I got up early today, hoping to answer a few inquiries from those of you who have asked about the Chief Joseph book. Then I open my email and find that the reservation where I first began my journey into Native American issues has been the scene of a school massacre.
I know that school. I know the teachers. I may even have known some of the kids, or, at least, their parents. A quick online check and the outlines of the story revealed themselves. What I saw was what I expected: news channels and papers reducing the carnage to “School Shootings on Rural Reservation.” But for me it is a tragedy among people I know and love.
What am I to make of such a thing? I can’t yet quite fathom this event. But I see what is happening. It is now time for the “parachute” journalists to begin making generalizations about drugs, poverty, and hopelessness on the reservation. And there will be some modicum of truth in those generalizations. But there will also be something false and almost pathologically disingenuous in this spate of sociological analysis. Were there instant reports out of Columbine about wealth, anomie, and Christian fundamentalism gone awry?
Keep an eye to this hard time. See if the search for the human is obscured by the search for the sociological. Then, think of what the deep implications are, and if there is indeed some separate standard. It is almost cruelly analytical to think this way, but I know too well the free reign that “rural reservation” gives to the news media, and it is quite different from what they allow themselves about “wealthy suburb of Denver.”
People are dead — perhaps friends. I do not wish to see them reduced to sociological ciphers.
More on Joseph next blog.