Patriotism, Nationhood, and the American Indian
Dr. David Yeagley Interviews Ilana Mercer
Dr. David Yeagley is a Comanche Indian from Oklahoma, educated at Oberlin, Yale, Emory, Hartt, and the University of Arizona. (He was a special student at Harvard in 1982). He has invited several nationally known conservative and independent writers to offer their perspective on American Indians. The following interview with Free-Market News Network and WorldNetDaily columnist Ilana Mercer is the first in the planned series. (The next was with Ann Coulter, followed by Peter Brimelow's "English Assessment," Michael Barone, and Cyrus Nowrasteh) Dr. Yeagley thinks the American Indian is conservative by nature, and should assume a leading role in "love of country" and patriotism, a cause to which he is devoted. Yeagley is the only conservative American Indian in national media. He is president of the Bad Eagle Foundation, named after his great, great grandfather.
Ilana Mercer's work has appeared in the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Free Life: a Journal of Classical Liberal and Libertarian Thought, FrontPageMagazine, The American Spectator, The New Individualist, The Colorado Gazette, The Orange County Register, The American Conservative, Insight On the News, Ideas on Liberty, The Financial Post, The Globe and Mail, The Ottawa Citizen, The Calgary Herald, London's Jewish Chronicle, and others. She is the author of Broad Sides: One Woman's Clash With a Corrupt Culture, and the proprietor of www.ilanamercer.com.
David Yeagley: What is your response to the idea of an American Indian being an American patriot? Is it impossibly contradictory? Is it disingenuous?
Ilana Mercer: Patriotism in my view is a very modest thing. I feel patriotism when I encounter many people in my immediate community, or among my readers. The arborist who came to trim my trees the other day told me he was not a Republican or a Democrat. He said he hated the war in Iraq and loved his guns as well as keeping what he earned. This independence of mind is quintessentially American. I feel patriotic when I encounter such an American. Ditto the gentleman who installed my alarm recently. He too expressed his disdain for politics, and moved on to discuss his gun collection. The sight of the Jeffersonian arborist swinging heroically at the top of my giant cedars, giving them a trim, and the cowboy-clad alarm installer makes me patriotic. People like yourself, Dr. Yeagley, make me patriotic. There are quite a few Americans such as these around. Not enough, but enough to make me want to fight the good fight for them.
I've lived in Israel, South-Africa, Canada, and even Europe for a short while, yet I've never felt patriotism in any of those countries. Granted, nowhere else have I felt as desperate about the dismal state of political discourse as I do in America. But that's because I care about America.
So what is patriotism? Here's what it's not: It's not an allegiance to the government of the day, or to its invariably wicked, un-American policies. It's an affinity for your community; it's an understanding of the great principles upon which this country was founded—which have been excised by successive governments, Republican and Democratic alike. And it's a commitment to restoring the republic of private-property rights, individual freedoms, and radical decentralization.
So, can American Indians be patriotic? You bet they can.
David Yeagley: What is your opinion about Indian reservations? Most reservations were won by blood. Indians are proud of this. Indians were the first foreign nations the United States ever made treaties with. Having said that, how do you see their function in America? Are they 'nations within a nation,' to create an unwanted balkanization, or are they immutable historical tokens, to the honor of both Americans and Indians?
Ilana Mercer: I'm not well-schooled in the intricacies of the reservation system. It appears to have mired Indians in entitlement and welfare with all the attendant social ills; has failed to palliate past injustices, and commits new wrongs by instituting policies of wealth distribution.
When you say "function," however, I'm not sure what you mean. Individuals and their social organizations needn't have a "function" for the "community." But they ought not to live off or commit crimes against the individual members of that community. If people wish to band together because they share a history, a culture, or an ideology, let them be free to so do, as long as they don't aggress against others or demand that their forms of coexistence be funded.
As in your first question, my answer here flows from certain first principle. Live as you like, so long as you don't aggress against me or force me to fund your living arrangements.
The Kibbutzim in Israel instantiate the principles of voluntary socialism. As such, they are perfectly legitimate living arrangements. Problems arise invariably because of government policies. Government, exceeding its mandate—in violation of the positive and natural law, usually—decides to grant special privileges to these voting blocks. That's when the moral legitimacy of Indian reservations—and Kibbutzim—becomes questionable.
As for the Indian's place in America—he is an organic part of America and its history. This history should be studied using traditional historical method, now just about extinct in the academe. Instead, American history and the fate of the Indian have become part of the country's cultural studies departments—Ethnic, Women, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies. The humanities and comparative literature departments are another enclave where truth is secondary or often suppressed in favor manufacturing dogmas about victims and oppressors.
Injustices have abounded against Indians. But we want to study facts, not political dogma. Just human beings, Indians included, ought to abhor how government has gleefully codified the discourse of the "excluded" and the "oppressed" into law, giving blacks, women, Indians, and gays (the list is still under construction) the power to displace and destroy unprotected species (white men, for instance).
David Yeagley: How do you regard race in general? Is it something to be honored and preserved, or something to 'overcome,' in the Communist (Leftist) sense of erasing all boundaries and borders of all kinds, psychological, physical, genetic, etc.?
