I'm required to remain claim. Here, where I live in the Midwest, it wouldn't necessarily be the case if I were white. But staying "calm" when you're being punched and kicked by police or verbally accosted is equivalent to being asked to remain still while the violence happensto you. It's the plight of those who don't control the narrative.
I was looking forward to reading Gretel Ehrlich's This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland in this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic. There is only so much COVID-19 news anyone person can absorb in a day. Everywhere you look in these last couple of months, some newspaper, magazine, or journals has offered lists of reading suggestions. Old classics and new titles. This Cold Heaven was published in 2001.
So I ordered the book and when it arrived began reading it enthusiastically because it's setting is Greenland . That's the land our Dear Leader sought to purchase from Denmark. As if it were a commodity, on sale. Never mind the fact that it's inhabited predominantly by the Inuit people who, for thousands of years, have called Greenland, home.
And that's why I wanted to read about anyplace that isn't where our Dear Leader resides.
There's a good amount of history about Greenland's inhabitants and their lifestyle, including that history of the European exiled to the land, Eric the Red and his son, Leif. The clever men advertised the land as awash in green. Everywhere green. And the lie worked to lure other Europeans to son him and son in their "lonely exile."
Ehrlich refers to the "grotesque practice" that developed around 1576 when Martin Frobisher orders his crew to kidnap an Inuit kayaker. The Inuit was taken to England along with two others where, shortly after, he died.
By 1860, writes Ehrlich, thirty Eskimos are kidnapped. By the time of American explorer Robert Perry, 1906, the Eskimos are bought to New York to be displayed as "living specimens" for the American Museum of Natural History.
Now I have to pause after reading these passages and witness, all these years later, the encounter between the Inuit people who lived on the planet for thousands of years and these new comers, arrogant and cruel.
How many times has this Event taken place? How many people endured the destruction of their homes and the death of their loved ones?
I see these people, helpless, wondering, what is happening to them? I can have this horrible vision because I've from a people who have been on the receiving end of this nightmare. Somewhere in Africa, long ago, that encounter took placea kidnapping happened and, as cargo, commodity, costing so muchan ancestor was auctioned and sold maybe in Boston or New York, but then taken down river.
In the very next paragraph, only 13 pages into the book, the author and her host, an Inuit female, discuss the bounty that is to be found in Kangerlussuaq Valley: reindeer. The older woman speaks: "We rowed umiaks from Illorsuit and Uummannaq. It was good hunting. The place was always full of flowers. We were happy there. So many reindeer. Some we ate, some meat we dried. There were many, and when we rowed back to the villages, the boats were full of meat and the blood ran under our kamiks [boots] like flord water."
I stopped reading and put the book down without hesitation. For a while afterward, I could see young calves falling as they ran alongside their mothers. I could see mothers fall. Whole families of reindeer.
So much for This Cold Heaven.
And yet, I can't, with the chorus, speak of "we" when it comes to the perpetuation of violence on this planet.
As of last year, and much more intensely in the last few months of this year, we humans have had to confront a massacre of human lives at the hands of a tiny, invisible virus. And, unlike the reindeer or the Inuit or Africans, we are being brought down, for the most part, without a family member along aside us. We are the meal now.
In the last weeks of April, Americans took to the streets, not in anticipation of May 1 st . Americans didn't risk their health to come out, practicing physical distancing and wearing face masks to commemorate International Workers Day. After all, by the end of April, some thirty million Americans had filed unemployment claims.
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