The "Big O" has had a busy time of it the past several days. He spent the usual amount of time blaming Republicans for all of the country’s ills, except, perhaps, the occasional cases of bubonic plague that occur. Then he enforced the government "shutdown" with a few pointless closures that were calculated to get people’s attention.
Restricting access to the walk-through memorials in the Capital was silly and pointless. It didn’t save any money since no federal employees are ever there to collect fees or do crowd control. This strategy hit its’ low point when the D-day cemetery in Normandy was closed. Probably not that many people were affected by this, but those that were affected went to great expense and effort to get to this sacred place. What did this accomplish? It demonstrated the vindictive pettiness of our CEO.
Meanwhile, he found time to indulge his favorite hobbies of race-baiting and grievance inflammation when he added to a press conference the idea that the Washington NFL franchise should re-name its’ team on the grounds that "Redskins" is racially offensive to most Americans. He apparently chose to ignore the Associated Press poll of April, 2013 which indicated that 80 percent of Americans found no problem with the use of Native American labels for sports teams. This question comes up periodically when not much is going on and the "politically correct police" decide to involve themselves. It is interesting that the only Native American group involved in this particular debate is from the Oneida Nation, which, in turn, is part of the greater Iroquois Confederation. They have no significant history of involvement in the Potomac valley.
The other champion of the oppressed who has inserted herself into the issue is Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton from the District of Colombia. Her position is that since some Native Americans take offense at the team name this somehow relates to the Black experience of slavery and therefore the matter is a major civil rights issue.
For now, the matter is on a simmering hold. The president has achieved his goal of creating another distraction from his failure to lead in tackling the really big problems and transformed a relatively minor matter into a racial grievance issue.
What is offensive and by whom the offense is taken is, in our pluralistic society, always up for grabs. I suppose atheists could be offended by the team called the "Saints." I suppose that the loons who want to punish first graders for pointing their "finger guns" during recess could be offended by the team called "Pirates" -- it’s hard to come up with a more lawless bunch of scumbags in our history than the real pirates of the 1700s. On a happier note, the Florida State University’s use of the name "Seminoles" has been officially endorsed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida who considers the use of their name to be a positive. The mascot thing has always been a little puzzling to me. Most mascots chosen are innocuous, usually bland and not particularly clever, i.e. the number of eagles, cougars, hawks, bulldogs, etc. across the country.
There are also a surprising number of teams named for famous losers -- the Trojans, the Spartans, the Cavaliers come to mind. On the other hand, there are a few that deserve a little attention. "Sammy the Slug" represents the teams of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Their official mascot is the banana slug, a yellow, slimy, eight-inch-long creature common in the forests of the Pacific slope. It is also hermaphroditic and if no mate is found, grows another set of reproductive organs and fertilizes its’ own eggs. The students in the 1970s adopted this critter as a mock on the other California schools that they considered to be athletic factories. However, when Santa Cruz "went jock" and became an NCAA Div. III school, they voted again to keep their beloved, slimy, harmless mascot.
Another mascot worth noting came about in New Jersey in the 1970s. This was a time of civil rights demonstrations, some violent, and schemes to achieve racial integration in public schools by bussing students to other districts to create racially balanced student populations. The first school chosen was a small high school, presumably on the grounds that less risk was involved if the whole thing blew up. It turned out that the teen-agers were calmer than the adults and the matter was resolved with a minimum of friction. One of their first orders of business was the choosing of a name for the school’s teams. The almost unanimous winner was "the Zebras." This not only produced some really colorful uniforms, it made a statement that was unmistakable and calm in the midst of
Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.