Ilana Mercer: The attitude to race is shaped by two forces, one entirely legitimate, so long as it involves no coercion; the other illegitimate—at least in this matter. The first refers to the individual's choice as to with whom he associates. By the second I mean the law. It compels individuals, often against their will and judgment, into associations dictated and enforced by civil rights laws.
Back to your question, now that I've clarified who the collective "we" is. Should we honor a race? I don't know about you, but I can only honor or dishonor individuals, based on their actions. Conversely, individualists, libertarians in particular, often make the mistake of thinking that broad statements about aggregate group characteristics are collectivist, ergo 1) forbidden, and 2) erroneous. This is a confusion. Generalizations, provided they are substantiated by hard evidence, not hunches, are not incorrect. Science relies on the ability to generalize to the larger population observations drawn from a representative sample. People make prudent decision in their daily lives based on probabilities and generalities.
Whatever your theory about difference in the propensity for crime among racial groups, for example, the fact is that, while blacks make up only 12 percent of the American population, they make up over 64 percent of all violent arrests. Have you taken that fact into account in determining where you set up house? I suspect you have. That one chooses not to live in a particular crime-ridden area in no way implies that one views all individual residents there as criminals, only that one has made a prudent decision, based on statistically significant data, as to where one will invest scarce and precious resources, to wit, one's life and property.
Race is intricately and ineluctably tied to freedom because we live under a state which circumscribes liberty by enforcing codes of hiring, firing, renting, and money lending, among others. In a truly free society, the kind we once enjoyed, one honors the right of the individual to associate and disassociate, invest and disinvest, speak and misspeak at will. Race has become important because we labor under nominal property ownership, and are subject to what is flippantly called political correctness, but is in fact codified and legalized theft and coercion.
David Yeagley: What do you think of Indian casinos, and specifically of the idea of land-to-trust, where a tribe buys up land (often of its choice--unconnected to historical ownership) to build more casinos?
Ilana Mercer: I'll make the same suggestion to patriotic American Indians that I made to the "First Nations" of Canada, when they were on the brink of separating from that country (Canada, to its credit, is infinitely more tolerant toward secessionist movements than the highly centralized American state): Make banking your new economy. Turn your territories, and their privileged independent legal status, into tax havens for the besieged American taxpayer.
For Americans to regain individual sovereignty, the Federal Frankenstein must be forced into retreat (it spends approximately 48 percent of GDP). So long as it can confiscate wealth at will, it'll continue to grow. The Constitution has not managed to limit the growth of the federal behemoth, because the political cast simply ignores it. By setting up tax havens in their jurisdictions, countervailing to the state, Indians will be facilitating a peaceful, property-based secessionist movement.
If my memory serves me, the Kahnawake Mohawks in Quebec had begun to investigate how far they could push the envelope of self-government. Like Barbados, the Channel Islands or Switzerland, this brilliant band had been looking to turn its territory into an offshore tax haven, complete with bank, securities exchange, a separate regulatory authority, secretive accounts and low taxes. When it got a whiff of this, the Canadian Federal government became apoplectic, as would our feds. It's one thing to expand the definition of aboriginal rights; quite another to have to deal with the reality of autonomous chieftains intent on exercising self-determination.
Tell the Indians of America they'd be the quintessential patriots if they followed my advice on this.
David Yeagley: What is your basic concept of a nation? Certainly, America is the exception to many historical precedents. But, if America is a nation, where do Indian nations 'fit in,' and how? An Indian nation, such as the Comanche, or the Apache, or the Sioux, have their own language, their own religion, their own culture, and their own general geographic locales. Are they therefore nations?
Ilana Mercer: We libertarians are often guilty of simplistic and vulgar individualism, in the words of Murray Rothbard. This includes an inability to distinguish the nation from the state. The former encompasses "the land, the culture, the terrain, the people"; the latter "the coercive apparatus of bureaucrats and politicians." That the Indian is part of America's land, culture, and terrain is indisputable. Ergo, he is a part of the American nation.
Being a social being by nature, man belongs to a variety of social systems. Could contradictions arise between the various systems with which individuals affiliate? Indeed there could, but there needn't be. Do Indians believe that their way is the only way and that non-Indians should be subdued or killed? Do they believe in holy war to achieve those ends? Are the values articulated in the Bill of Rights at odds with their Indian values? If not, then their expression of nationhood, or self-determination, needn't conflict with other social system around them.
David Yeagley: How do you view the idea of Indian mascots for sports teams, or Indian names for states, roads, buildings, companies, creeks, rivers, counties, etc? Does America want to expunge all things Indian? A visual genocide, if you will? What do you think is really behind this trend to remove Indian images from the country?
Ilana Mercer: The little I've heard is that "The Radical American Indian Movement" and the liberal PC brigade have complained that words like "Squaw" are pejoratives, disparaging of Indians. I'm all for leaving Indian names where these are the original names. In South-Africa, for instance, when the African National Congress pleased the world by unseating the minority government (and ultimately bringing about the rapid ruin of that country), the powers-that-be decided to erase Boer and British history, and Africanize places the former made great. Transvaal is now "Gauteng," whatever that means (I suspect it's code for murder capital of the world). We don't want to entertain such folly. Places named by the colonists should not be changed to reflect PC dogmas and sentiments.
©2006 By Ilana Mercer