The Spectacle Blog

Quigley’s Quixotic Defense of Liz Warren

By on 5.23.12 | 4:33PM

Bernie Quigley's defense of Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American heritage have been both widely and wisely mocked by the likes of Ace of Spades, P.J. Gladnick at Newsbusters and the triumvirate of Jonah Goldberg, Kevin D. Williamson, and Mark Steyn at National Review Online.

But before I pile on, it should be noted that Quigley cannot be completely dismissed as a left-wing crank. Back in July 2009, Quigley eviscerated President Obama for his snobbery in his handling of the Gates-Crowley affair. Quigley's evisceration of Obama won him praise from no less than Rush Limbaugh.

Having said that, I shall proceed to pile on. Quigley begins by writing:

Elizabeth Warren might be excused for wanting to be Native American. She can claim an old American soul, going back generations in Oklahoma. In the heartland it is almost universal for those who have been there for a few generations to claim Indian blood; that is, to wish it were there even if it isn't.

Well, if not Indian blood then perhaps high cheekbones will do. It is almost universal for us to want higher cheekbones and for those of us that have the means, your friendly plastic surgeon can make those dreams come true. But it won't make you any more Native American than the late Chief Jay Strongbow.

It is not so much a lie as it is the acculturation of personal and regional American myth; the fabric of old-soul American consciousness.

If John Edwards is convicted then I guess he can appeal to a higher court and say that his conduct was only being representative of old-soul American consciousness.

The first poetic vision of Europeans in the new world was that James Fenimore Cooper, who conjured Natty Bumpo. He had an "Indian name" - he had several: Hawkeye, Deerslayer, Pathfinder - indicating that he had been "reborn" in the new world in the Indian spirit. It is the oldest and most important myth in the American canon of our folklore, from Lone Ranger, who died and became "born again" via agency of an Indian shaman, and Fox Mulder, who returned from the dead via Indian intercession in "The X Files," born anew with the past burned away in death, to enter a new age under the flag of the White Buffalo.

I mean if Quigley is going to go all out on a limb then why not conjure up an image of Kevin Costner on his hand and knees uttering, "Tatanka"?

So Warren's claim to be "part Indian" is correct in mythical terms. Every old-school white Oklahoman is in this regard even if this is nominally not true. But it is not a lie to want to be Indian and imagine your ancestors were.

Actually, it would be bald-faced lie. To put this matter in some perspective, I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario where there is a significant Aboriginal population both on and off reserve. I greatly admire Aboriginal culture and tradition. But I am not about to go around and claim to be an Aboriginal Canadian. To do so would be wrong and profoundly disrespectful. With that said, it is one thing to identify with Native Americans; it is quite another to identify yourself as a Native American. Even if it's only 1/32 Native American.

I hope Mitt Romney remembers this and incorporates Indian blessings and ritual in his inaugural ceremonies as Canadians do and as they did in those terrific Winter Olympics in Salt Lake in 2002. And I hope Elizabeth Warren doesn't back down on this, because wanting to be Indian, like Hawkeye, makes us in a deeper sense fully American.

I'm not sure which Canadian inaugural ceremonies Quigley is referring to exactly. Given that he mentioned the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics perhaps he was referring to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But there weren't any Aboriginal blessings when Stephen Harper's Tory government was first sworn into office six years ago by Canada's Governor General at Rideau Hall. Besides, could you imagine if Mitt Romney were to suddenly claim Native American heritage? The Washington Post would call him Chief Flip Flop faster than you could say Bain Capital.

I do agree with Quigley on one thing. I hope Liz Warren doesn't back down on this either because as long as she doesn't then her credibility remains suspect. OK, so Warren wants to be Native American. I want to pitch for the Red Sox. That doesn't mean Bobby Valentine is going to take Daniel Bard out of the starting rotation and give me the ball on Memorial Day against the Tigers. And if he did, it wouldn't make me any more fully American than I am now.

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