The Alaska Federation of Natives held its annual meeting in Anchorage this last week (October 20-22). This is a big event and it’s filled with enough stories to fill many a blog. What grabbed my attention this year was the participation of Senator Lisa Murkowski. Watching the first of two presentations she was to give at this year’s convention, brought to mind two other moments.
First, there was last year’s meeting of the AFN, held in Fairbanks. Senator Murkowski spoke then as well. At that time, she was a write-in candidate for her own office. Her principal opposition, Joe Miller, had secured the Republican nomination for Murkowski’s position. A Tea Party favorite, Miller had been openly critical of Alaska’s tribal corporations. Faced with a near certain Republican victory, Alaska’s Native leadership threw its weight behind Murkowski. Lost in the shuffle, the Democratic nominee, Scott McAdams, struggled to keep in the race.
The Alaska Federation of Natives endorsed Murkowski and she spoke at their convention. Denied the chance to debate Murkowski in a public forum, or to speak on their own, McAdams and Joe Miller made appearances on the floor of the convention. If McAdams received little in the way of attention, Miller must have received a very chilly reception.
A year later, Senator Murkowski took to the podium again, this time at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention center appropriately enough, the very location at which she announced her write-in candidacy. This year, Murkowski took to the floor once during the convention itself, and once again at the closing banquet, both times the substance of her speech was an expression of thanks. If Murkowski’s gratitude was apparent, so was the pride of AFN leadership. They had played a substantial role in getting her back into office, and this year’s AFN proved to be an opportune moment to trumpet that victory.
The second thing on my mind proved to be a very different kind of moment in the politics of indigenous affairs. In early February, 1998, then President of the Navajo Nation, Albert Hale, threatened to shut down the roads passing through Navajo lands. Doing so, he suggested would help to teach non-natives to respect the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation
The immediate response to Hale’s threat was fascinating. Non-Indians wrote all manner of letters to various local newspapers, most of them angry. On the one hand, much of the criticism seemed understandable. Hale hadn’t really put any specific issue on the table, so no-one knew really what he wanted out of the move. (Some of the more cynical among us might have believed it was to draw attention away from an ethics investigation which soon led to Hale’s ouster.) But something more interested proved to be happening in those letters; an awful lot of non-natives were learning the hard way that Indian people’s still held a measure of power in the United States. For all the poverty and corruption one can find in Indian country, for all the problems that tribal leadership seemed unable to resolve, there were at least a few things that they could still do. And one of those things was to make it a lot more difficult to drive through parts of the Southwest.
This is where the other letters from that time come in, the ones from the Navajo people. Many were less than pleased with Hale’s gambit themselves. I was living in Fort Defiance at the time and I recall quite well the shaking heads and office gossip. This was not the way to do things, at least according to the folks I knew. What use is sovereignty if it only means shutting down roads, some seemed to say? It would be far better, so the argument went, to build a road, or at least to repair the roads already there. A gesture intended to show the power and force of the Navajo Nation, Hale’s threats seemed only to underscore the relative weakness of Navajo leadership.
I couldn’t help but think about Albert Hale’s road-gambit as I saw Lisa Murkowski speak at AFN. The basis for the comparison sis simple enough. To me, Hale’s move had always been something of a low-moment in Native American politics, but now I was watching a high one, at least as measured by raw political power. This was Native Alaskans doing what Hale had failed to do back in 1998, they were actually building something. Now as it happens, it wasn’t a road that Alaskan natives built here, it was a political base capable of affecting a major election, but that election itself is precisely what it will take to get the roads built in Alaska’s Native communities. Faced with a threat from an outside source, The Alaska Federation of Natives did what it took to ensure that their own interests were protected.
Such victories are hardly new for the Alaska Federation of Natives, but perhaps that is my point. In a world where native politics is so often relegated to symbolic victories, this organization stands out as one of the major players in Alaskan politics. The theme for this meeting of the AFN was “Strength in Unity,” and what better proof could its leaders offer than the re-election of Murkowski to the U.S. Senate. Here at least, Native Leaders had demonstrated with perfect clarity that they were a force to be reckoned with.
What is it that her principal love interest keeps saying to lovely Buttercup at the beginning of the movie? “As you wish.” Whatever Buttercup tells him to do, Westley answers with “as you wish.” Seriously, if hearing that doesn’t make you shudder, then this witch’s powers have already reached through your flatscreen TV monitor and bitch-slapped the good sense out of your soul. That isn’t love; it’s co-dependency. Learn the difference people!
