Wednesday, September 29, 2010

America at its best: Freedom, the Grand Canyon & Navajo country

I am one of those devoted American patriots who has totally bought into the whole American package -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, Constitutional guarantees, refusal to be enslaved by corporatists, our glorious flag, healthy unions, hand-counted ballots, the Fourth of July, America first, beware the military-industrial complex, government that benefits We the People rather than the billionaire class, splendid isolationism and all that other patriotic stuff that Republicans seem to hate.

But I never quite realized what a staunch American patriot I really was until I came here to visit America's amazing Southwest. After seeing the Grand Canyon, how could anyone possibly not love this country? This land is really REALLY special. Woodie Guthrie was right.

Hiking down into the Grand Canyon from rim to rim takes approximately three or four days -- just to cover its14-mile-wide span as the crow flies. And while those of you with good knees are busily hiking down through the Canyon, Mother Nature sneaks up from behind and smacks you over the head with her breathtaking beauty.

But even if you, like me, are just looking down into the Canyon from the north rim, Mother Nature still totally rubs your face in it. Beauty, beauty, everywhere. Beauty that money can't buy. Corporate lobbyists may be able to buy Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court and the media but they can never buy anything like this. And this is far better. Ha!

After having been totally astonished by the beauty of the Grand Canyon, I then popped over to see the famous Antelope slot canyon near Lake Powell. "If you thought the Grand Canyon was a big wow," said my Navajo guide, "this canyon delivers wow after wow after wow!" Was he overselling his product? NO. Absolutely not. I'm absolutely swimming in American beauty here too.

Navajos are always talking about following the path of beauty and now I know why. These people are freaking surrounded by the stuff. "Following the Beauty Way has taught us to care for Mother Earth -- and to be kind."

And, as we bounced along rutted dirt roads in a Bourbon going 60 miles an hour on the way back from the slot canyon, I asked my guide a few more questions about Navajo life -- and he was too kind to tell me to back off. But having been gifted with an inquiring mind (that's fancy talk for being addicted to hot gossip!), I was really interested in this kind of stuff.

"Were you forced to go off to one of those boarding schools run by the
Bureau of Indian Affairs when you were a kid?"


"And how was that?"

"Bad." Er, could you be a little bit more specific here? Please?

"When I was only seven years old, I was seized by BIA agents and dragged off to boarding school. At boarding school, nobody cares about you. The teachers were only there for the money and they beat you. I was beaten a lot. It turned me violent and mean. And after I got out of school, all I wanted to do was go find those teachers, now that I wasn't smaller than them, and smash every one of them in the face with my fist. I was so angry back then. I was an angry, violent drunk."

"So what changed you?"

"The elders. They led by example. I wanted to be like them. Kind. There is no one on earth kinder than Navajos."

Kindness is the opposite of anger. I want to be kind! But so far it doesn't seem to be happening, not so much. Maybe I need to spend more time in slot canyons.

Later on I talked with another Navajo, a young man who had been taught the old ways by his grandmother. "She made us kids get up before sunrise every day. She said that people who sleep in late become lazy and old before their time. She also said that living without electricity, running water and money prepared us for the future. She used to tell us that someday all of us will have to live without them once again -- and so this way we will be more prepared."

I agree with the grandmother's prediction completely. Someday in the near future, when what James Howard Kunstler describes as the "Cheap Oil Fiesta" is over, we are going to have to deal with living without electricity and all that other stuff. And, sooner rather than later, we are probably going to have to learn to live without money too!

So. What will be left for us after the current cheap oil fiesta is over? Who knows. But no matter what the future may hold, we will always have America's beauty. And during my trip through the West and Southwest, I am becoming more and more convinced about what a rare, precious and exciting beauty it is. During this trip I am becoming, more than ever, a true American patriot.

PS: I'm not the only one who's been out traveling around America. Matt Taibbi, who writes for Rolling Stone magazine, has been out there touring too -- in search of the illusive Tea Partier. And here's what he has learned about them:

"The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview.

"One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. ('Not me — I was protesting!' is a common exclamation.)

"Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with 'people who do not cherish America the way we do' is that 'they did not read the Federalist Papers.')

"Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill 'cracker babies,' support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama's birth certificate.

