Onate's Foot/1998

The Culture of Butchery

Jan. 19, 1998                                 Learning from Indians





Dennis Domrzalski (Dom-zal-ski) is one of the funniest and most entertaining columnists and authors writing today. He rants against stupidity, hypocrisy, mediocrity and conformity with a flair, blue-collar bluntness and hilarity that no one can match. And his targets, whether they’re corrupted bureaucrats, blowhard, talentless newspaper editors, or dim-witted celebrities hate him because he makes them look like the losers they really are.

The Chicago native has been a newspaper reporter and columnist for 23 years. His new comic novel, I Got Stinky Feet, is an insanely funny attack on everything that is phony, pretentious and politically correct in America.



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            As kids, a group of us wanted to be Indians. To us, the Indian way of life was sacred. When the school bell rang we would race home, change into play clothes and charge to a field next to the railroad tracks where we would spend hours huddled in a tepee of sticks, cardboard and rags, studying every aspect of Indian life.

            One day, our studies complete, we set out to walk the path of this culture. The first person we tried to practice our Indian sensibilities on was a kid from down the block. To our dismay, he had no appreciation of Indian heritage. He ran away screaming when we said we were going to slit open his belly, nail his intestines to a tree and make him walk around in a circle until his insides were all unraveled.

            Another kid was just as culturally closed-minded. He fled when we tried to impale him on a sharp stake and cut out his heart and eat it.

            The mother of a classmate called the cops on us after we told her we would take her prisoner, strip her naked, stake her to the ground, cut off her ears and eyelids, shred her feet with knives and pelt her with hot coals.

            I mention this blissful period of my childhood in order to bring perspective to the Don Juan de Oņate statue controversy.

            This state's Hispanic community is celebrating 400 years of Spanish civilization. They want to erect a statue of Oņate in Albuquerque. Oņate colonized this area and is considered by many to be a hero.

            But Oņate was a piggish killer. He warred against the Acoma Indians in 1599. To this sick Spaniard, killing Indians wasn't enough. He had the right foot chopped off of 24 Acoma men and sent other Acomas off to slavery.

            In an act of protest against the celebration of Spanish colonization, somebody recently sawed off the right foot of an Oņate statue in northern New Mexico. Acomas are now protesting the commissioning of an Oņate statue for Albuquerque. They're arguing that Oņate was a killing, torturing fiend who oppressed Indians and whose history should not be celebrated.

            They're right. But Oņate didn't do anything worse than what Indians had been doing to themselves--killing and torturing each other, making slaves out of rivals, having their way with women and eating their opponents' hearts.

            If you want to learn about brutality, read the history of American Indians. When they weren't making up corny stories about how life began and drawing bad pictures on rocks, many Indians were warring against themselves. Indians killed one another other over hunting grounds and territory to a degree that makes our sneering, turf-crazed gangbangers look like Nobel Peace Prize winners.

            But Indians haven't had a lock on brutality. The Romans used to have great fun lining their roads with crucified slaves. The British stomped on Scots and anyone else who resisted their oppression and demanded freedom. Serbians have had a nasty habit recently of raping 8-year-old girls in front of their parents. Take your eyes off the Armenians and the Turks for just a few minutes and they'll slaughter each other by the thousands. Moslem fundamentalists are gunning down children in Algeria in the name of religion. The French, before they became adept at surrendering, tried to conquer other countries.

            That's why I'm glad that someone sawed off Oņate's foot and brought attention to this issue of culture that we are obsessed with. Because when we invoke culture we should be honest about it.

            There isn't a culture that can claim purity in treating other humans with respect. Hundreds of millions of people have been murdered in the name of race, culture, religion and spices.

            For years some of this city's Hispanics have sniffled about how oppressed they have been. Yet they have failed to mention the foot-chopping Oņate and the frying pan-clad, gold and land stealing conquistadors. Indians would now have us believe that their ancestors were all folk song singing earth muffins rather than members of primitive, brutal societies.

            So the next time we want to elevate our culture to mass sainthood or complain about how brutal the other guys have been, let's think. Because all of our cultures have a history of human butchery.


Š Copyright 2003 Dennis Domrzalski All Rights Reserved