Wednesday, June 08, 2016
Morning Thanks--from Sacagawea to Hillary
The knickered man in this old photo looks sheepish, as well he should. On the other hand, the two women, out front, look more than a little saucy, as well as they should, standing where they are at the feet of one of America's earliest female heroes, an Shoshone woman named Sacagawea.
Without Sacagawea (spellings differ, to say the least), Lewis and Clark would have never made it up the Missouri and across America. She acted as a translator and a guide through rugged areas of the American west no Corps of Discovery super hero had ever known or seen before. Without her, the whole bunch of burly white Easterners might have hightailed it back to St. Louis.
And she was just a kid--sixteen years old, although no one knows when or where she was born. In fact, where she died and what of remain mysteries too. From a white person's point of view, she came out of nowhere and, once Lewis and Clark were back on the Missouri, moving south with the flow, she simply disappeared.
That baby over her back, a little boy named Pomp, was hers, despite her being only a little older than my granddaughter. Through the whole trek in what a half century later became North Dakota, she carried her little boy along, dutifully. He belonged to her husband, a French wilderness man, a trapper, named Toussaint Charbonneau, who also acted as a guide.
It's very much worth remembering--and never forgetting--that this young American hero was married only because Charbonneau won her in a card game. The only rights she had of her own were what she could gain from carrying out her appointed role of mother and wife, which is to say, not much. She had no say in government; she was, for heaven sake, a Native American and Indians weren't really people. And, of course, she was a woman. It would take more than a century before women had the vote. Double jeopardy.
It's good to remember Sacagawea, her story, her heroism, and her non-personhood, especially after last night, when the prsumptive nominee for President of the Democratic Party is Hillary Clinton. Sometime this year we will be retiring America's first African-American President; if things go as many pundits guess, we will, January next, inaugurate our first woman President. For the record, should Trump triumph, he would not be our first white, male President, of course, nor would be our first racist President.
During her long political career, Hillary Rodham Clinton has accumulated millions of people who hate her, despise her, voters are so full of vitriol they're willing to side with a man who claims he's never once asked forgiveness of anybody or anyone for anything, God included. But I hope that, at least for this moment in time, every last American can take a deep breath and know that what happened last night was a milestone in American history.
What exactly happens in the Democratic Convention coming up in Philadelphia is still up for grabs, but if the "presumptive" candidate turns into the Democratic candidate, it'll be official. If she wins, it'll be, again, historic.
I'm not a progressive; I don't think we as a people are getting better, but then neither am I sure we're somehow going down the rubes. I'm a Calvinist, convinced of the fact that, post-Eden, our predilections are, first of all, toward what we can make or get or earn--"what's in it for me." Human beings have to fight not to think of themselves first in every instant of our lives, a fight that requires help from God. That doesn't change.
But last night something significant happened, something above politics. We've come a long ways from being led by a teenage Native girl, a kid herself, hoisting a baby through the cold wilderness of the northern plains, a girl who was one of several wives of a fur trapper who won her in a card game.
We've come a long way. Have a look at those women at the foot of statue and the man in knickers who doesn't know quite how to stand.
We live in a different world.
And my morning thanks is that we do.