Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When Indians meet "Indians."

This is a story idea for a movie in which a South Asian person has contact with Native Americans. The point of the story is to set up a theoreticaly possible, if fictional, framework in which two different kinds of "Indians" could meet. To my knowledge, no suich meeting of historic import has ever occurred.


This story begins in India in the late 1850's, shortly after the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The British army in India is in the process of being restructured. Our main character is a loyal Sikh, under the command of a young British officer.

We need a reason for this officer to leave India in 1862, and for this Sikh to go with him, but once they depart, the head to North America to observe the Civil War, much in the style of Colonel Freemantle, who obnserved the Battle of Gettysburg, esentially as a "war tourist."

Our british officer and Sikh soldier land in Texas and work their way north to find the front lines. In the course of their adventures, they become separated, and our Sikh winds up wandering through Indian country.

He is found in the desert by a native tribe, who nurses him back to health. He proves his valor in a skirmish with another native tribe. In time, he goes through a vision quest and becomes a valued member of the tribe, much in the style of "A Man Called Horse" or "Little Big Man." His bond with the tribe even goes as far as getting a wife and becoming blood-brother with her brother.

Meanwhile, our British officer had fallen in with some Missouri bushwackers, much like Quantrill's Raiders. At the end of the war, the raiders head west to escape the pursuing US cavalry. In their flight, their leader is wounded. As he lays dying, he passes leadership on to the Britisher, for he has shown his battle skill and leadership qualities, and the men support him.

The raiders head into Indian territory with a notion to go to Mexico. Starvation and thirst dog them until they wind up getting ambushed by the tribe of which the Sikh is now a member. In the course of the ambush, the two men reunite. The Sikh convinces the cheif to let the raiders live and reover with them until they are ready to go on their way. One of the raiders tries to steal from the tribe, but the Britisher kills him, proving his sense of courtesy to the tribe to which his old friend now belongs.

Meanwhile the US cavalry is till on the trail of the raiders. They are better equipped for the desert than the raiders were, so they are hearty when they find the tribe. The ensuing massacre kills the Sikh's wife and child, and reminds both the Sikh and the Britisher of incidents in the Indian Mutiny that they committed, and are repulsed.

The cavalry manages to capture the Britisher and the Sikh alive. The go to the Britisher and inform him tha the is a sort of hero in England, where they have been reading reports of his gallant adventures in fighting for such a lost cause. Personally, the cavallry officer would be happy to execute him along with the rest of the readers for treason and insurrection, but Queen Victoria has sent a direct messsage to the president to bring him back alive. The Sikh, however, is "just another Indian."

The Sikh's blood brother/brother in law had been out hunting when the massacre/attack occurs, so he is able to help him escae. The Sikh won't go without the Britisher, but there is a moment of hesitation as the Britisher considers his loyalty to the queen. That hesitation proves fatal, however. The escape attempt is discovered. The Britisher decides to sacrifice himself so the two "Indians" can escape.

The blood brothers get away and locate the rest of the tribe's warriors, who had all been out hunting and missed the massacre. The blood brothers form a war party of these braves, and forge a legend of indomitable fighting spirit against the US cavalry.


I need to research which Native American tribe would fit best into this story. I also need to do a little more research into the life of a mid-19th century British officer to get him out of India and to america with a Sikh soldier in 1862.

My main question is, however, is this an appropriate use of NAtive American and Sikh culture for the purpose of narrative entertainment, or and I selfishly appropriating the cultures at the roiskl of misrepresenting or offending them? The concept of "Indians" meeting Indians intrigues me. Folks have been confusing one for the other ever since Columbus' error centuries ago. Why not put them together and see what happens.

In my research so far, I found that a series of wars and rebellions in India in the mid 19th century had several parallels with the Indain Wars in th American West. These include massacres, the playing off of one group of natives agains the other, natives loyal to the colonial forces, a heavy dose of racism ans romanticism, etc. Perhaps by telling this fictional story I can bring up issues of colonailism, "white man's burden" issues, loyalty, honor, fairness, and justice.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Thoughts About the Election - in Verse

2.6 million is the number by which
Hillary Clinton would have won in a stitch
If "one man one vote" were the hard and fast rule
And this nation a democracy were hard and true.
But a republic true is this land where we live,
And rights to the states are a thing we must give.
So regional diferences can be respected,
Their limited sovereignty must be protected.
So our election compromises
People with states of various sizes,
And just a few votes in certain key states
Can seal a popular candidate's fate.

Now we'll have a president who won where he had,
And fans of the other are really quite mad.
"Mandate, my ass," a singer once said
About the election of a man now dead.
But if we respect our constitution's intention,
This quirk of the rules does deserve mention.
The loser has won, and the winner has lost,
We have to accept in this season of frost.
But before off to the White House he goes,
The one going there must look at the no's
And realize that although the message is clear,
There are lots of people who do want him there,
There's others who just wanted his rival out,
or see that regime change would come about.
Yes, far from a landslide was the result.
The USA is not your personal cult.

