(It is the end of March and Opening Day is less than a month away and the days of the week have lost their meaning around here. With the countdown on, Flashbacks can occur at any time.)
One of the great things about America is that one has the right to go on being offensive, even as the offended holler, “Stop!”
Some of us get offended that others are offended by our offensiveness and take a stand against Political Correctness by continuing to offend, maybe even ratcheting it up a notch or two. Some of us just say whatever we want because it is our right to do so.
Some of us will say that, whatever it was, it was meant in a good way and no disrespect was intended. Unfortunately, attempts to atone for these inadvertent offenses often come up so short they only make matters worse and give critics another bone to gnaw on.
Some of us will stay on the sidelines, so to speak, and not speak at all, listening in wonder as others say the things they are free to say. Daniel Snyder can call his privately-owned football team whatever he wants as far as Quill Gordon is concerned. It’s a free country and it is his team, but he’s not been doing himself many favors lately by clinging to a seven letter word beginning with “R”.
Very few people will agree that the treatment of Native Americans has been exemplary. Even famous outdoors writers like H.G. “Tap” Tapply, who wrote regular columns for Field & Stream, used offensive distortion to help his readers realize how good they had it compared to dirty savages.
At the end of one column in the late 1950s, dispensing advice for avoiding bug bites while outdoors, Mr. Tapply closed out with a bit of what he no doubt saw as appropriate humor.
There ain’t much right about that sentence, other than the last 11 words. Some day we’ll pull out another of Mr. Tapply’s gems like the one where he recommended carrying a gun on fishing trips because you can always just spend the day shooting crows, snakes, turtles and frogs if the fishing is slow.
Native Americans served with honor during World War II. Western Ammunition was sending all its bullets to the war effort but promised “plenty game” when the war was over.
Even while recognizing their service, Western Ammo couldn’t help but fall back on the stereotype of Native Americans speaking broken English to establish the scene. In the documentary “Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian” much is made of the way Indians speak in movies, including a segment of an old western, where what the director thought was gibberish is translated, revealing insults instead.
Cartoons have not been kind to Native Americans. From an early ’60s issue of Outdoor Life comes this amusing anecdote, complete with an illustration that gets a small amount of credit because the Great White Hunter is not exactly given the Hero treatment.
I lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1981, just past the road to Victoria Creek, when the American Indian Movement established Yellow Thunder Camp in response to a series of court decisions regarding the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. That was a tense summer and the armed Indians in pickup trucks that I saw didn’t do a whole lot of smiling. I can’t say that I blamed them and I am still grateful to the groups that took the time to talk to the stupid white kid in the Volvo.
Wright & McGill hitched their wagon to the Sioux mystique, conjuring up a spiritual connection between them, a tribal symbol, and the fish we catch. They intended no disrespect, we’re sure, but it seems a bit of a stretch and we wonder just what is meant by the implied threat to “… maybe have Holy Buffalo write your dealer.”
Humor is not always pretty, but it does not need to be offensive or perpetuate stereotypes. Every single one of us can be lumped by others into a category we don’t appreciate and most of us will sound off loudly when it happens. Unfair, untrue and disrespectful stereotypes exist for all of us and none of us like it when they are applied. When we plead with others to knock it off, we expect them to do so and show a little respect.
Maybe there are words we should think twice about before using, knowing full well that they will offend. On the other hand, maybe there are words we should use more often, including one with seven letters, beginning with “R”: