Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Breaking stereotypes

When the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was murdered by a jihadi militia in Benghazi, the event prompted an outburst of apologia on one side and rage on the other. The rage was best demonstrated by the popular uprising against the militias, kicking them out of their headquarters and expressing sympathy with the USA. This is not what the apologists and pessimists were expecting.

That may have been the public response, but the private one has been less widely reported. Media intrusion into the grief of his family would not be welcome, but what of the reaction of his tribe. Tribe? Yes, tribe. Stevens was a native American. I wouldn't have known if it hadn't been for this piece from Terry Glavin.
If there were ever such a thing as a blue-blooded American, it would be Chris Stevens. He was a direct descendant of the great tribal leader Concomly, the senior chief of the far-flung Chinook Confederacy who welcomed the American explorers Lewis and Clark to the Columbia River in 1805.
What is the significance of this neglect? I honestly don't know. Except that just as the people of Benghazi did not conform to the stereotype imposed on them, so too Steven's life showed that consigning native Americans to the margins of the modern USA is wasteful as well as unjust. Perhaps the media, fine tuned to a dominant narrative, would have difficulty in recognising a different reality. And was it ignorance or embarrassment that has led to the neglect to celebrate the fact that as prominent a figure as Stevens had more right to be called an American than most?

1 comment:

George S said...

How extraordinary. I had no idea. Some six years ago in Arizona I met a young Navajo school student. The head teacher said afterwards. She's determined to be the first Native American president of the USA.