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Indefensible truisms dictate propriety

People always say, that won’t harm you, it’s all natural. Yeah, well, a shark bite is all natural, and that will harm you plenty. A lightning strike is also all natural, but its benefits to human health are seriously suspect. We often perceive reality in funny ways, conditioned distortions we not only don’t recognize, but we share with disturbingly large numbers of people.

A textbook example of that happened at a football game where Little Wound was visiting Lead/Deadwood. The Mustangs were getting hammered by a deluge of yellow flags and finally a yellow fag got tossed on the Golddiggers and a section of their fans went berserk— “Are you blind?? Call it both ways, Ref!” They had minimized all the flags thrown in their favor into nonexistence and maximized the one flag thrown against them into a downright outrage.

But, Lakota can do the same thing. As I have written before, Lakota who become professionals, like doctors, lawyers, engineers, are accused of being assimilated, but a Lakota who gets drunk, or high, or becomes obsessed with the game of basketball— NOT assimilated.

Throughout every aspect of our society, indefensible truisms dictate propriety, and we do nothing as a culture, whether Lakota or Wasicu, to challenge these truisms. They operate with great frequency in plain sight. For example, I can turn on a TV western and watch some desperado get gunned down dead, but you will never see Jesse James peeing against a tree. That would be obscene. A girl can flag down motorists at a bikini carwash, but if she tried to waltz through the mall in her bra and panties, which covers a lot more than a string bikini, she’d be arrested for indecent exposure.

People don’t even notice these puzzling morays, let alone ever challenge them. For a long time, I wondered why, and then I realized there is one common theme that runs through all subsections of American culture, including our Lakota community— anti-intellectualism. We admire smart people, but we want them to be some person we really don’t know, some eccentric dingbat talking cosmic energy on a science channel, a show we never actually watch, but just tune to for background noise.

The thing is, there is smart in almost all of us. Being anti-intellectual doesn’t help any person. It hurts every society and culture that falls into that trap. In a pro-intellectual society, smart people would be honored, respected, and be in a position to accomplish much more. And everyday folks would be in a position to not only benefit from all that extra smart, but benefit from their own smart, because they would value it, refine it, apply it, instead of dismissing it as a useless weakness.

We haven’t had any intellectual presidents this past century. We can longer abide intelligence even in our leaders and heroes. That’s why we have Trump as president, because raw, unapologetic stupid is now considered essential in our heroic leader.

(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at


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