"Four: In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called 'White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo,' checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.)

"And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Americana: Bryce Canyon, Proposition 8 and a truck stop

Right now I'm off driving around Utah. And in Park City yesterday, I went to a branch office of the Mormon family heritage center and they helped me trace my ancestors back to North Carolina, back from before the Trail of Tears. Wow. The center even printed me out a copy of an original 1900 Oklahoma census tract. It actually had my great-grandmother Mary's name on it -- and the names of her ten children as well.

And I was recently telling someone in Salt Lake City about how much I liked Utah. "You sound surprised," he replied. And I was. My only experience with Mormons (aside from my cute high school boyfriend) came from the time that they poured millions of dollars into a California election in a clear effort to dictate to us how we should think and and how we should vote -- subtly instructing us that we were supposed to hate gay people.

After visiting SLC, I was off to Bryce Canyon -- which is really amazing. You should go there sometime. I think you might be as amazed as I was. And on the way there, I pulled over at a truck stop to get something to eat -- and was amazed at that too. There was aisle after aisle, filled to overflowing, with stuff that was bad for you. You name it, they had it -- starting with Twinkies and chips and working their way up. I took photos. I'm going to put an exhibit up on Facebook. "The Way America Eats".

Next I crossed the Utah-Arizona border and one of the first things I saw there was a store's billboard that read, "Lotto, Ammo, Guns and Beer". Welcome to Arizona.

Some Homeland Security bureaucrat has recently stated that Arizona's draconian immigration laws are "a desperate cry for help." So here's some help for you, guys. GET RID OF NAFTA! And also John McCain.

In addition, I would also recommend that we stop worrying about closing our borders to Mexico and start worrying about closing our borders to China! "Why is that?" you might ask. Because most of America's jobs are being sent overseas -- to China and elsewhere. And who knows? Someday we too may be forced to become undocumented aliens, sneaking over the border from Hong Kong as we too follow the jobs.

However, there's gonna be one big problem with that one. Think how easy it will be for the Chinese government to "racially profile" us!

PS: Right before I left Berkeley in search of the Great American Experience, I heard someone make a very interesting statement: "I'll NEVER work retail again!"

Sorry, dude," I should have said, "you're plum out of luck on that one. Most of America is employed in the service industry these days. It's retail or else!"

All over The West, I have seen this again and again -- people employed in the service industry, mostly tourism. But guess what? The service industry, in the end, is NOT economically viable. People can take turns being providers and customers all they want and pretend for days, weeks, months, years that this [circular illusion] is producing a healthy economy -- but it is not.

Unfortunately, America's true economic reality has already immigrated to the steel mills and manufacturing plants of China and the sweatshops of Asia.

Further, according to Tim Lange at the Daily Kos, America's infrastructure is also falling apart -- but China's isn't. "
Europe...puts 5 percent of its gross domestic product into infrastructure spending and China 9 percent. In the United States, it's only 2.4 percent. Nearly two years ago, the ASCE estimated the five-year investment needed for infrastructure at $2.2 trillion."

So if I want to continue my road trip in style, I may have to go over and drive around in China.

PPS: The next stop on my trip will be the Grand Canyon!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Creating beauty: My travels through Idaho & Utah

While traveling across South Dakota and Wyoming during the past week, I've become really upset by the way that westward-expanding ranchers and settlers in the 19th century basically used genocide to steal Native-American land. "Get out of our way, we're not going to share and if you complain we will kill you," seemed to be the new guys' approach to real estate acquisition -- and seeing the results of this genocidal land-grab up close has pretty much pissed me off.

But when I went to the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho, I got another side of the picture explained to me. Those early pioneers were also heroes in their own way. The tremendous hardships that they stoically endured in order to acquire their own land in The West were scary, brutal and impressive. How many Americans today could or would be able to walk approximately 2,000 miles through hostile mountains, prairies and deserts in order to find a better life for their children? Not many.

The Native-Americans of the Old West were noble. But after seeing the real-to-life exhibits at Montpelier, I realized that the Euro-American settlers had been noble too, and that the immoral injustices committed by settlers back then didn't lie solely upon their shoulders, but rather were the result of a larger system of human values that was operational at that time -- a system that seemed to deliberately create misery and poverty and then exploit it.

