Historians tell us that Pocahontas was about 12 years old in 1607 when she saved the life of Englishman John Smith by placing her head above his just as her father, chief Powhatan, raised his club to execute Smith. Some historians say the story is untrue, but Pocahontas was indeed a real person who, despite her tender age, became important to the colonists at Jamestown, Virginia, by supplying them with food and serving as an informer, warning them of her father’s hostile plans against them.
Yesterday our American president, in a ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers whose contributions during World War II saved many lives, once again used Pocahontas’ name as a derogatory slur aimed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has claimed to have some Native American blood in her veins. He has used the term before to insult Sen. Warren. Why in the world would he choose such a moment to toss an insult at a political adversary and in the process offend much of the civilized world?
He said it because he is Donald Trump. He thinks his wisecrack is funny. He has no clue about the real heroine of American history. He thinks it’s funny to convert her name into a stereotypical and derogatory reference to Native Americans. He found himself in the presence yesterday of distinguished Native Americans and thought that a racist dig at a political adversary would be timely and funny.
Here is what the president said: “I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said at the event. “Although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time…longer than you — they call her Pocahontas!”
Are we ashamed yet? I am.
Warren responded in an email to her supporters. “Today, he stooped to a disgusting low,” she wrote. “This afternoon, in the Oval Office, Donald Trump was supposed to be honoring Navajo code talkers — American heroes who helped save the world from fascism and hate during World War II. Instead, Trump stood right next to those Native American war heroes and came after me with another racist slur.”
Yes, he did, and what is more important, no one who has been paying attention to this man/child’s presidency thus far is surprised.
I agree with Dan Rather, retired network newsman who was interviewed about the incident last night on MSNBC. “America is better than this,” Rather said.
Yes, we are.