When Willie sets the standard for intellectual caution and rigor, we're all in trouble.
Here, he goes against the well-known Forrest Gump Principle, which is that "Life is like a box of chocolates and if you don't know the code of shapes and squiggles chocolatiers use and are too busy, too proud or just too plain dumb to look at the diagram on the box lid ..."
Well, I may not have the saying right, but I'm pretty sure that's how it works out in real life.
I hated that movie, in part because I'm not a huge fan of movies that use disabilities to draw sympathy rather than employing sharp writing and three-dimensional characters to carry their messages, but also because I was uncomfortable with the technical trickery.
I said this in 1994, which, in terms of technology and deceit and propaganda, was a very, very long time ago, when bogosity beyond the supermarket tabloids was confined to a color/contrast correction to OJ Simpson's mugshot that made him look darker than he was in real life, and a cloned shot Newsday ran to make it look as if Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were skating on the same ice.
This was back before newspaper publishers learned how to surround their own staff's reporting with fraudulent, semi-pornographic garbage for readers to click on.
And before foreign governments learned to use the Internet to get us to fight amongst ourselves.
All of which is to say, I had a valid point but I wasn't expecting it to get this far out of control, and yet here we are.
xkcd has a little fun with things we all know are true except that they aren't.
Common wisdom notwithstanding, you can't see the Great Wall of China from the Moon, which is harmless enough except that we've had photos of the Earth from space for nearly half a century and you'd think by now we'd have wised up.
You'd be wrong.
Which is why the whole Forrest Gump thing is so dangerous. Here's a picture of two conmen who are notorious for their blatant, self-serving falsehoods, and yet one is a successful TV host and the other is President of the United States.
We believe what we want to believe, and the more comforting, the better.
"Little Big Man" -- a far better movie than "Forrest Gump" -- featured a landscape of liars and cheats, with Allardyce T. Merriweather the only one who admitted what he was, though that speech is shortly followed by him being yet again tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.
If we really wanted to Make America Great Again, we'd be keeping chicken processing here, or at least making them return the feathers, we'd be producing more tar, not more coal, and we'd scrap our softwood lumber agreement with Canada in order to be sure that our rails were made from good American lumber.
Lalo Alcaraz gets the cartooning honors because he takes a clear stance but does not impose upon the people he claims to defend.
F'rinstance, something that has popped up both in Facebook and in some cartoons is the notion of making up funny, insulting "Indian names" for Trump.
Stop it. You wouldn't criticize his Asia policy with a Charlie Chan accent and jokes about "flied lice," would you?
(That's a rhetorical question, dammit.)
The issue over Elizabeth Warren's claim of native heritage is a mix of carefully cultivated misunderstandings and outright lies. The story has been told enough times, however, that anyone who wants to know the truth can find it in less than 10 minutes.
As for the claim that calling someone "Pocahontas" is not racist, that's transparent nonsense and does not need to be argued, though Michael Cavna has an interesting column on how much Indians hated that movie.
And, by the way, native culture is as diverse as European culture, and anything you say about Indians needs to either be very general or carefully vetted. Which takes very little time and is kind of fun: You go on-line and find the tribal government, then pick up the phone and call the tribal historian or cultural director.
For instance, this current-events piece on the death of Lori Piestawa involved a 15-minute call to the Hopi Nation to confirm the place of women in their culture. Most tribes are matrilinear, but the Iroquois are also matriarchal while others are not and the place of women can vary from one culture to the next. It was a pleasant conversation because people appreciate the effort to get things right.
Though not every instance of fact-checking is free of embarrassment.
In a story set during the War of 1812, I had a young boy whipped in the presence of a Mohawk trapper, so I emailed a historian at Akwesasne to check the commonly-accepted idea that Indians never spanked their children and to ask how the trapper might have responded.
By 1813, we had over two hundred years of contact with Europeans, so they were not an unknown to us, even when we did not agree with them. Some would choose to speak up, others wouldn't. We also have the traditional viewpoint that kids shouldn't be hit indiscriminately, but were also heavily impacted by non-native views by this time, so spanking would have been practiced by Mohawks also.
Gee, nice to know we've enriched your lives.
And I was editing some Indian stories which were collected on a reserve in the US but had originated in Canada, so I asked a Saginaw source if I should use the US spelling "Chippewa" or the Canadian term "Ojibwe."
He replied, "It doesn't really matter. The only time anyone puts it on paper is when you're taking something else away from us."