Driving while Indian? or driving while spoiled rotten?

That was my thought when I read about the funeral.

In the news there was a story about a druggie/wild kid who had been “picked on” by one of the local cops. Last week, he was again pulled over, but took off, and when the cop pulled him over again, he resisted, and was peppersprayed.
The kid (and this “kid” is in his twenties, but never grew up) took a gun, shot the cop, and then ran over him deliberately. No news here. Druggies tend to do such things.
But then the story gets complicated. An ex Marine and his son were driving by, saw the kid run over the cop, and stopped to help the cop.
What happened then is unclear, except that the Marine tried to stop the kid from leaving, and must have felt threatened, so pulled the cop’s revolver and shot the kid dead.
End of story.Except that last week the NYTimes printed a lovely “equal times” article about the story.
Duh. Sorry, NYTimes, why feel sorry for a druggie? Do they back the kid because they back minorities? Or do they just hate cops, especially hick cops who feel roughing up local thugs is better than having their rich parents manipulate the court system over and over again to get the kids off?
I mean, why feel sympathetic for a man with a history of violence, especially one who shot the cop four times in the back before driving over his body? Perhaps this explains it, I thought.
In an article about the kid’s funeral, it mentions he had a “native American” funeral.
Well, in the East, there is a joke about being pulled over for “driving while black”. But when I worked in the Indian Health Service in Minnesota, the joke is that you can be pulled over for “Driving while Indian”. You don’t even need to look Indian: Many tribes have their own license plates.
So was this a case of “Driving while Indian” where the man finally had enough of racial prejudice, and lost his head? Was he a local Native American? But there is no mention of it in the obituary.
Now, there are two types of people who go in for “native American” funerals: Ex hippies who identify with the idea of an Indian, and true Native Americans, who actually still hold such beliefs.Oh yes, there is a third group: Rich wannabees who discover as an adult that they have a great grandmother who might have been Cherokee. An example is Ward Churchill. Not quite a fake but not really brought up in the culture either. 

So when I read about the funeral service, it peaked my interest, since right now there is a struggle for recognition by many Eastern tribes who have long been assimilated but who want recognition (as a way to to revive their culture, but cynics say partly to reap casino money).

And there are many Native Americans scattered in the back country of New England including New Hampshire.
Yet the dead boy famous ski champion cousin’s roots are rich hippie roots from California.And the dead boy’s parents owned a lucrative “Tennis camp”, and were traveling in Hawaii when the incident happened. What is the Hawaii connection? Why does an obiturary say he was “home schooled” in Hawaii? 

Several other hints that there was no “native American” connection is that his photo showed him holding a can of beer. Native Americans are well aware of how drugs and alcohol destroy a person’s spirit and the harmony of the circle of life. Show a photo with a can of beer? I don’t think so.

Other hints that go against a Native American link are that he was cremated, and that his funeral was “a celebration of life”, and the fact that artists, not known holy men from the tribes, conducted the ceremony.The problem of pseudo native american culture as part of a new age spirituality doesn’t seem a big thing to most Americans, but to many Native Americans, it is an insult akin to Mohammed’s cartoons or the Monty Python’s ridicule of Jesus.
Yet there is something sad about a family so lost that they needed to deny their own roots in a burial ceremony. For that is what ceremonies are about: healing the clan, closing the circle of life.
One wonders if much of this loss of roots may have something to do with the description of the mourners that he was “fun loving, proud of his gardening, and also frustrated at things he felt were wrong, and filled with a mix of righteousness and anger.”One thing that Asians (and Native Americans) stress is one’s place in an extended family. This is an idea lost in American culture, that stresses the individual’s freedom from responsibility as a way to full freedom. Asians (and Native Americans, and ethnic Europeans like myself) instead remember that we are not independent individuals, but part of a family with roots deep into the past, in a chain that stretches back to the past and into the future. We are not responsible for only our own pleasures, but have a responsibility to others in the family. Asians (and Native Americans, and ethnic Europeans) whose ancestors embraced Christianity(or Buddhism or Islam) did so because these religions brought deeper answers to the culture, not to reject their culture.. 

Yet the eclectic burial “celebration” of this poor boy suggests that instead of finding the roots of spirituality in their own ancestors and their parents religion, they chose to simply replace these lessons with an eclectic religion of vague “spirituality” that has neither the depth of experiecne nor the piety of tradition nor the recognition of how to cope with the negative side of life. Is this the root of the anger behind the killing? For only someone with a deep abiding anger against authority would repeatedly provoke local policemen with disrespect to the point of assault.

So instead of an abusive police man arresting someone for “driving while Indian”, the story seems to be merely what it was originally: A cop stops a known druggie for a traffic violation, and the druggie kills him.

The victim of the story is not the poor kid, but thepolice officer, who undoubtably saw the lost boy as a spoiled rich kid who frequently endangered the community by driving under the influence. And as a doctor who has treated too many victims of those who drove while intoxicated or drugged, my sympathy is with the policeman.Sigh. 

Luckily Catholics believe in Purgatory, where lost souls can find healing before entering the narrow gates, and indeed perhaps these two enemies will understand and reconcile with the grace of God.

So I will remember both of these men in my prayers tonite.

Such prayers are “old fashioned” for even Catholics, but like most wisdom that has roots deeper than the drug culture of 1969, the idea has a comfort in it.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, but she writes on culture and society at Boinkie’s blog.
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