My God, what that poor soul, Westley, must have been through to have been reduced to such a wretched state by the start of our little fairy tale. And this is but the first caress, a mere taste of the suffering Buttercup is capable of inflicting on people. Long before Lt. Columbo begins to relate this tragic narrative to the helpless little boy he is about to horrify, the dreaded Butterup has already reduced our would-be hero to a mere shadow of a man.
But of course Westley’s suffering is only just beginning, because it is “true love” that keeps him alive when he is captured by pirates. Are we really supposed to believe that this witchcraft is benign? Small wonder that when our kitty-whipped hero re-emerges he is clothed in black just like any other form of living dead would be. One can only guess at the horrors his own victims have suffered, all at the hands of a man empowered by little other than his morbid devotion to a woman far away!
It does not end there, no. First the lovely miss Buttercup seduces a boat-load of innocent men and leads each of them one by one to their ruin. First Inigo, then Fezzik, and finally Vizzini, each in turn meets our mere shadow-of-a-man on their own terms, and each faulters in a test of his own greatest strength. Are we really supposed to believe that the spineless little co-dependent has developed so many talents in his short years as an undead pirate? No, my friends, it was the malevolent power of the lovely Buttercup that weakened these once proud men and brought them all to ruin.
I know it’s a fairy tale; strange things are supposed to happen. My point is that fairies can be fricking scary. If Buttercup does not scare you yet, then you have got balls of steel my good reader.
Or do you?
Let us not even consider the many examples of Buttercup’s other monstrous powers; her moral destruction of a Prince and likely his entire kingdom, the reduction of a high priest in all his dignity to a mere Pythonesque caricature, the pointless slaughter of unusual and probably endangered swamp creatures, and the morbid double reanimation of twice-dead Westley by a pair of witches who conveniently enter the story just in time to keep the finally-vanquished abomination going.
Seriously, they say that it takes 4 witches to make a coven. We know who the first 3 are, but Princess Bride never reveals the fourth. I have my suspicions.
But that is of course the real power of Buttercup, Mistress of Ultimate Evil. She reaches right through the story and corrupts to heart of a young and defenseless boy. Does he not ask his uncle to read the part with all the kissing? And what self-respecting young boy would ever do that? None, I tell you. And in that moment, this movie reveals the real target of Buttercup’s mischief. It was the boy she was after all along. It was his heart she sought to corrupt, his will she sought to weaken. And she succeeded, did she not?
Buttercup’s powers are not merely restricted to characters in her own story. No, she has the capacity to reach right through the narrative frame and corrupt the hearts of those for whom she is supposed to be a mere character in a story.
And THAT my friends is precisely why you must fear this woman. Can you name any apparent chick-flick about which grown men have ever sung so many praises? How many self-respecting testosterone-poisoned grunt-brains have taken time away from a good wrestling match to tell you they actually like THAT movie, as if to suggest that this is the exception to their normal preferences. No, they haven’t succumbed to the power of the girlie-romance; it’s just that this movie is so damned good and so unusual that they cannot help but like it. The story of the Princess Bride is not really just another girlie-flick; it’s a romance movie that even men can love. That is what so many men want you to believe.
Take care, my friends! For, that is also what SHE wants you to believe.
…or at least certain rhetorical uses of the term.
Let’s start with the most obvious, and perhaps the most important example in contemporary American politics, tolerance of homosexuality. People often invoke the value of tolerance as a means of advancing acceptance of homosexuality. There is definitely some positive value to this approach, but the stratagem has at least two major flaws.
Problem 1: Apparent contradiction. The typical response here is to say that those pushing tolerance of homosexuality often show themselves to be intolerant of those who are intolerant of homosexuality. (Yes, that’s a serious double-negative maze in there, but you can manage it, I know you can.) Simply put, some people advocating tolerance really are too quick to attack cultural conservatives (particularly evangelical Christians) in personal and inappropriate ways. And if there are reasonable ways to advocate tolerance for homosexuals while remaining critical of its critics, well, let us just say that an awful lot of people are too tone deaf to notice the necessary distinctions.
Problem 2: The Open Door Defense. I first noticed this problem when I heard someone claim to be tolerant of blacks. I just could not get my mind past the notion that there was anything about African Americans that needed tolerating. And therein lies the problem; at least one way of construing the term in question suggests that the person to be tolerated has actually done something wrong, something that will require a gesture of goodwill, even mercy, if they are not to be condemned in some manner. I think most people see this implication quite clearly in most uses of the term, and I think that is precisely why we do not normally ask for tolerance of blacks? Jews? Mexicans? …or people from New Jersey. We don’t normally ask people to tolerate different ethnic groups, precisely because that’s a rather damning defense of them.
