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By the Way: Wishing for Native American wisdom

Wishing for Native American wisdom


Ukraine is burning. Our children’s dead bodies are riddled with bullets. COVID, the bloody shape-shifter, is still stalking our world, and I am wishing for the wisdom of our Native Americans to be distributed to us and to our legislators.

In Ukraine, innocent people, people like you and me, are being butchered like cattle, their bodies left either to rot or be shoved into plastic trash bags and dumped into mass graves. Or sent to another, slower death in a Siberian work camp.

In Texas, our children are being slaughtered while men in blue, our so-called protectors, crowd corridors, just waiting, while others beat back pleading parents demanding their help.

COVID-19 so far has taken the lives of more than a million and afflicted more than 81 million in this country, according to the latest statistics quoted in the New York Times.

For brief moments we thought we were out of the woods, safe, as infections waned. Now we face the birth of new variants, new challenges, and many of us routinely carry masks with us, just in case. Still vaccination dissension reigns.

Our nation is divided, imperiled, breaking into pieces; political parties that should be working together to strengthen democracy are caught up in the bonds of falsehoods, distrust and hatred. They are dug in to their petty revenge mode as surely as Ukrainian troops stand firm in their resistance.

This is history in the making here but somehow politicians have lost courage and democratic (notice the small d) convictions are not working. We need more statesmen and fewer of the politicians whose duplicitous plans may lead us only to the death of democracy.

In contrast, there are, of course, truthful, thoughtful, kind people of good conscience who work endlessly with charitable organizations to provide clothes, food and medicine and gather funds to aid the victims of a horrendous, unprovoked war. And there are others who offer their own money to help those most in need. They, thankfully, have chosen the right path.

Still, many of us continue to act like juvenile delinquents flouting authority just because we can. What is wrong with us?

All of this makes me think of the wisdom of some of the Native American tribes who cherished this land long before we arrived.

One of my favorite stories comes from the Cherokee. We have much to learn from them. They value strong character, integrity, honesty, perseverance, courage, respect, trust, honor and humility.

A Cherokee elder is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.”

He continues, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thinks about it for a minute and then asks his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replies, “The one you feed.”

For me, this advice says it all. I wish we could plaster it all over the walls of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate and every state and municipal office in this country.

If we allow the evil wolf to grow fat, we all lose.

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