The World English Dictionary defines Wisdom as “the ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.” I find it most interesting that those nineteen words clearly manage to automatically disqualify a remarkably substantial portion of today’s American electorate, including (being kind here) no less than 99.999% of all on the political right, and regardless of party affiliation.
The obvious question arises: has America always been so . . . ummm . . . so intellectually
dense destitute as it appears to be today? Has our “leadership” always been so contaminated with the equivalent likes of (to name but a handful) John Boehner, Louie Gohmert, Pete Sessions, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, et al.? The answer is a simple one: NO!
Some fifteen years ago I ran across a book, a small hardcover masterpiece entiled The Wisdom of the Native Americans, ed. by Kent Nerburn (ISBN 1-57731-079-9), and it leaves no stone unturned as it presents the “uncompromising purity of insight and expression” gathered from Native American “orations” and “other first-person testimonies” most of which were originally “recorded only in imposing governmental documents and arcane academic treatises.” Following is a small sampling of the wisdom included, along with attributions.
“It does not require many words to speak the truth.” ~Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
“One does not sell the land people walk on.” ~Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875
“Why not teach school children more of the wholesome proverbs and legends of our people? That we killed game only for food, not for fun… Tell your children of the friendly acts of the Indians to the white people who first settled here. Tell them of our leaders and heroes and their deeds… Put in your history books the Indian’s part in the World War. Tell how the Indian fought for a country of which he was not a citizen, for a flag to which he had no claim, and for a people who treated him unjustly. We ask this, Chief, to keep sacred the memory of our people.” ~Grand Council Fire of American Indians to the Mayor of Chicago, 1927
“Behold, my brothers, the spring has come; the earth has received the embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that love! Every seed is awakened and so has all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.” ~Sitting Bull
“We didn’t inherit this world from our ancestors; we borrowed it from our children.” ~Lakota Proverb
“For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and woods were all finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man.” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux
“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library . . .” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear
[to the Lakota] “The animals had rights — the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness — and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never enslaved an animal, and spared all life that was not needed for food and clothing. This concept of life and its relations was humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. … The Lakota could despise no creature, for all were of one blood …” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear
“We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy — and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.” ~Chief Seattle, Suqwamish and Duwamish
“Civilization has been thrust upon me … and it has not added one whit to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity….” ~Chief Luther Standing Bear
And finally this eye-catcher:
“The white man who is our agent is so stingy that he carries a linen rag in his pocket into which to blow his nose, for fear he might blow away something of value.” ~Piapot, Cree Chief
Who knew there were Teabaggers around even way back then?
One has to wonder just what it is that’s gone so terribly wrong over the last several hundred years? Why have we Americans, in spite of our manifest scientific and technological advances and accomplishments, so completely abandoned The Wisdom of the Native Americans — our forbears in this land? Why have we descended so far into the abyss of intellectual penury that it seems unlikely that we have any chance of ever finding our way up and out?
I suppose we could ask Ted Cruz, or Louie Gohmert, maybe Sarah Palin, maybe even Rick Perry. They seem to know most everything worth knowing these days. Or perhaps it makes more sense to hearken back to the words of Chief Seattle as spoken to one Isaac Stevens, the newly appointed (by President Pierce) governor of the Washington Territory, in the company of a large gathering of Suquamish people on the shores of Puget Sound in December, 1853:
“Your time of decay may be distant, but it surely will come. For even the white man . . . cannot be exempt from the common destiny.”
Amen to that.