The coming Manhattan refuge crisis

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 15:30 EDT
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Sorry for the radio silence. Yesterday, Marc and I awoke at 4AM in Dallas in order to catch a 7AM flight to New York that had a layover in Cincinnati. We feverishly checked to make sure our connection wasn’t canceled, but after we got to the airport—and after I discovered that Moe and my Bloggingheads video made the front page of the NY Times website—they canceled it anyway, stranding us in Cincinnati for probably four days at least. So we rented a car, and drove the 12 hours to Brooklyn, with a passenger from the same flight who was going to miss her connection to London if she didn’t get to New York. Most of the drive was blessedly uneventful, except when we got to New York and found it nearly incapacitated (Brooklyn, at least) from the blizzard. Cars and buses were just abandoned by the side of the road.

Marc was able through sheer determination to get the rental all the way back to JFK airport, meaning his journey didn’t end until 3AM this morning, meaning he was up for 22 hours straight. All because we we really felt like we had to get back to New York City.

And now that we’re here, I’ve learned that Obama is going to give the city to an imaginary group of Native Americans laying claim to it. Okay, just Manhattan, but should the new owners of the island decide to flush out over 1.6 million residents into the outer boroughs, many of them are going to try to move to Brooklyn, which would probably be unpleasant. Nothing against the fine folks who live there, of course, but the rent is already famously too damn high.

Of course, the wingnuts making this claim seem to be a little hazy on the particulars of how “giving back” Manhattan would work. For instance, Eugene Koprowski at WorldNetDaily says that Obama is an honorary member of the Crow nation, and that’s why he wants to give Manhattan back to….well, presumably the Lenape who actually made the original sale of the island. But my favorite part of his attack is the way that he tries to use a rather mundane ceremonial honor bestowed upon Obama to imply that he’s actually Crow. In other words, in order to advance the “Obama isn’t a Real American” narrative, they’re saying he’s a Native American, which makes him, by my estimation, more American than any ball-scratching white boy who can’t wait for Glenn Beck’s show to come on TV.

Joseph Farah hits a trifecta of racist assholery in his approach to this conspiracy theory. He 1) folds all tribes and affiliations into one homogeneous group of “Native Americans” who have equal claim to all lands no matter what their tribal affiliation 2) tries to cover his ass by claiming he’s part Native American (though is indifferent/ignorant of what tribes his supposed ancestors came from) and 3) uses his supposed cover against being called a racist to make a “wampum” joke.

Obviously, no one is giving the entire island of Manhattan to anyone. I never stop being impressed by the wingnut ability to spin obvious bullshit to their followers with the full confidence that they’re not going to lose these people when they realize that whatever you were saying couldn’t possibly be true. Me? When I’m lied to, I tend to reevaluate someone’s authority when they lie so audaciously and repeatedly to me, but the audience for this crap never stops to start tabulating how many of these claims turned out to be complete bullshit. When what someone says to you has a 95% chance of being a lie, I would especially be wary.

What’s actually going on is that Obama is signing on for the U.S. to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, with an eyeball towards improving the well-being of Native Americans across the country. The Declaration has some language in it that is obviously meant to restrain governments from pushing indigenous people from land they’re already occupying, but isn’t going to be able to really rectify a history of colonialism or anything. The notion that it has that power is demonstrably silly, because that would have completely remade the way the planet looks already, if true.

I’m also generally fascinated by the wingnut obsession with historical injustices and their spinning of conspiracy theories that liberals are out to do something that’s not really on the table in order to rectify these injustices. The notion that Obama is going to “give back” chunks of the country that are currently occupied by private owners, or that slavery reparations are on the table are both guaranteed to send wingnuts spinning off into Crazyirateland. It’s clearly about reinstating traditional white supremacist arguments about how white people were in the right to enslave and commit genocide because they had guns and Bibles, but putting a “we’re so oppressed!” spin on it so that they don’t have to make those arguments directly.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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