Demonizing the Big Glass House
by Jack Wandell
Among the most notable legacies of the Haudenosaunnee (Circa 1450) is the Charter of the 1945-founded United Nations, truly a bench mark contract created with great and courageous vision, expressly designed to foster peaceful coexistence among the peoples and nations of Mother Earth, Herself upheld, vide the Onundagaono Creation Story, by the shell of the Great Sacred Turtle.
It is therefore a matter of no small concern to descendants of the pre-Columbian "First Republic" to find contemporary supporters of the Manahatn-based UN, now observing their comparatively young 50th anniversary year, subjected to a deluge of vilification emanating from such eclectic sources as mean-spirited Congressional mugwumps, overly-zealous Christian fundamentalists, salivating white supremacists, intransigent pro-gun activists, anti-big government fanatics, fatuous talk-show hucksters, homophobic gay-bashers, sociopathic militia gunsels, and, sadly, just-plain-downhome-mad-as-hell taxpayers naifs -- collectively ad hominam, ad nauseum and, seemingly, ad infinitum.
Since the April 19 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, national attention has been focused on various right-wing cadres, bivouacked throughout America's so-called heartland, convinced that the UN is a dark and sinister force hell-bent on imposing a "World Government" upon us all.
United Nations officials, on the other hand, have ample reason to fear both foreign and domestic paramilitary groups inclined to acts of terrorism. Though the UN has absolutely nothing to do with world government (with or without caps), has no standing army, tanks, or even so much as a makeshift peashooter (only some aesthetically pleasing flags contributed to member nations and an enviable desire to address horrific problems of the moment), its retinue recalls all-too vividly that the bomb which exploded in 1993 at the nearby World Trade Center -- killing six persons and injuring more than 1000 others -- could well have been delivered to their riverside doorstep. (Just prior to the bombing, one of the men arrested in the incident reportedly toured the UN building three times in one day. UN staffers more than suspect the man was on a reconnaissance mission).
Native and Natural peoples, too, share the prevailing apprehension. The Oklahoma City bombing, after all, claimed the lives of several Native Americans and resulted in the destruction of the Office of Indian Programs Division of HUD (Housing and Urban Development), serving the 37 tribes of Oklahoma and the Kansas, Louisiana and Arkansas Region Six area.
Security has been appreciatively tightened at UN headquarters, and, at all public appearances in the U.S. and abroad, Secretary General Boutros Boutros Gahli is now being provided with a special Secret Service detail. Still, UN officials are receiving more crank calls, and even actual death threats, than ever before. In Seattle, a top U.S. diplomat was asked recently if white-painted vehicles seen in Montana meant a UN takeover of the state. Last October, when the city of Lansing, Michigan, hoisted the United Nations flag to celebrate UN Day, camouflage-clad members of the Michigan Militia demanded that a color guard of school children lower the flag.
A most graphic example of right-wing clout is what happened earlier this year when militia groups, self-styled patriot organizations, along with John Birch Society and National Rifle Association disciples, made extensive use of the Internet Computer Network, shortwave radio and fax resources to checkmate a Conference of the States, sponsored by the National Governors Association and similar mainstream backers. The chief executive figured that organized opposition, if any, to the confab would most likely come from liberal or left-wing quarters. After all, the legislators would be discussing such issues as new(t) state powers, authority to initiate constitutional amendments and the rejection of federal laws and regulations, clearly an agenda well-calculated to please conservatives of a bipartisan stripe. Supremely confident, the Planners slated the big event for October 23-25 in "the City of Brotherly Love," Philadelphia. However . . .
. . . . as it so happened, much to the consternation of the paranoiac "patriots," the selected dates overlapped United Nations Day, October 24. The outcome: to put it delicately, the excrement hit the fan.
The hyped-up jingoists concluded that the scheduled bash was somehow part of a massive global conspiracy to essentially mutate the conference into a constitutional convention. As the "patriots" saw it, the convention would, in turn, lead to repeal of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. "The logic is beyond me," confessed the admittedly befuddled Chair of the GOP Governors Association, Governor Mike Leavitt of Utah.