If you are serious about defending the rights of minorities, then an appeal to tolerance is not how you would go about it. So, why is this continually the go-to principal for defense of homosexuality?
Tolerance is what one grants to kids that are acting up, to drunks that are getting loud, or to obnoxious customers when one is unfortunate enough to work in customer service. Tolerance is what one extends to people, not because they deserve it, but because you are feeling especially generous today (or when the boss is paying you to accept fecal input without complaint).
And therein lies the liver of this problem. Lots of people ‘tolerate’ homosexuality. …which is to say that they don’t scream and point, or get out a baseball bat when they see folks of homosexual orientation. They might not even fire a gay or bisexual worker at the first sign of good fashion sense, and that is the extent of their tolerance. And some folks congratulate themselves on their lack of violent and overt hostility. They think they are doing very well because they don’t attack or openly condemn homosexuals, at least not literally. But of course the very logic of tolerance suggests that they reserve the option to do so. …to express their disapproval if and when the mood strikes them.
Tolerance is what one extends to others out of personal largess. It’s a kindness one does for others when one isn’t feeling a little left of their own mind on any given day. This kind gesture goes to the glory of the one doing the tolerating, not the person tolerated. The object of toleration is, in a sense, demeaned by the implication that he requires this treatment for one reason or another.
Tolerance is a gift, and the problem is the gift is given or not given at the whim of the giver.
Advocating tolerance is like asking people to be nice. Folks may or they may not go along with it, but the request does little to foster the notion that there is anything obligatory about the matter. Granted, a willingness to accept people as they really are might be implied somewhere in notion, and that’s a damned fine value if someone truly embraces it. But for every individual that truly takes that message to heart there are many more who learn by the virtue of ‘tolerance’ to set their jaws and be quiet, sit an extra chair over from the offending party and go about their business, or just generally let it slide …for now.
As a substantive agenda, this is begging for scraps. And it’s settling for a truce while the enemy keeps his guns pointed. (…yes, we can produce additional metaphors, but you get the idea.)
I’d rather enter the debate with a little more muscle. To the degree that this is a public issue at all, it is an issue that involves rights. And rights are not asked for. They are not requested, and they are not presented as optional. One does not prove oneself to be an exceptionally good person by recognizing the rights of another. It is expected.
Rights are demanded. One should not be asking folks, for example, to tolerate a homosexual in the work place; one should be making it clear that mistreatment is not an option. It is not that someone would be nicer if they didn’t condemn the gay friend at a social outing; they should be informed clearly that doing so will not be …tolerated.
Told you I was against tolerance.
I find myself wondering, at what point does failure to resolve a conflict amount to the same thing as letting the hand of God resolve it for you. The movie goes well out of its way to show us that this character has depth, that he has feelings, that the bits and pieces of his broken life matter to him in deeply personal ways.
All of which just makes the final ending such a disappointment.
The way I read it anyway, the central problem is what is he going to do with his life now that wrestling is over. Sadly, the final answer appears to be “pretend that it isn’t.” The move is tantamount to suicide, of course, but that is beside the point. It really doesn’t matter if we imagine the main character dying two minutes after the closing credits or surviving the match, even somehow doing another one. The bottom line is that this solution doesn’t work unless we ignore the very premise which led to it, namely that his heart won’t allow him to wrestle.
Of course the main character has his reasons which he delivers in a compelling speech to the love interest he is turning his back on to go wrestle, but that is the main problem. This guy can’t find any other way to proceed with his life than to go back in the ring? I think the writers believed in this character less than they wanted the audience to. In the end, they could not let him be anything but a meat-head. And all the rest goes out the window with that decision.
He took the easy way out.
So, did the people who made this movie.
Okay, so let’s start with the protagonist. He is from somewhere in sub-saharan Africa. We’ll call him Mbaté Ngu(click)ulu. Now Mbaté is a dedicated man. He has devoted his entire life to his people in the capacity of Deputy Foreign Minister to his nation. Now as a result of some coup backed by an opportunistic multinational corporation, Mbaté and his entire government is out, and Mbaté doesn’t quite know what to do. Having access to almost a hundred million dollars, Mbaté knows that he can’t access it directly or the bastards that stole his country will just get him and his money. So, he goes online where he begins contacting people. He has a short list of trustworthy individuals, all provided by mutual friends, and Mbaté knows that with the help of just one of these people, he will yet save the day…
It’s a heartbreaking story of one man’s quest to find a helping hand in an increasingly cynical world. You too will be caught up in Mbaté’s struggle to find help. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry. You’ll probably go to the bathroom at least once. (Seriously, you’ll want to take Mbaté with you.) Because poor Mbaté isn’t going to have it easy, and this epic struggle is not resolved overnight.
