered a look at what I said: mentioning the FBI, using a dirty word, or maybe just writing about Jonestown.
I did write about the Hungarian Revolution and got a very nice comment from a blogger actually IN Hungary: “Dumneazu, Ethnomusicological Eating East of Everywhere,” with actual photos of this year’s demonstrations and a description of how avidly young people wanted to bring back the excitement and romantic force of those times. But last night when I tried to communicate, everything went berzonkers and tangled up. (“An engineer has been called!” it said. I guess that’s reassuring.) I wondered if the Warsaw comment would still be there today, and it was.
On this blog I’ve been a little bold about risking (while always keeping a fallback position) but the gunfire I expected was late in coming, partly because of a shortage of computer sharpshooters, I guess. Last winter I posted the chapters of a book I wrote called “Heartbreak Butte,” which is about starting the first Blackfeet high school there in 1979, a move that essentially gave Valier High School a major wound since so many Heart Butte kids bussed out to high school here. (I’m in Valier now. In Montana, schools get state money per capita of students. In Heart Butte the school is on the reservation and therefore has access to federal money that replaces state taxes. Both schools receive compensatory federal money from various programs.)
People who write about teaching Indians, including experts like Jon Reyhner who was an administrator in Heart Butte long ago, tend to deal only with elementary school kids. High school kids are another whole deal: sex, drugs, violence and rock n’ roll. New administrators every year, even the Indian ones. Some teachers stick and do the real work. One lives in a teacherage.
I told it like I saw it, which I knew would offend some people because Heart Butte is a nearly hidden community, the descendents of full-bloods and refugee Metis from the Canadian Red River revolt. Their safety has been dependent on being passed over, while their isolation has been guaranteed by gumbo roads that prevented access much of the year. But now the roads are paved, the village is much expanded -- really a satellite agency in some ways -- and having a high school means basketball, which means people pouring in and out. But I always remember one boy who shouted, "I forbid you to look at me or even to think about me!"
Criticism came in comments only recently. One boy read a part in which I talked about the uses of telling stories to set moral boundaries. I knew about some disreputable people who were stealing food and money from their elders. So, in the old Blackfeet way, I told about ancient “Eskimo” times when the small family band would be so starved that they would have to eat the grandmother in order to preserve the children until times were better. I said it was not very different to steal food and money from the elderly today. It might not have been a perfect comparison, but it seemed to get the point across.
This so horrified one young man that he wrote to rebuke me, jumping to the idea that I said the Blackfeet were cannibals. More recently he recruited another older man, a politician, to again send me a comment objecting to such a terrible accusations and adding a lot of embellishments. Then that man went to another, even more senior man (he was in high school when I came here in 1961), who occasionally publishes books about Indian ways. This man was more inclined to understand that the previous complainants were clutching false accusations to their chests. But I’m getting tired of explaining over and over, so I’m deleting “Heartbreak Butte.”
I’ll edit it (it’s a little out-of-date now) and make it available as a book on Lulu.com. I nearly sold it to a publisher once. There were three anonymous reviews, as is customary. The first one said, “This is fantastic. We MUST publish it.” The second one said, “I don’t much like it, but I suppose we ought to publish it.” The third said, “This is a terrible book. There aren’t even any footnotes.” The Methodist minister had a printout of the manuscript and I think that copies of that have circulated to selected persons.
The upshot of all this is that I’m left with the unsettling sensation (which is probably accurate and maybe not a bad thing) of a presence watching over my shoulder (perhaps protective and perhaps not) and the growing conviction that today’s youngsters are yearning for the revolutions of the Fifties and Sixties with very little understanding of the causes or the prices people had to pay. (The president of Hungary was hanged.)
What’s even more weird is that many of the whites (expecially male) who are supportive of Indians today are really yearning for the Indian Wars of the Plains, suffering from “Dances with Wolves” syndrome, imagining themselves as salvific sympathizers. What Indians need today is excellent professional advice and guidance about political lobbying jackals, predatory financial instruments, and how to manage internal dissent in a democratic way. But it was so much more fun to pour red paint down George Washington’s face at Mt. Rushmore.
This week there was a little careless talk in email exchanges about “burning out Christians.” I mentioned it to a friend who immediately advised me to tell the Valier deputy sheriffs. I demurred, saying it was unlikely anyone would actually do such a thing, but Halloween is coming up, so I did send copies of the exchange to someone to keep just in case.
I keep trying to explain that Unitarians are not necessarily Christians or even theist. The thing to do with Unitarians is to burn a question mark on their lawn (old joke) but one should not (you know) tell kids not to put beans up their noses. Anyway, snow and cold have probably shut down Halloween fun.
But I’m wondering how any comment could be any more obscene than the spam I routinely get and simply ignore. Who would it potentially have offended? Shouldn’t I get a copy of whatever comment that administrator deleted?