"But, Jane," you might say, "that sounds a bit like you are advocating Socialism." Hmmm. Why not? I got nothing against Socialism. It works really well in Sweden and Norway.

Another thing that has struck me here Wyoming and Idaho is that there are a whole bunch of public service announcements warning teenagers against methamphetamines. Warnings teens against meth? Meth is a big problem out here? "Yes".

One ad shows a middle-class couple huddled in fear inside of their home while someone violently tries to break down their front door. Then the camera pans to the outside of the home and shows us that the dangerous home-invader is none other than their freaking SON, now a meth-head, slamming into their door with his shoulder and screaming, "Let me in! I'm going to kill you!"

That ad made me VERY glad that I live in California -- where they only use relatively harmless drugs like Prozac, bourbon and pot.

Then on to Salt Lake City, where I attended a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The beauty of the sound of its 350 voices was so overwhelming that I was almost in tears.

I left the tabernacle last night, completely convinced that the very most important thing that a person can do while alive in this world is to create beauty too.

When I get back home, that's just what I'm going to do -- create beauty. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, being almost tone-deaf -- but I'm surely going to try, even if it just means that me and my granddaughter Mena get out some blank paper and a big box of crayons.

PS: And speaking of settlers, here's journalist David Pratt's latest column from the Glasgow Sunday Herald -- entitled "Diplomacy must keep the Gates of Hell firmly closed".

Remember back in the day, when we were told that the USSR was a huge scary nuclear threat? Well, we've got some new scary nuclear bogymen now -- and now they are all in the Middle East. How did that change happen so fast?

Here's Pratt's article, FYI:

One of the most chilling remarks I ever heard came from an Israeli Defence Force spokesman during the Gulf War of 1991. It took place at a press conference in the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel following a few nights of Iraqi Scud missile attacks on Israeli cities.

A reporter posed the question as to what Israel’s response might be if one of Saddam’s missiles contained, say, sarin or some other chemical or biological agent.

“We would turn Baghdad into a sheet of glass,” came the spokesman’s immediate reply. It was a scary moment. No conferring, no hesitation, just an implied nuclear strike. At the time, he left no-one in any doubt that he meant what he said. But, then, when it comes to its own security, Israel usually means what is says. Whatever your take on the rights and wrongs of the Israelis’ policy in the Middle East, it’s worth remembering that had they not bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981, the chances are Saddam Hussein’s regime would, indeed, have had weapons of mass destruction by the time the US and Britain went to war there in 2003.

Three years ago, Israel once again made it clear that it was not prepared to live with the chance that a neighbouring country would acquire a nuclear weapons capability to match the one the Jewish state itself has always strenuously denied possessing. On that occasion, it wiped out a North Korean-built reactor in Syria. The military operation, many said, had all the hallmarks of a dress rehearsal for the one it would inflict on Iran, should its patience run out with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s current determination to face down international efforts aimed at having him rein in his country’s nuclear ambitions.

Now, I accept there are those who would bitterly contest Israel’s right to decide which countries should or shouldn’t be allowed to have a nuclear arsenal of their own. It’s a fair enough point. But, invariably, it’s one usually made by those who don’t have to live in Israel, or have little grasp of the stark security threat posed by certain extremist states that sit cheek-by-jowl with their Jewish counterpart.

Already, I can hear howls of disapproval from certain quarters over that last observation. And I take the point that when it comes to extremist states, Israel itself at times doesn’t do a bad job of fitting the bill. There is no question that Israel has its own extremist tendencies. As regular readers of this column will know, I have never been an apologist for the military excesses of the Israeli government or the resulting human rights abuses suffered by ordinary Palestinians, Lebanese and others because of its policies. But before resorting to political type, as so many of us do when faced with the question of Israel’s behaviour in the region, let’s just pause for a moment and ask ourselves this question. How would you react to the possibility that a sworn enemy next door, such as Iran, hell-bent on the destruction of your country, was acquiring the means to do just that?

Indeed, how many of us can honestly say that even here, far from Israel, we feel comfortable with the idea of Mr Ahmadinejad – or, indeed, anyone else – having his finger on the nuclear button? I’m no more an apologist for Israel than I am for Tony Blair, but the former PM was right to flag up the dangers of a nuclear Iran when interviewed recently on television during the launch of his political memoirs.