So give him a chance, but stay on your guard.
Give him an inch, but not the whole yard.
Call out his bluffs so that all will know
That he cannot give us a job that is snow.
But if he should happen to say something smart,
Please do not act like he just laid a fart.
And if he does something that is flat out wrong,
Be sure all will hear you cry out loud and strong.

Now if you wish to respond to this post,
Remember to follow the rule I love most.
You may think it's better, you may think it's worse,
But all of your comments must be in verse.

Two million "illegal votes"? Really, Donald?

Posted to Facebook November 28th, 2016

Really, Donald? Landslide? You got fewer electoral votes than any winning president since the 1970's except G.W. Bush, and do you really, really think that there were as many as two million "illegal" votes? In your heart of hearts? There are fewer than two million transgender people in the US and people living in Detroit combined! Is this how to unite the country?

I was really having hopes that your practicality would lead you to a much more moderate path than some of your supporters were hoping, especially after some of the moderation of some of your campaign promises this past week. But then you go and say (tweet) things like this...


"Professional protestors incited by media"? Really?

I posted this on Facebook on November 11, 2016:

I was really, really hoping that Trump would not do something like this for at least a day.

"Professional protestors"? Really? The last time I heard something like that was from Reagan about the No Nukes rally on June 12, 1982! He said that the nearly one million people who marched from the UN to Central park were working under Moscow's orders.

"Incited by media"? Really? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the only "inciting" that the media had to do was report that Trump won the election. Are you really surprised that the folks who did not want you to be president are acting with a level of passion commensurate with the level of vitriol spewed against Obama and Hillary by Trump and his supporters?

You know, after Trump sued because a voting district in a largely-Latino community allowed people to vote when they had gotten on line before closing, and his daughter-in-law actually said that Hillary was under criminal investigation on CNN ON ELECTION DAY and had to be corrected by the journalist interviewing her, I really wonder if I should be surprised.

Fear and Loathing in 2016 - The Presidential Election

Mostly I sharethings on Facebook these days. But sometimes I post something that I want to have in a more public forum. Though I have far, far fewer followers on Blogspot than on Facebook, search engines are more likely to find things here than there. So with that in mind, I am going to share some things that got their first exposure on FB.

I originally posted this as the election results came in and it looked clear that Donald Trump was going to be the next president of the United States of America:

When I was in high school, it was the height of the Reagan-era Cold War. As a boy growing up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to an adult college-student mom in an aggressively social-engineered elementary school that promoted diversity, understanding, and peace, Reagan was the boogieman. He made threatening comments against the Russians. The Doomsday Clock clicked closer to midnight. And all the advances in social justice and environmental responsibility were doomed to be rolled back by his presence.

I campaigned for Mondale in 1984. I wore Mondale buttons and handed out literature in Grand Central Terminal. I drew a cartoon of Reagan's face on a Ghostbusters button and wore it on my hat. And I truly believed that the missiles would fly if Reagan was re-elected. In Stuyvesant High School, most of my friends shared that feeling.

On the night of the election I was doing my homework when the results came in. Shortly after the election was called, I heard a roar in the sky outside my window. I honestly feared that it was a nuclear ICBM, and checked my clock to see how long before the counter-strike would come.
I have never felt as scared after a presidential election since then. Disappointed, yes. Upset, occasionally, but never scared.

But his year, as CNN tallies up the votes, I am even more scared. the electoral process has disappointed me at every turn, but the worst is how a person that is so divisive, so unsympathetic, so vitriolic in his message of hate, anger, and intolerance, that it took the messiest party convention I have seen to get him nominated, could come so close to winning.

I have been surfing YouTube a lot this year. I have always had a fascination for the history of World War II. It may be a bit of a stretch to call Trump America's Hitler (some of us said the same thing about Reagan back in the day), but things he has said, his pattern of behavior, has opened up a world of negative possibility for the future.

I fear for the safety of our democracy. Up until the end of the 20th century, thus history could be generalized as a "March to Freedom," a history of expanding rights to all people in the US, towards a greater realization of the American dream.

Since then, however there has been a re-fracturing of our society as those who are comfortable with their place in the status quo do whatever they can to keep it, and fear is an easier card to play than hope. So identifying a boogeyman and defining your role in society as a leader against that boogieman is a safe bet, if you are willing to ride it all the way with no holding back.

The trouble with "not holding back" is that it takes you into modes of behavior and the doing of deeds that are beyond the bounds of what we call civility, courtesy, respect, politeness, and all that makes it possible for people to get along despite their differences and prejudices.