Leavitt's confusion notwithstanding, what became abundantly clear during the bizarre episode is this: the extreme right's secession from the mainstream has been, and is being, aided and abetted by the omnivorous feedback loops of the Net. In the immediate aftermath of the Ruby Ridge shootout and the Waco conflagration, the lunatic fringe waged a relentless campaign to monopolize choice blocks of cyberspace. Always eager to tap a growing market, there were some major online services quite willing to accommodate. Compuserve and America Online, for example, catered to Patriots and Aryan Nationalists. Reactionary Bulletin Board Systems proliferate throughout the land. Texas-GunOwners, WACO-DISCUSS, michigun mailing lists; file transfer protocol sites of constitutional and Christian Identity lit; while supremacist chatlines, World Wide Wed militia pages -- all have been made available, thanks to the "window maximizing" Internet.
"Patriot" power is sweeping across the West like an uncontained prairie fire. At last count, thirty-five counties in five western states have passed ordinances claiming they own federal lands, precipitating a federal lawsuit meant to underscore the primacy of the Constitution. Independent watchdog groups, probing alliances between "patriot," private-property rights and religious right organizations, estimate there are perhaps 5 million people in the movement nationwide, and at least 50 local, state and federal officeholders for whom the "Patriot" movement represents a constituency they don't want to offend.
Among those faint-hearted politicos is Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who wants to disarm forest rangers because he thinks they are fueling fears of "an armed federal entity." And then there's Rep. Barbara Vucanovich (R-Nevada): she asserts that federal agents must expect violence . . . if they're insensitive.
In San Francisco, June 26, at the golden anniversary celebration of the signing of the United Nations Charter, all elected Republicans were conspicuous by their absence -- most conspicuously, California's governor: Pete Wilson. Later, presidential candidate Wilson, pandering to his party's "angry white males" set, endorsed the University of California's decision to end affirmative action policies in hiring, admissions and contracting -- thereby unwittingly earning the praise of none other than Richard G. Butler, the infamous anti-Semitic, white supremacist pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nations.
At Foggy Bottom, D.C., the grassroots emotional plague has translated itself into political action, making it easier for both traumatized apostate and hard-core ideologues to seek drastic cuts in United States support of the UN and its various agencies. From the monitoring of endangered species to lowering standards for drinking water, the GOP-controlled Congress, in a highly coordinated, concerted drive certain to undermine public health and safety, is manipulating the purse-strings with unprecedented abandon to revamp the nation's environmental policies.
Such, then, is the highly volatile national climate in which the historic Summit of the Elders convened in the Delegates Dining Room of the United Nations Trusteeship Council, July 18. Within the towering House of Glass itself, however, the life-affirming spirit of Agenda 21 -- formulated three years ago during the landmark Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit -- transcended the life-negating Weltanschanung outside.
Even before the Rio gathering, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) had found common ground with indigenous peoples. Moreover, in the post-Rio phase, UNEP began exploring the most effective ways it might give added meaning to Agenda 21. With this in mind, UNEP readily responded to a special appeal from the Haudenosaunee, in which the latter set forth cosmological contributions they could make as related to their harmonious relationship with the natural order: holistic, traditional, scientific knowledge of the land and natural resources . . . . nourished over many generations. The result: this summer's memorable Summit of the Elders, in accordance with which a 160 page working document outlining Haudenosau~nee restoration and development strategy would be considered by those in attendance (vital details are presented starting with Henry Lickers Guest Essay in the pages of this issue of Akwesasne Notes).
After hearing words of Thanksgiving, offered by Mohawk Wolf Clan Chief Jake Swamp, and opening remarks by the Co-Chairs, Tadodaho Leon Shenandoah of the Onondaga Nation (first among Equals in the Haudenosaunee) and His Excellency, the Honorable Keith Johnson, Ambassador to the UN from Jamaica, Onondaga Clanmother Audrey Shenandoah formally submitted the comprehensive Report, which principal author, at the invitation of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force is Janice Whitney Annunziata.