Where, of course, I would differ with Mr Blair’s take is on how the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran should be dealt with. The time has not yet come for the sort of sabre-rattling or all-out military intervention Mr Blair advocated should Iran refuse to kowtow. Realising though that perhaps they’re living on borrowed time as patience rapidly runs out in Israel, the international community of late has dramatically increased its diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

On Wednesday, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany offered the Iranians another chance to enter negotiations, while reiterating that it remained essential for the Islamic state to prove its programme is peaceful. The same day, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree banning all sales of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran. Under US and Israeli pressure, it was something of a U-turn for Moscow, having signed a 2007 contract to sell the sophisticated systems that could boost Iran’s ability to defend against air strikes.

Then, yesterday, it was the turn of UK Foreign Secretary William Hague to hold his first face-to-face meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, taking him to task about his country’s nuclear intentions and human rights record. While Mr Hague stressed the UK didn’t want to be an enemy of Tehran, he emphasised the need for the regime to engage with the international community. And all of this, of course, is how it should be. The problem is that, in Washington, and certainly in Jerusalem, there are those less interested in diplomatic solutions than they are in unleashing the dogs of war.

Only last month John Bolton – yes, the same neo-con and former US ambassador to the United Nations who pushed so hard for a war in Iraq – stressed that Israel must launch a military attack against Iran “within days.” Echoing Mr Bolton, Jeffrey Goldberg, a reporter who often covers the Middle East, wrote in The Atlantic magazine, that interviews he conducted with 40 “Israeli decision-makers” and US officials convinced him that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was likely to order a military strike against Iran next spring if international diplomatic efforts failed and the US didn’t act first. Earlier this week, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned Barack Obama that history will judge his presidency largely on whether or not Iran went nuclear on his watch. A nuclear Iran, said Mr Barak, will start an arms race among several members of the Middle Eastern community and give a “tailwind to global jihad”.

With political hawks such as these circling and their anger mounting over what they see as the international community’s foot-dragging and Iran’s defiance, there is the clear and present danger that voices of reason and diplomacy might once again be drowned out.

Back in 2003, around the time when everyone knew that the Bush administration had already decided to invade Iraq, Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa warned that such a move would “open the gates of hell in the Middle East”. Should Israel, the US or anyone else choose military intervention as a means of bringing Iran to heel, those gates will once gain be thrown wide. And should such a doomsday scenario unfold, it’s hard to imagine indeed how they could ever again be closed.

PPS: Here's my latest FaceBook page posting from Utah: ‎"Never travel to a foreign country without gel," says my daughter Ashley. And that applies to domestic travel too. I'm leaving Salt Lake City for Bryce today. Travel is broadening -- but hard on one's knees. And here's a photo from the main street of Afton, Wyoming, where "The Last Air Bender" is the only show in town.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dick Cheney & other elusive wildlife in the Grand Tetons

After seeing the wonders of Yellowstone, what could possibly be more impressive than that? The Grand Tetons! Wow!

And I saw my first moose today -- four of them, actually. They were peacefully standing by the Snake River, drinking martinis and wearing Raiders T-shirts (just kidding).

Then my next stop was Jackson Hole, where they have a store that sells the world's best ice cream. "No, no, no! The world's best ice cream comes from Russia," somebody said, and we were about to come to blows over this but then the conflict got resolved when we discovered that apparently the people who make MOOS ice cream also come from Russia. I'm so glad I don't live in Jackson. I'd eat a MOOS every day.

Then while I was happily gawking at all the tourists in Jackson -- who in turn were gawking at the Million-Dollar Cowboy Bar, the Snake River Grill, the Wort Hotel and phony cowboy leather jackets for sale for thousands of dollars each, Jackson got hit by a humongous thunder storm and I had to run for it, catching the city bus to keep out of the downpour.

"I hear that Dick Cheney lives around here," I commented to one of the other passengers -- and, boy howdy, was he ready to spill!

"I hate Dick Cheney!" he said. "When I was a kid, I used to throw rocks at his house. But now he lives out in the high-and-mighty part of town and you can't even get close enough to hurl."

Hey. I hate Dick Cheney too!

