By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
“I know you lie
‘Cause your lips are moving
Tell me do you think I’m dumb?
I might be young, but I ain’t stupid
Talking around in circles with your tongue
I gave you bass, you gave me sweet talk
Saying how I’m your number one
But I know you lie
‘Cause your lips are moving
Baby don’t you know I’m done”
In 2014, Meghan Trainor, singer/songwriter (and unofficial philosopher) released “Lips Are Movin’”, which was a big hit for her and a prophetic message for us. The story in the song is that of a lady who is tired of the deceptions of her gentleman. For us, her skepticism about her beau can be applied to our society and particularly into our politics.
I am reading a book titled “An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language: Learn To Hear What’s Not Left Said by Ali Almossawi” (The Experiment, LLC 2021). In it, the author addresses one of the most important issues of our time: discernment. Discernment-reading, absorbing, contemplating, reasoning, then deciding).
If you have ever watched a cow for any length of time, you will see it “chew its cud”. In fact, one site reported that cows will chew, on average, eight hours of every day and will chew 40,000 mouth movements every day. Some old folks will tell you a cow has four stomachs. Scientists will tell you that a cow has one stomach with four compartments, but the effect is the same. When the cow eats, and swallows, it will goes into the first stomach or pocket, gets burped back up as a mass called a cud. The cow will chew on it some more, swallows it into the second stomach, then burps up again, chews, swallows, then into the third stomach, and repeat for the fourth. At this point the food is thoroughly processed and consumed.
And so it is with discernment. Discernment is a process of constant consumption of a thought or statement to apply good judgement and wisdom as to what you are going to do with that thought or statement. It is a thought process before you “buy in” to or accept what is being presented to you (or hopefully it is).
An example from the Almossawi book uses an illustration of an armored Don Quixote seeing a wind mill farm. Now windmills are generally perceived as good things, providing an alternate source of “clean” energy. Not so for old Don, he believes that we should all be on board with getting rid of them and he gives us something to chew on to swing our thoughts his way. He says, “I will not rest until we’ve stopped these unfeeling giants who blot out the very sky above with their whirling arms of steel!”
He ignores the benefits and focuses on an unrealistic, unrelated, and unsubstantiated threat. Will others buy into it? Don did.
In a recent Tribal Council work session, the topic of banishment was being discussed, including whether enrolled members should be banished for trafficking drugs and humans on the Qualla Boundary. There is a section in Code that unequivocally states that traffickers or any other persons convicted of offenses defined by Code as worthy of banishment or exclusion from tribal lands, that that person will be temporarily banned (also called emergency exclusion) until such time as Tribal Council can meet and determine a length of time for their exclusion.
In another portion of the Cherokee Code, it discusses “equal application of the law” (Section 14-1.5), basically affirming the Tribe’s right to apply law equally regardless of “race, age, or sex”. In this section, it also says, “Tribal jurisdiction on all persons shall be equal and nondiscriminatory towards anyone, regardless of race, age, or sex as long as they are visiting or living or doing business on the lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians”.
Now, Section 14 is titled for criminal law, but the ethics would still apply in the realm of politics. Of all peoples, Native peoples should be sensitive to discrimination, whether the example is against them or for them.
Thus, the issue that requires our discernment regarding traffickers, those who sell illicit drugs to our people, many of them our children, and those who sell our people into sexual or labor servitude (slavery), is do we hold all offenders, regardless of race, age, or sex, accountable in the same fashion and subject to banishment or exclusion? You should be chewing your cud as we speak.
Some background for chewing: there is a difference between drug users and drug traffickers. Our Tribe has stated as policy that, while there are still laws on the books outlawing certain drug use, we also believe that illegal drug use is a mental/medical condition that should be treated and further feels that our Tribe has a responsibility to try to rehabilitate users.
Drug traffickers may be drug users or not, but their goal and mentality is quite different. Their motivator is financial reward, and they are willing to monetarily gain from selling and hooking our people on illicit drugs for the trafficker’s financial gain.
During the session on banishment, some legislators began to talk about the effort to hold tribal members accountable through exclusion as an attack on drug users. The oratories were long and passionate, and rightly so. One legislator stated that “We all know what this is about”. They were passionate that tribal members should not be additionally penalized for using, because we should be helping get away from using, per our Tribe’s current direction that it is more a condition to overcome than one to be punished or banished for. Sounds logical.
But keep chewing. As other legislators pointed out, the discussion had been about exclusion for trafficking. The decision to be made about exclusion is not about those taking the drugs, but those selling it to those who take the drugs. Like old Don Q., some were either wittingly or unwittingly using an argument that would vilify the law directing banishment for tribal members for trafficking by arguing that users should not be banished, then leaving out the distinction between the two.
Just a note, as I reviewed the banishment resolutions for this commentary, the vast majority of exclusions, none of which were tribal members, were for trafficking, physical assault on tribal members, or repeat offenses of drug possession, some as high as 70 different off-Boundary charges (even in those cases other threats to community members were present). You may see all of the resolutions passed for exclusion at the One Feather web page.
So, the listener must use discernment when listening to anyone, including people in positions of power, when trying to form their own opinion on issues. Listen and relisten. Research available information on the subject. In other words, fact check. And especially do your fact checking when you are already leaning toward an opinion expressed by another. We like to be in the club. We enjoy being part of a team or group. And that desire can easily color our decision-making process.
We do seem to always be in a political season of some sort. Whether it is on-Boundary elections or off-Boundary in municipal, state, and federal elections, there will be electioneering going on constantly. Cornell Law School defines electioneering as “the process by which political groups convince voters to cast ballots for or against particular candidates, parties, or issues.” And those political groups? They may be an organized special interest, a club, an assembly of friends, or even just a family member or two. It might even be an editor or commentator in a newspaper (present company included).
It has become common practice when advocating for a position for a person to tell all the positives and none of the negatives of their position. And there really aren’t many positions that are totally positive and totally negative. Practically all decisions are made based on a “lesser of two evils” basis. Weighing the good and the bad. So, it is curious how gullible we sometimes are when we listen to the endless number of sales pitches from our friends, politicians, and others that we hear each day. We need to do more cud chewing when it comes to the opinions that we form and the decisions that we make.
Almossawi finishes his book, saying, “So raise your rabbit ears to listen for what’s left unsaid: What’s missing from this narrative? To whose benefit? Is a tribalistic quality like someone’s identity, or whose side their on, being offered up as proof of their goodness or believability? What does this tell me about the writer’s point of view? Am I being maneuvered into hating someone or something? Into believing someone or something? Questions I hope we’ll all remember to ask.”