EDITORIAL: Buying a pig in a poke

by May 25, 2018OPINIONS





It is common practice in politics, whether it is incumbents, candidates, or representatives of special interests, for people to use extremes to get their point across or to sell their ideas. Failure to inform or withholding key information is the same as lying. Some will “boldface” lie about something to get you on their side, while others will simply omit or ignore facts that don’t help their case.

In the current American national arena, there seem to be a set of extremes trying to convince us to side with their views. And at each end of issues, they claim to be holding the moral and ethical high ground, some even waving signs and chanting “God, if there is one, is on our side”. Either side will tell you that they are vehemently against hate, while openly hating each other.

Used car salespersons have some of the worst reputations when it comes to not telling the rest of the story. I know that not all used car salespeople are like this, just like all people involved in the political arenas aren’t, but enough of them are to create a general perception of a propensity toward deception. Unless the law requires it, you will only hear the good or positive things about a car on their lot. They will tell you about the great interior, good sound system, nearly new tires, etc. They don’t tell you that they have no idea how the previous owner maintained the vehicle. How often did it go in for oil change and service? There might be a strange noise they know is an indication of impeding failure, but they don’t let you know that. If you notice cars being sold by some individuals, you see a similar pattern. “Runs great, just replaced water pump, muffler, and carburetor”. Most don’t bother to tell you that the heat or A/C don’t work and that the floorboard is so rusted through that you could set your feet on the road and peddle it like Fred Flintstone. At the car lot, they have you sign an “As Is” document when you purchase a used vehicle. That is to protect the dealer from being responsible for any deficiencies you find after you buy the vehicle.

How many of us take our prospective vehicle to a repair shop to verify the mechanical functions of it are solid? I would bet not many. I think a big reason we don’t is that we want to buy the salesperson’s story. We were attracted to that vehicle, because it appealed to us, before the salesperson started talking it up. There is something in the back of our mind telling us we don’t really want to know the truth about it because we want what we want. We are willing to believe the illusion painted by the salesperson to get what we think we want. You may have brought a friend with you to the car lot and he is telling you all the things that look “wrong” about your selection. You don’t want to hear that, even if it is why you brought him in the first place. Even that may have been a deception, because, the only reason you really wanted your friend there was to affirm your choice. And if your attraction to the car is strong enough, you will focus on the words of the salesperson and tune out your friend. Asking for and giving advice has caused many quarrels between friends and associates. We all want it our way.

Now, if you go to a competitor’s car lot, you will hear quite a different story. I may hear that the salespeople at the first lot are always exaggerating the merits of their vehicles and not giving out vital information about their cars to hide defects and deficiencies. They might tell you, “Don’t buy a pig in a poke”.

You older readers will recognize the phrase, but, for the younger, this is an old-time reference to deciding without knowing or examining the product. And why might the salesman on this lot tell me that about his competitor? Because he wants to sell me something from his lot, of course.

We experience this interaction throughout our daily lives. We interact with people who have a specific agenda and will only provide the information about that agenda that benefits their position and gets you “onboard” with it. Like the used car salesman, they will tell you all the positive things about their position, leaving out any of the negatives. They will hope that you won’t “check under the hood” or “take a peek in the poke at the pig”.

I call it dealing in half-truths. And a half-truth is a lie. Some people are so desperate to have you believe in their cause or are so in need of your support that they withhold information that might sway you to a negative view of their cause and lose your support.

And, if I am already leaning toward a belief, I’ll be willing to let you “tickle my ears”. That is another old-timer’s saying, and a reference in the Bible. It speaks of people liking to be agreed with or tending to agree with what makes them happy – accepting what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear.