"That man is responsible for killing almost as many women and children as Stalin." Well, maybe not THAT many. But close -- if you count all the American GIs killed in his totally unnecessary foreign wars and the million-plus dead Iraqis and Afghans....

"That Cheney is such a cold fish. I bet that ice runs in his veins," continued my home-grown political analyst -- as I enthusiastically nodded my head.

"But what pisses me off most," I replied, throwing in my two cents worth too, "is that he pretends to be such a Wyoming cowboy. Ha. A Spandex cowboy maybe...."

"No, Cheney's not a cowboy. He's an oilman, just like Bush. Wyoming is one of the largest producers of coal in the world. And there's oil here too. Cheney's got his fingers in all of that. The man is a vampire, draining Americans of every cent he can get."

I couldn't argue with that. Plus there was a full moon last night. "So. Tell me. Where does Cheney keep his crypt?"

"Sorry, lady -- you look like a nice person and all that, but for all I know you could be with the CIA. I'm not gonna tell."

"Not even if I promise to buy you a hot caramel sundae from MOOS?" Faced with that kind of subtle interrogation technique, the man broke down and spilled the location of Cheney's secret vampire crypt to me, right there on the bus. But a lot of good that's gonna do me -- I forgot to pack any garlic.

PS: My next stop on this trip will be Salt Lake City, where I'm scheduled to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing -- and then it's on to Bryce National Park. "Nothing around me but Rockies and sky...."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More “High Plains Drifter” adventures: Yellowstone, buffaloes, old people & justice

By preserving Yellowstone National Park, Americans have really done something right!

While Bush, Cheney and Obama have been busy screwing up the Middle East bigtime and squandering a trillion dollars there for nothing, the fact that two million acres of pristine wilderness have been carefully preserved for future generations has given us Americans a true opportunity to pat ourselves on the back.

And Yellowstone truly lives up to its rep.

Even the thousands of acres of dead trees left over from the massive fire of 1988 are quite impressive – in a zombie-forest, living-dead sort of way.

Imagine if we had spent a trillion dollars on national parks instead of on killing strangers in Iraq. The mind boggles at the wonderfulness that would have resulted -- and at the lost opportunities we have let slip through our fingers.

And then I actually saw Old Faithful! Me and about 800 other tourists. “But you should have seen it here in July,” said a waitress at the Old Faithful Lodge, the world’s largest log cabin. “In only one day, we hosted over 25,000 visitors!” And boy can I understand why they came here. This place is magical.

“Yellowstone is also one of the only places in the world,” said a ranger, “where you can actually see some of the type of volcanic activity that is always taking place right under our feet -- no matter where we are on the planet.” Do you mean to say that all that magma and steam that I am seeing here can also be found right under my feet back home in Berkeley? “Yes.”

Then I saw two gigantic buffaloes and two gigantic elks – within 25 feet of me! Trust me, I backed right off. Those guys are fierce! And you should see all my fabulous photos of Yellowstone too. I have approximately 600 of them. Thank goodness for digital.

Okay. Enough about nature. Let's get back to talking about my favorite subject again -- justice. Every religion in the world has a soft spot for justice. Me too.

According to, the definition of justice is "The quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause."

So why should I be going all out, full-tilt for justice -- when the main historical rule for the rest of mankind seems to be "Might makes Right" and "If you can conquer it, it's yours"? I don't know. I just LIKE justice -- better than the bully approach to life. If you had a choice between Genghis Khan and Jesus, who would you chose?

Anyway, speaking of justice, today I talked to the first African-American I've seen since I arrived in "The West" six days ago, even after traveling all through South Dakota and Wyoming. Face it guys, racial diversity pretty much doesn't exist here -- hardly at all. Maybe that's why so many people out here seem to hate Obama so much. To them, perhaps he isn't seen as our President, but rather as one of "The Other," the unknown. I guess none of them ever watched Sesame Street when they were kids.

To someone like me, however, who lives in a VERY economically, culturally and racially diverse community, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck are "The Other".

And, unbelievably, I also just saw my first Native-American today. South Dakota and Wyoming seem to have almost NO Indians, outside of ones living on reservations. I don't even know what to think about that -- except that the genocide and concentration camp programs here must have been a complete success. I guess Sudan, Israel, Myanmar and China could come here and take lessons. Yuck!

