12 January 2008


The world is perhaps never as simple as it seems. Complexities and paradoxes and ironies continue to slap my face and reawaken me to life's intricate convolutions and hidden realities.

You might recall The Education of Little Tree, a supposed autobiography by Forrest Carter, of which I personally possessed two copies and excitedly passed along to as many students and friends as would read it. This was in the late 1980s. Very soon after my enthusiastic experience with the book, it was revealed that Forrest Carter was actually Asa Earl Carter, a former KKK member and speech writer for Alabama Governor George Wallace. Asa moved to Texas to begin a new life under a new identity as a novelist (as Forrest), and perhaps leave his old, racist life behind. In any case, he was not Native American and Little Tree is fiction. I remember at the time that some reservations banned it. (You can google a more complete story than I am presenting here.) When the story broke, I remember it attracted a great deal of attention among publishing, education, and Native American organizations.

On a related matter, it seems to me that humanity, as a whole, does not have a good record concerning humane treatment vis-a-vis people who are of a different race, religion, ethnicity, etc. This has been true through all time and on all continents, Native Americans included. I challenge you to find examples of (relatively) powerful human groups who, when they came in contact with less powerful groups (the Other), did not treat them as less than human. We are more aware of European-Christian atrocities because they are more recent, better documented, and widespread, and, yes, continuing. Still, I contend that this history is little different from the rest of the human story, except for perhaps the scale and duration of the calamity.

As I said, reality is complex, convoluted, and usually not as simple as it seems. As for the fictional work of pseudonymous Forrest Carter, I think the book should stand on its own as a great story that has affected many people positively. Mr. Carter is gone; his book lives. I so very much wanted to believe it.

What unfortunately also lives on is humanity's inhumanity to the Other. For that we need more than a novel written under pretense. We need comprehension of a true history of the human story. I am waiting for the next reality slap.

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