Thankfully though, Mbaté will not have to do all of this alone. With the help of his friends, a Viagra salesman, a IRS man with a a bunch of checks for you and me, and an army of horny MILFs just looking for someone to have sex with (no strings attached), Mbaté may yet succeed in finding a single trusting soul, just one person willing to help him secure the means of helping his own people.
Stay tuned for “Mbaté’s Plea,” coming in the Spring of 2012, 2013, or even 2014, if that’s really necessary. Mbaté will soldier on for as long as it takes.
I was reading a forum discussion about great movie villains, and it suddenly occurred to me that people always seem to get this wrong. So, I wanted to say something about the REAL villains of the movies. None of this namby-pamby, “Oh Sauron is such a meanie, don’t take his rings” gift-horse-in-the-mouth kinda whinging. I mean, what’s a few orcs and black riders!?! That ain’t villainy. I want to get serious here and find the REAL thing. Truly evil movie characters that deserve their spot in the villainy hall of fame.
Let’s start with Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Now you’d think she was just another homeless teenager wandering the streets, you know. “Oh look, she’s so cute, and she sings too, maybe we should feed her,” that’s what most people seem to think. But I am not buying the “accidental” status of that first killing. No way man! Especially not when she takes the poor woman’s shoes. It’s a straight up smash and grab operation, no question about it. She pops the poor woman with a house and takes her stuff. I ask you, how is that NOT villainy?
And it’s awful damn convenient that Dorothy can’t take the shoes back off. Yeah right! I’m guessing whoever she has lined up to fence the rubies will do just fine when the time comes. Then she steals a scarecrow and a robot. Are we supposed to think the original owners had no use for them? As if that wasn’t enough, she goes and takes a lion out of the wild. I know it sounds PC to say this, but I’m telling you some creatures just aren’t meant to be used as pets.
Don’t even get me started about her thing with the Poppies. This isn’t the eighties anymore, you know people. Drugs are NOT cool!
And of course we’re supposed to be proud of her when we see little miss pigtails ruin the whole Wizard’s gig, but I’ve got no sympathy for hecklers who absolutely refuse to sit back and enjoy the show. The old guy was rather gracious about it, but that doesn’t change the fact that sweet little Dorothy proved herself to be one of the greatest spoilsports of all time in that scene. What’s next? Does she go to the mall and tell all the children Santa is really Uncle Bob?
I mean honestly, if you can’t enjoy the show, then please don’t ruin it for others. Sheesh!
And then there is the not-so-small matter of our little darling’s second victim. Accident my rootie tootie! Dorothy knew exactly what she was doing. And that’s two witches within the space of one show. I mean what does this woman have against Wiccans anyway!?! They’re a peaceful lot, never harmed anybody, but no, this sweet face is just an anti-Pagan killing machine. And we’re supposed to be happy she made it home? Happy she finally left, you mean. Now at last the people of Oz can begin to put their lives back together, whatever she left of them.
I’m telling you, for my book, this no-good little hussy has got to be one of the top movie villains of all time.
…and her little dog too!
So why “northierthanthou?” The simple truth is that “The Village Atheist” is taken. I had lots of ideas for that theme, but some bastard beat me to it. Short of sending the goons, I have to come up with something different. I suppose “Dan’s Authentic Tacoria and Massage Emporium” is probably available, but I’m not feeling particularly zany today. …might opt for this to that later.
And I really do want to start a business with that name. …Might make it a tropical fish shop.
Anyway, it’s “northierthathou” for the indefinite future, and I will say that this title does have the virtue of being true. As a resident of Barrow, Alaska, I think I can honestly say that I am a lot Northier than the majority of my readers will be, and I takes my comparative virtues where I finds them. So, yes dear reader, with few exceptions I think it is safe to say that I am Northier than you. You may think yourself smarter than me, and perhaps you will be right. You may consider yourself better informed, smarter, or even kinder than I am. And in all those areas, I’ll grant you the case is often easily made. But when it comes to Northity, dammit, I have that all over the lot of you. I really don’t mean to lord it over the Northy-deficient, but well, …actually, yes I do. Try not to let it get you down folks. Let’s all just acknowledge my superior Northitude and get on with it.