PS: Aside from being able to glory in the wonders of America's national parks, another good thing that has come out of this trip is that, while on the road, I've met a whole lot of senior citizens that I have really liked -- which has made me stop worrying so much about getting old. If they can do it with such flash and charm, then so can I.

And I've also met a lot of really nice married couples out here on the road too -- which is also good. After having witnessed my own parents' dismally unhappy marriage for so many years, it never even occurred to me that there might be a possibility that married people might still actually enjoy each others' company years after the honeymoon is over -- and that participating in said unions might have actually enhanced both of their lives.

"Love stands for Looking For Good," someone once told me, "and if any marriage [gay, straight or polka-dot] is going to work out, that is what you constantly must do -- keep looking for good in your spouse."

And perhaps this philosophy should also be applied to our attitude toward people considered to be "The Other". And then, perhaps, we might have more justice in our world -- and we too could be enhanced by the presence of "Others".

PPS: The next stop on my whirlwind tour of America's various urban and wilderness areas will be the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole -- home to Spandex cowboy Dick Cheney. Or at least that's where Cheney currently keeps his crypt.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Old West & Wal-Mart: My trip through Wyoming

Early this morning, I started my tour of Wyoming in South Dakota, with a trip to Deadwood's famous Boot Hill. “Over there is Wild Bill Hickok’s grave," I was told, "and that’s Calamity Jane’s grave right next to it." According to her original tombstone, Calamity Jane died from ‘bad alcohol’ – but that was just a polite way of saying that she was a drunk.

Next stop? Devils Tower, a sacred Lakota Sioux monument up near Sundance. I walked around the base of the tower, feeling all holy – but that feeling didn’t last very long. It never does.

Next came the Big Horn mountains. I was actually there in the Big Horns. With Custer and them. How historic is that!

According to Gary Cooper, in a really good documentary called “The Real West” (you can get it at REI), the entire saga of the Old West only lasted around 40 years. This famous era started right after the civil war between the Union and the Confederacy ended, when apparently the U.S. Army was looking around for something else to do and so moved west to fight another, even larger civil war – between Native-Americans and European-Americans.

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what happened out here during this second civil war -- and this is hard to do because the conflict between those who originally lived in this area and those who came pouring in from outside was so vast. The settlers just kept on coming. And the Indians tried to stop them but there were just too many to stop and the newbees didn’t want to share.

Perhaps it would help me to understand this conflict from a modern perspective if I risked getting yelled at by making a comparison between native Palestinians and the unstoppable flood of Zionist settlers from all over Europe that has recently poured into the land of Saladin.

You try to defend your homeland but you can’t.

But Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse really gave it a shot!

So. Who was I cheering for during the glory days of the Old West? The Native-American underdogs or the European-derived settlers? I always root for the underdogs.

And just think of what America would be like today if cowboys and settlers had never arrived in the Old West. Probably not so bad. Native-Americans used to have a pretty good way of life going on here in the Big Horns. They honored the earth. We could use a little bit more of that now.

But instead of that alternative reality, we now have a gigantic new Wal-Mart in Sheridan, Wyoming – with four or five huge aisles alone devoted purely to candy and chips. To the winner goes the spoils.

PS: All this Indian Country talk has got me all identifying with my Native-American great-grandmother, Mary Ballard. Perhaps it’s because of her that I identify more with Crazy Horse than I do with all those 250-pound shoppers at Wal-Mart.

PPS: I wasn’t going to mention the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody that I also visited today, but it turned out to be so completely interesting that I really should say a few words. They had lots of Remingtons there – both the painted kind and the weapons. The museum's weapons section was fascinating.

Then I tried really hard to organize a ride out to Heart Mountain, the World War II Japanese internment camp, yet another moment in American history that I am not proud of. Heart Mountain is only 15 miles outside of Cody -- but everything I tried seemed to fall through. “Most of the cabins there are gone now,” said one old-timer here, “but you can still see the smokestacks and there's been some recent attempts at restoration. However, you can see several of the old cabins around town, that people are now using for tool sheds.” Tool sheds? They had American citizens living in jails the size of tool sheds -- for four years?

Never again.