Of special significance were statements made by the Co-Chairs of the Task Force, Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons and F. Henry Lickers, Director of Environment, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. Others raising their voices regarding pressing environmental concerns included Chief Irving Powless (Onondaga Nation); Dennis Bowen (Seneca Nation); Chief Bernard Parker (Tonawanda Seneca Nation); Norman Jacobs (Six Nations Confederacy); Chief Leo Henry (Tuscarora Nation); Clint Halftown (Cayuga Nation); Chas Wheelock (Oneida Nation), and Ward Stone, New York State's only wildlife pathologist.
One would be remiss in neglecting to mention the U.S. Government's controversial Human Genome Diversity Project, subject of the Summit's afternoon luncheon address by Tonya Frishner of the American Indian Law Alliance. The government is currently proceeding with its indigenous gene line patenting process. (To date, it has already patented four Native genes.) Both the Onondaga and Cayuga peoples have been placed on the government's so-named "EXTINCTION" list, comprised of indigenous groups government researchers contend are "DESIGNATED FOR EXTINCTION." The Haudenosaunee people have sent a letter to the U.S. Government strongly protesting this five billion dollar proposal. National Institute of Health proponents of the Genome Project insist it has been designed for the purpose of preserving indigenous populations. Haudenosaunee critics charge that the project has become "a huge profitable business."
"Imagine what good that money could do in an environmental sense alone," Chief Swamp told Akwesasne Notes, adding that indigenous groups must move soon if they are to have an effect on the patent process, since "the government has sequenced more than 200,000 strands of DNA already and patent claims for them may soon follow." The U.S. has also demanded acquiescence in the patenting of all forms of life at GATT (the General Agreement of Trades and Tariffs).
The Haudenosaunee Report commends the European Parliament, which earlier this month, in a stinging rebuff to Europe's biotechnology industry, rejected a directive that would have granted legal protection to patents on life forms. Many members of the European Parliament view all patenting of life forms as unethical and morally reprehensible.
" . . . We are instructed to carry a love for one another and to show a great respect for all the beings of this earth. We were shown that our life exists with the tree life, that our well-being depends on the well-being of the vegetable life, that we are close relations of the four-legged beings. In our ways spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics. . . .
"We must recognize our enemies, the forces of darkness that now march across all lands in the Four Sacred Directions, throwing the shadow of death and destruction even into the seventh generation to come. . . .
"We must stand together, the four sacred colors of humankind, as the one family that we are in the interest of peace. . . .
"Our energy is the combined will of all people with the spirit of the natural world, to be of one body, one heart and one mind for peace. . . . "
The above words were spoken by Tadodaho, Chief Leon Shenandoah, not on July 18 of this year, but at the 40th Anniversary celebration of the UN. 1985, though hardly a year to induce a state of universal euphoria (Reagan was then astride the White House saddle), was nevertheless a time of relative quiescence on the home front. Virtual reality and the Internet were still at the formative stage; the U.S. had not as yet evolved into a worker-hostile nation; the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Trade and Tarriffs had yet to be fully activated; the Third Wave was not inundating sizeable numbers of the Second Wave; talk radio was not dominated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Pat Buchanan and their assorted clones; traffic on the Information Super-Highway remained moderate, and there was no alarming resurgence of know-nothingism in the boondocks.
Today, as we confront the ever-tightening worldwide network of finance and trade augmented by rampant technology, as the seething frustrations nursed by multitudes are woefully misdirected at the United Nations, the enduring message of Tadodaho assumes an urgency hitherto unparalleled.
Albany area correspondent Jack Wandell was the Hudson River
Valley correspondent for Akwesasne Notes, back in
its early days, when Kaientaronkwen and Rarihokwats
launched the publication. Jack is a founding member of Keepers
of the Circle, the Native American Community Center of
the Capital District. He served as media coordinator for
three NYS legislative commissions, in addition to which he
has been an award-winning documentary filmmaker, long-time
journalist, Alaska theatrical director and environmental
See Also: Net Resources Relating to the Human Genome Diversity Project, 2/25/96
See Also: Oren Lyons discourse on Ethics and the Human Genome Diversity Project, 10/3/95
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