COMMENTARY: Blind faith

by Feb 2, 2023OPINIONS0 comments


One Feather Editor


We leave a bunch of our lives in the hands of others, so much so that we rarely question things like who is flying our commercial flight, our bus, our taxi or Uber. We don’t think much about the mental state of our pizza delivery person or the person back at the restaurant cooking up our tasty pepperoni delight. We depend on technology and those anonymous folks in control of it to secure our personal data, including our financial access and access to our loved ones contact information. Whether you know it or not, you have been lulled into being a very trusting soul, or at least convinced that you don’t have or don’t have to care about how you get there or the outcome of letting someone else control certain critical parts of our lives. We like the convenience and the lessening of aggravation that comes with delegating some fairly important aspects of our lives to others, without really knowing if they are qualified or even interested in our welfare enough to make choices for us that could either make us a pauper or impact the health of our person or the person of who we care for.

As many of you know, I have been amazed at the apathy and low voter turnout that typically comes with each tribal election and referendum that comes down the pike. One of the eye-poppers for me was when we had the first referendum question on alcohol, which was not defeated by the vote, but by the lack of votes needed to qualify for a legitimate election on the issue. We all have a passion one way or the other on the subject of alcohol, but it had to wait multiple election cycles to be finally expressed. I know that some believe the “ignorance is bliss” theory of political engagement, but I am not sure I can buy-in to that. In a community that is as intelligent as this one is, I refuse to believe that we are blind in our faith in government.

In fact, I have seen some of you at least try to hold feet to the fire. There are those of you in the community who routinely submit accountability legislation. There are some of you who take a public stand that doesn’t necessarily line up with the status quo. You view your voice being heard a sacred right, not a privilege to be held and withheld by governments.

The people you elect to high office should do more than give lip service to your freedoms, including the right of free speech. A good, social temperature gauge as to how your leadership feels about your freedoms is to ask them questions about the implementation of a constitution. First, ask them if they are in favor of having a true constitution that puts civil rights back on the table for the community? And if they give you a yes, then ask them if they have read and/or been involved in the development of the latest proposed constitution? If they have not read or been engaged, ask them how they can be in favor of it. You may get some interesting answers. A qualified yes is essentially a no. If they say, “Yes, I support the constitution, but…”, they have given you a no. Whatever follows a “but” is a justification of non-support.

The totality of our government is on the hook for all the successes…and all the failures of government. The continual finger-pointing and bickering are distractions from the fact that disunity is the primary cause that the ball of community growth does not advance. It is the business of elected officials to, first and foremost, serve the community. Every piece of legislation passed, an executive action should be taken with the health of the entire community as the goal. How does this law or action make life better for the Cherokee community, now and hereafter? You know that I am a proponent of longer terms for our Tribal Council. One of the reasons I support longer terms is that we need to get our legislators out of campaign mode for as long as possible. Any distraction, like the short terms creating a perpetual campaign environment, is another reason that the leadership might be slowed in taking action on progressive but unpopular projects. Theoretically, a sitting leader could have to weigh the political cost of doing the right thing long term for the community against potential short term negative consequences. Sometimes, investment requires short-term sacrifice to generate long-term benefit.

It is never a good idea to take things on blind faith. Most people don’t want to go into surgery without first checking to see if  their surgeon has some experience, training, and a good track record of success in whatever type of procedure you might be facing. I don’t let just anybody work on my car because I have had my share of bad experiences with mechanics supposedly doing major repairs that turn out to be no fix at all. You want an experienced, qualified mechanic to make adjustments on a vehicle that could make or break your livelihood or your life.

Here’s an analogy you won’t typically see in Cherokee: The Japanese Puffer or “fugu” fish is a delicacy in Japan, and in the U.S. in order to sell and serve it, you need a special license to do so showing that you know how to clean and prepare it because if done the wrong way, the meat will be contaminated with tetrodotoxins and/or saxitoxins found in the body of the fish, which are poisons more deadly than the poison cyanide and can affect a person’s nervous system ( And once the meat is contaminated, there is no way to “wash off” the toxins. Even in Japan, chefs must train tirelessly, preparing hundreds of fish at a cost of thousands of dollars. At least for now. Tokyo’s government has plans to ease restrictions on chefs so that those with as little as one day of training may sell and serve puffer fish.

So, if you were offered a plate of puffer fish, a plate that just cost you $120 (average price of a single filet), would you blindly enjoy your meal of puffer, having not a care about who prepared it? I don’t know about you, but if I even entertained the thought of trying puffer, I would want to make sure I have a cook who had proven he knew how to prepare the fish and I would probably ask for proof that he hadn’t killed anyone with his cooking. I do not want my tombstone to read “He rests here because he blindly trusted the cook”. Being asked to sign a liability waiver before you eat your food would definitely be a turn-off in my opinion.

We should be just as discerning about other choices, like who we will select to make representative decisions for us and who will execute those decisions. We need them to educate themselves on every choice of governance and development and to have good judgement in making those choices that will effect the quality of life in our community. While we love gamblers at the consumer level, we do not want anyone in our leadership who is willing to gamble away our economic security. And when someone tells us it is good or bad for us without supporting their argument with facts, we should consider that no argument at all. There are times when we foolishly risk our future on the words of someone who either hasn’t given us hasn’t made even a simple case for doing so. It is so easy to buy-in to something if we think we know the person, or they have been friends or family, or they are eloquent of speech.

It is routine practice for resolutions to be accepted, considered, and decided in a single Council session without the community ever having seen the legislation. It’s legal. Not a look. Take it on faith.

It is common practice to have off-air portions of legislative sessions, not closed sessions for cause. Open sessions with the cameras off. It’s legal. Not a look. Take it on faith.

And, if we would admit it to ourselves, we are lazy. I don’t want to have to do the research. I do not want to take time from my leisure activities to find out if something is good or bad. It is much easier to rely on someone else’s judgement. Blind faith. And when we put our faith in someone and the result is negative, we use the excuse that we should have been able to trust the decisionmaker, instead of taking responsibility for our own laziness.

We need to be responsible and accountable. Just like our elected officials need to be responsible and accountable. A good journey requires and upright walk. A good community requires that upright leadership. And if we don’t hold our leadership accountable, then we must own that too. It becomes what we want because, in our silence, it is what we ask for.

Leadership often rails against gossip, considering it an ultimate evil. And I concur that the world would be better off without it. But it is not the ultimate evil, particularly in government. There is an implication that all misinformation comes from the gossipers. This is not the case. Many times, government itself is the disseminators of less than accurate information. And unfortunately, government sometimes waits until the weight of gossip is thick in the community before they reveal the truth. As I have said many times before, in the absence of truthful communication from our leadership, the information vacuum will breed speculation and gossip. Transparency in government must be more than just a political buzzword to acquire votes.

The Cherokee Core Values, as adopted by our Tribal Council and taught by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation leadership programming, are spirituality, sense of place, group harmony, strong individual character, honor the past, educate the children, and possess a sense of humor. As we move through this election year, a year of decision that is kicking off with yet another special election, we now more than ever need to understand our need to promote the core values of our people. In order to be in group harmony as a tribal nation, we all need to educate ourselves on the successes and failures of our past so that we may make a better future for Cherokee children and their children’s children. I guess the real question is: Do we want to gamble with our future? And if we don’t address this now-today, we are surely going to need that sense of humor. By blindly following instead of educating ourselves and demanding good governance, we are just taking it on faith that we will have a future at all.