In a nation of "E Pluribus Unum" ("of many, one") figuring out how to get along is the path to survival. Being uncompromising is admirable when standing up for that which you believe, but believing in compromise is not sexy, and willingness to get along is seen as a sign of weakness. This is true especially when you have gotten where you are by being uncompromising.

So as the vote counting drags on I have a fear that this may be the last election in this country, and the ideals of this great nation, tested in so many ways over these past 240 years, to the point where they are almost illusory, will become corrupted to the point of being forgotten, and ultimately disappear, never to inspire social progress again. That is what scares me.

Now Trump is making his acceptance speech. So far he is saying all the right things about being president for all of us and uniting people. Whether or not he achieves this remains to be seen. We have four years. Keep the faith.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Report from SCA 50 Year Anniversary - Part 3

(Continued from 2 days ago)
The next day I spent most of the morning repairing armor, but managed to make it to a “boat battle.” This was a rollicking affair in which simulated “boats” carried fighters to an “island” on which “booty” was stashed. The different teams of fighters fought to collect the booty and bring them back to their “docks.”

This was absurd, ridiculous, and fun. My team actually won one of the engagements, collecting the most valuable booty. Here is a video of some of the action. https://youtu.be/3cgEcDRBkRE

After that I attended a lecture on “The Psychology of Fighting” by Duke Talymar. IT was an interesting summation of the progression of a SCA fighter's career and options, how to break through plateaus, and guidance for fighters. After the lecture, the floor was opened to questions. There were some interesting points brought up. Among the most discussion-inspiring ones were how to deal with a student who refuses to learn, and what to do when someone has lost the thrill he used to have and how to help him get it back.

I found this to be an interesting topic. I have had periods in which I felt myself lacking the thrill for the SCA that I used to have. AS a result I wound up gravitating to other things like Brazilian jiu jitsu, pro wrestling, filmmaking, and the Battle of the Nations - Armored Combat League world. I contributed that I have felt the thrill fade, that I didn't fit in to my local fighting group quite as well as I used to. In my case, what I did was simply focus on what it was that I liked about it that was still there. In my case, it was the fact that even though I hate almost everything involved with fighting (pack the gear, carrying it, putting it on, the exertion, carrying the stuff home, being sore and tired), I do it because I love being able to say that I did it.

After a bunch more comments and discussion, one other thing came to my mind, so I shared it: The SCA is a hobby. If you think you will get more satisfaction by saving the whales, or getting involved in local politics, or finishing high school, or starting grad school, or spending time with the wife and kids, do it.

After all that was done, I noticed gnats or fleas flitting around me. I felt hot, sweaty, and itchy, but my armor needed fixing. I took all my armor off and fixed the three rivets that needed fixing before going back to camp for dinner. I showered all the sweat and bugs off, but it turned out it wasn;t me, there were bugs all over the place that day.

(to be continued)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

REport from SCA 50 Year Anniversary - Part 2

(Continued from yesterday's post.)

After the fighting on the first day I sat in on a class on the use of the shield by Duke Stephen. He gave some interesting advice on the various shapes and typos of SCA shields and the different ways in which they can be used.

The next day I spent most of the morning repairing my armor, but I made it to a “known world fighter practice,” at which Duke Visivald showed a couple of principles of polearm. I had replaced the thrusting tip on my polearm, and then proceeded to use it, and the principles Viz had taught, to great effect in practice.

Next came the 5-weapons tourney. At first I had not intended to fight, considering how long it had been since I had fought and that I might not have enough weapons. My lady and I were talking to a friend when {Prince Edmund of the Middle came over to my friend and asked if he would join the tourney to help balance the brackets. “You just need to be an organic pop-up target,” he said. My friend declined, but I figured that since that's pretty much what I had been the previous day, what did I have to lose?

The format of the tourney was double-elimination in which in each match the fighters would have to choose either polearm, two-sword, sword & buckler, two-handed sword, or spear for each round, and each match would be fought best three-of-five. I wound up fighting quite well. I lost the first match in three rounds straight, but won the second three-to-one. The third match was an epic that went the distance. I lost the first two rounds (sword & buckler and two-handed sword) but won the next two (poleaxe and two-sword). We then faced off with 6-foot long spears (a form with which I had never really fought before). Already the other guy was really enjoying the fights. He was a short, active fighters whose ducking had saved him from at least two kills in the sword and buckler fight, but who left enough opportunity open in defense for me to hit in the head in two-sword and in poleaxe.

With the spears, we alternated periods of cautious probing with furious thrusting and parrying. Some grappling ensued that almost resulted in short-range stabbing, but the marshal broke it up. In the end it was a shame that either of us had to lose, but he managed to get a thrust in on my face that I was not quick enough to block, and I was out of the tourney.

It is noteworthy to mention that in my polearm victories I did use the principles that Duke Visivald had taught earlier that day.

(To be continued...)