Thursday, August 17, 2017


"The Rough Rider"  Theodore Roosevelt by Phimister Proctor
The story goes that a small child was taken by his babysitter to visit this statue every day and it was very much beloved by the child.  His tender would say, "Do you want to go the park and see Teddy?" It was years and years before the kid realized that Teddy was not the name of the horse.

Below are the URL’s of posts I find enlightening, at least in little rays, when trying to think about the Charlottesville mess.  They are from educated, Manhattan-located, liberal-skewed (well, at least not white supremicist), successful people.  Maddow, of course, has the stigma of being female, highly educated, Jewish, and wealthy.  Etc.  You can’t find much contempt directed at Steve Benen, her male blog writer, but Maddow is a contempt-magnet.  YouTube has posts about “wipe that smirk off her face.”  I reckon I, too, often have a smirk on my face, but not about Maddow.  If you don’t know why, go read something else.  This won’t reassure you.

And I won’t stoop to interpreting Trump’s grimaces.

This is a highly relevant history of the USA and the KKK.

Mainly, they aren't about the confederacy.  How Did We Treat Monuments to White Supremacists When They Weren’t Our White Supremacists? 

Here’s where I’m coming from: north central east slope of the Rockies, practically in Canada and historically on the Blackfeet reservation.  In the Sixties I was married to Bob Scriver whose business was bronze statues of men on horses, sometimes monumental ones.  The history and emotional connections of men on horses go back to the high plateau Eurasian “mongol hordes” who swept down on Europe.  (Just like today's Jimgiwee raiders in Africa.)  It continued with the difference in status between cavalry and infantry.  I was a bit surprised that the police did not use horses for crowd control in Charlottesville, but trained horses and riders are expensive.  However, Manhattan and Portland both use them.  As did white overseers controlling black cotton pickers and chain gangs.  Kings (Also QE II) and Napoleons ride horses.

The history and emotions of big bronze statues go back through the periods of alternating war and peace: in war the bronze formed cannons, in peace the cannons were melted down and cast into monuments.  Then came war again and the monuments were once more used for cannon bronze.   It's a little like swords and plowshares.  These days for raids we use computer-controlled predator drones of many metals and rare substances, and when we create monuments we are likely to use lasers to cut names into stones.

Probably the torch-bearers and beat-down warriors (who may have thought they were in a production of “Game of Thrones”) did not know that the cast of characters would soon list them by name, onscreen as we watched.  Face recognition programs were in operation at vid feeds of the scene so people were being named and doxed even as they looked for their next victim.  This works both ways: Trump’s people want the names and url’s of every dissident on the internet.  Plus control of the internet (“regulation”).

Cultural anthropologists spend a lot of time thinking about the agriculture revolution that seems to have been triggered by the withdrawal of the glaciers ten thousand years ago, and then we all got caught up in industrialization and the anthropocene.  Pastoralization (not pasteurization) has been skipped over: first the influence of herding animals on foot and then the dynamics of herding animals from horseback, which meant moving large numbers of big animals over long distances, which has been memorialized again and again in Westerns.

Not a fake photoshopped cover.

It’s amusing to think about the heroic statue of John Wayne as “Rooster Cogburn” done by Harry Jackson, a friend of Bob’s.  The monumental version was commissioned by a bank and emplaced in front of what became Larry Flynt's Hustler headquarters.  No one tore it down or demonstrated around it, but when Hustler moved away, there was a search for a place to relocate it, which ran into difficulties.  The new culture of California did not appreciate violent movies.  Not even the Autry Museum of the American West.  Art is at the mercy of culture.

The herding of cattle across the continent — and the range wars between pastoralists on foot like sheepherders (who sometimes used horses) and cowboys, a split culture in which wealthy owners controlled the lost and the losers who did the work -- was ended by the railroad.  Cattle herding was not owned by cowboys, but by wealthy people in league with the government — the same government that had allowed them free use of the national grasslands plus occasional forays onto Native American land. Mounted cavalry were used to march on foot Native Americans to reservations. Horses by that time were a symbol of power and wealth among the tribes, as powerful as guns.

Bob Scriver’s work was based on his consciousness of the monuments  being emplaced after WWI.  Born in 1914, he was a dedicated reader of the newspapers that celebrated each new dedication and absorbed the world view that went with it.  These were Beaux Arts sculptures, based on the fine bronze casting of French artisans after marble monuments went out of fashion.  Phimister Proctor was one of those sculptors and Eddie Big Beaver posed for both Proctor and Scriver.  Malvina Hoffman was another Beaux Arts sculptor beloved to Bob and we met her.  She tempered the triumphalist tone of some Western art aficionadoes, who often were white supremacists.  Of course, for those who believe that the historical American tribes are supreme, the dynamics were very confusing to a white boy on the rez, esp. since Bob's music career idolized black jazz musicians.  Which is why I’ve thought about it so much.

The confusion is aggravated today, now that the practice of pacifying the remnants of the pre-existing and culturally unique people that was done by controlling their food and supplying their liquor, is not enough.  Today NA’s don’t feel conquered and are claiming their lives back.  At the same time the white folks not enrolled in the tribal corporation and therefore not able to receive the government-backed shares, are plenty angry.  But they are not traitors, like the real estate moguls of international megacities who no longer recognize the regulations of nations.

"An Honest Try" by Bob Scriver

Bob’s largest monuments are based on rodeo, a quintessential horse-based demonstration of manliness that is uniquely Western, an arena war in which the opponents really ARE animals.  His statue of a bull rider is in front of the Kansas Board of Trade.  It’s not as well-known as the Wall Street bull, which was revealed as a male power force when a defiant little bronze girl was placed in its path.  Bulls are symbols of economic power and they are white men’s symbols.  I haven’t heard of any statue of a bull being pulled down.  Just those of rival powerful male humans.

In the end all wars and power structures are economic.  In this small town the markers of male success are big shiny cars kept very clean plus neat, recently painted houses with green lawns kept a certain height, and skill at golf in summer/bowling in winter.  Veterans’ clubs are no longer significant.  The really wealthy have wives who keep horses. Some collect Scriver bronzes.

Brutal younger men will say frankly that anyone who doesn’t have a powerful car that can go fast should not be allowed to use the Interstate because they just get in the way.  And they enjoy the defiance of Confederate flags.  Some of the more significantly wealthy got their start with an insurance award for an auto accident that was judged not their fault.  They do not believe they will age and die and therefore have contempt for those who do.  They either don’t care to join the military or couldn’t pass the entrance exams.  In college towns where the dorms are integrated, they rape — even if they have to drug the women . . . or men.  This “script” is reiterated over and over in vivid media narratives.  It is based on folly and frustration.

All this stuff is terrific material for fiction, but much harder to explore as complex history or as a source of prediction for the future.  Although it becomes easier and easier to predict Trump’s future and the fate of his circle of oligarchs.  There will not be monuments.  Maybe a tiki torch.

No comments: