The runner-up for the title of this post was “Consistency In Stupidity Is Not A Virtue”
Much as I enjoy seeing political correctness bullies turn on each other, the controversy over the new casino in Chittenango, New York is a nauseating mix of censorious meddling, hindsight bias and ignorance.
Not that the Oneida Indian Nation doesn’t deserve to be a victim of exactly the kind of harassment it is best known for inflicting on others. For this is the tribe that has sought publicity and skin in the victim-mongering power game by claiming that the Washington D.C. pro football team, whose name only means “the Washington D.C. pro-football team” and that was never intended as a slur—and that nobody who isn’t looking to be offended takes as one—-should be forced to abandon its logo, mascot, team song and identity, at a cost of millions of dollars, as a pointless sacrifice on the altar of political correctness. I am speaking, of course, of the Washington Redskins, a business and sports enterprise which, in a free country, can call itself anything its owner chooses. Since it is a free country, those who are offended by its name, or, as is really the case, have chosen to claim offense for political gain, can address their own hyper-sensitivity by following another team, another sport, or the Yellow Brick Road.
Which reminds me…
The Oneida tribe, while claiming to be a voice for civility, peace, harmony and ethics, makes its money in the legal gambling trade, also known as “gulling poor, desperate and dumb people into losing money they can’t afford to lose.” What the tribe does by encouraging gambling is truly unethical, causing tangible harm unlike the imaginary harm caused by the Redskins’ name. Its latest business enterprise, which should earn them a pretty penny while it causes addictions, wrecks marriages and destroys lives and families, is a $20 million casino in Chittenango, village outside Syracuse that was the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, who wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and most of its many sequels. Naturally, like almost everything else in this town, the casino evokes Baum’s important addition to American culture, literature and childhood. It is called The Yellow Brick Road.
Ah, but this is offensive to some, even as the Redskins name is offensive to the Oneida! You see, while a brilliant author, and though there isn’t anything in his art that someone not allergic to green or phobic about tornadoes or horrified by witches could rationally object to, L. Frank Baum apparently didn’t like Native Americans, and at an earlier point in his life, was quite vocal about it, advocating their extinction. Thus, for example, Ernestine Chasing Hawk, a descendant of the Wounded Knee victims, is calling the Oneida tribe’s decision to open a casino named for a feature in a Baum classic a race betrayal.
“How can they be so ignorant of history and traitors to their own race?” she asked in an essay published in the Native American Times. “Would the Jews build a casino to honor Adolph Hitler?”
This is funny, because Ernestine’s below-the-belt analogy mirrors exactly the sort of flawed argument Redskins defenders have to endure, from the Oneida. “Would Washington, D.C. tolerate a team called the Washington Niggers?” they ask. Uh, well, no, and no team would be so named, because only someone who didn’t respect or like African Americans would use that term, and sports teams are loved. Nobody names a team after someone or something they don’t respect or are not willing to be identified with. Similarly, the casino doesn’t honor Baum, but Baum’s literary creations, the Oz books—which have brought great joy to the world and deserve to be honored— and the iconic imagery of the Yellow Brick Road. These are worthy things to honor. It is nothing like naming a casino after Adolf Hitler.
We can honor the Declaration of Independence without honoring the slave-holding of Thomas Jefferson. The attack on the new casino posits a punitive hyper-critical assessment of both creators and their creations that in the style of Six Degrees of Separation will manage to make everything and everyone fatally offensive to someone. And we can’t have that.
Does Ernestine Chasing Hawk really think that Elton John was signalling his approval of genocide with the title of his album 1973 album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”? Did the Grammy Hall of Fame embrace Wounded Knee when it honored the album as one of the greatest rock albums of all time? Are all 30 million purchasers of the album racists?
What about honoring other cultural imagery that sprung from Baum’s art? Is singing “Over the Rainbow” tantamount to excusing genocide? The gay rights logo using the imagery of a rainbow comes directly from that song: are gays genocidal?
Oh no! Political correctness is turning on itself!!!
More amusing yet is that the Oneida are being accused of hypocrisy because they aren’t applying the same tortured logic and absurd standards to their completely innocent and inoffensive use of the name of the road to Oz that they are using to attack the innocent and completely inoffensive name of a pro football team. If you are unfair and stupid about one thing, the theory goes, you are unethical if you aren’t similarly unfair and stupid about everything.
What is really going on is that the Oneida are getting a taste of their own deranged political correctness bullying. If only we could be sure that they will learn the right lessons from the experience.