Black And-Also Kettle
By, Jason Leclerc
During America’s westward march, and in the throes of the Civil War, a rogue detachment from the U.S. Army attacked and massacred a village of mostly peaceful Cheyenne. While this scene may have played out several times and in many places along the North American frontier during the nineteenth century, justified by “Manifest Destiny,” this particular attack along the Sand Creek in what is today Colorado stands out because of the heinously broken promises it represents. As the history goes, Chief Black Kettle had raised an American flag along with a flag of truce over his tipi as given and personally instructed by none other than “the great white father,” Abraham Lincoln. The Sand Creek Massacre represents the moral failure of words—the hypocrisy inherent in sticks, stones, and bullets.
The story of Black Kettle and of his people, who—shattered truces followed by broken treaties—wanted nothing more than to live and hunt upon the land bestowed by nature and their ancestors, carves a deep canyon in the myths about America’s greatness. When considering the democratic republic that took root upon that same land and eventually spread from shore to shore; when considering that the United States would never have achieved its stature in the world without the appropriation—confiscation—of North America’s broad and deep resources; when considering that betrayal and conquest could also eventually lead to equality and liberty, we face the Black Kettles—we are the pots calling kettles black. We have the perfect metaphor for how we can see ourselves. We, Americans, are conquerors and oppressors, AND ALSO liberators and freedom-fighters. Fighting the easy binary of “either-or,” we expand our solution set by dwelling in a better paradigm of “And-Also.”
With this, “And-Also,” oscillation between the two sides of Americans’ shared history as a method for analyzing culture, we have a tool for digging into the granular crises that affect us daily. This analytical tool shatters the constructed binaries that afflict us, as Americans And-Also as subsets within the greater American culture. Implicit in the Hyphenated-Americanism that emerged as the melting pot became a salad bowl, we recognize a challenging internalization of the central question of my book, Black Kettle. With this backdrop, we can re-imagine the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as though an innocent citizen who was just living life as debauchery raged all around; as fire and brimstone rained.
We are sinners And-Also forgiven.
This methodology re-tools questions such as:
· “How does one navigate growing up as a boy And-Also a girl?”
· “Is there a space of sympathy for the Trayvon Martins And-Also the George Zimmermans?”
· “Can a story be true And-Also false?”
· “Can one interact with the same person as a brother And-Also as a lover?”
· “Am I free to be both proud And-Also remorseful about being an American?”
And ultimately, the metaphor itself, pots and kettles: “May I be Black Kettle And-Also Abraham Lincoln?” Do we mourn or exalt the Black Kettles without whose martyrdom the full story of America would have languished? In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we do both: We give thanks And-Also apologize; we celebrate And-Also mourn; we hold firm And-Also evolve; we are imperfect And-Also perfecting.
We are, And-Also, shall be.
Jason Leclerc is an internationally renowned poet (PoetEconomist.Blogspot.com), prolific blogger (SemioticArbitrage.blogspot.com), film-maker (FLAG, 2018), and political columnist (Watermark Magazine). As concerned with form as he is with quality storytelling, the author of Momentitiousness brings his socioeconomic theories to bear each day through trade.