For example, friends recently have been telling me that I look like I have lost weight. That tickles my ears. I want to look like I have lost weight and it would be beneficial for me to do so. The reality is that I have not lost any weight at all and part of the perception of my losing weight is that I bought and wear bigger clothes. Do I want people to stop telling me that I look like I have lost weight? Absolutely not! Because even if it is not true, it makes me feel good. Continuing to carry those extra pounds is not good for my health. My friends telling me that I look like I have dropped weight will not hurt me, unless I start buying in to what they say and stop trying to lose the weight. Their perception cannot be taken as reality for me.

Like the car salesman and my well-intentioned friends, politicians and special interest groups will try to sell you on a position or candidate. Many will try to sell you a pig in a poke by tickling your ears. Some may have the idea that you are not smart enough or informed enough to decide, so they will make those decisions for you, or only give you the information that will make you follow their lead. In my opinion, this is wrong thinking.

As a political leader, if you believe that your constituency is too stupid or uneducated to decide on an issue, then your best route, the route that you take if you truly care about the community, is to inform them. I do not believe that the members of our community are ignorant, and I do not think they will stand for being manipulated by special interests who don’t necessarily have the community’s interest in mind.

There are pros and cons to every issue. And whether it is a “pro” or a “con” depends on your perception. As a citizen, as a voter, be aware that there are those who will try to sell you their perception. Be aware that those who are selling may not give you the “cons”. Someone telling you there is no downside to an action should send up a red flag (a sign of warning) for you. No matter how much you may or may not agree with a position, get the facts for yourself. Don’t form your position based on the likes or dislikes of others. They may be deceiving you or have been deceived by someone else. For our community to grow and prosper, it is very important for us to be as knowledgeable as possible and to be engaged as possible.

Even if you live off the Boundary, you should be as attentive to what is happening in your community. I read nowhere in law, nor in our historic documents, that you are any less Cherokee because you don’t live on the Boundary. Your vote and your voice carries weight; therefore, you should be informed and active in the decisions that are made that impact you and your descendants. Remember, your ancestry is in your ancestral homelands.

Remember the “Idle No More” movement? It made a brief appearance in Cherokee a few years ago. It was started by four women in Canada – Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Nina Wilson, and Sheelah McLean through email discussion about what could be done about the Canadian governments plan through a bill to make changes to land management on their reservations.

“The women started a Facebook page to brainstorm ideas and plan for action. Gordon, who is from Pasqua 4 Treaty Territory, decided to name the page ‘Idle No More’ as a reminder to ‘get off the couch and start working.’”

We talk about what it means to be Cherokee all the time here on the Boundary. And we continue to talk. Isn’t it time we get off the couch and start working for what we want as a people?

If we want better, we must work for better. Depending on others puts us at risk of taking whatever is in the poke that the pig is supposed to be in and being blindly led by those who tickle our ears. The Idle No More movement evolved into a call to action across indigenous peoples and Indian Country in defense of attacks on our rights from without and from within. Like many things that we engage in, the Idle No More movement made a brief appearance and now has moved to the background. We either get discouraged because the wheels of government turn too slow or we feel like what we do doesn’t make a difference. We are an impatient generation. If it doesn’t work right away, then it doesn’t work, we believe.

We must remember that our ancestors faced challenges, just like we are doing today. And had they given up because it “took too much time and effort” or “nobody listens to what I have to say”, we wouldn’t have what we have today.

Our tribal elections do not need to be decided by less than half of our population. When we have a press that is willing to publish our concerns, we do not need to remain silent. When the government gives us the opportunity to speak to issues and provides a venue, mandates that opportunity through legislation, and less than 60 of our community people show up to speak, we are failing as a community and choosing to remain idle.

Do you sit around your home allowing others to make decisions about what goes on in your house? The Qualla Boundary is your home, whether you live on it or are a part of it through your blood and heritage. Our ancestors fought government, inside and outside government, because they wanted a better future for themselves and for the generations to come. Have we forgotten that we have a responsibility to those that have come before us and those who will come after us?  The battle rages around us while we sit on our couches, waiting for our fate.

As a people, we need to take on the mantra of the four honorable ladies from Canada and be Idle No More.