"The only good Indians I ever saw were dead."
Attributed to William T. Sherman
I smoke, and I like it, and have no intention of quitting. As the "Joe Camel" laws, akin to Jim Crow, multiply, I accommodate and simply don't go where I'm not wanted. I do sometimes wish my fellow smokers would show some courage and stage "smoke-ins" on, say, college campuses, where even outdoor smoking has been banned. Or we could have tobacco festivals to celebrate our favorite weed, like the potheads' 420 events. I won't hold my breath waiting.
That's not what this essay is about, anyway, at least not entirely. It's about "Natural American Spirit," the brand I smoke, and its producers. American Spirit is a premium product made without chemical additives and with high-quality tobacco. I pay more for it because it tastes better, although you'd have to be a smoker to appreciate the difference. The company goes to great lengths to assure the quality of its various types of smokes, but it does more than that. It works with and supports small American farmers. It promotes and contributes to environmental causes, including a recent $365,000 donation for Earth Day. It includes anti-littering, pro-recycling messages on each pack. It's even sent free pocket ashtrays to website subscribers, to promote responsible smoking. I have two different ones.
They send flower seeds on subscriber's birthdays.
Why? One reason, I suppose, is public relations. But they were doing this stuff more than twenty years ago, before anti-smoking apartheid really took off. I think they really believe in everything they do. That's the irony, made doubly ironic by their logo, a stylized American Indian smoking a peace pipe. Why ironic?
There were, back in the early 19th century, groups of people who likewise believed that if they lived according to the professed ideals of society they would be left in peace.
These were the Five Civilized Tribes, among them the Cherokee. They all changed their traditional ways to adapt to the new reality of white settlement, the Cherokee even inventing a written language and all that goes with it. I imagine that many believed that the whites would then regard them as worthwhile people, partners in their new nation. You know, the one that holds it to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights. Well, not so fast there, Injun. What the Cherokee got was the Trail of Tears. No liberty, no pursuit of happiness, and for a lot of them no life, either.
In short, the Cherokee would have done better to follow the example of the Iroquois, Mohawk, Abenaki, Seminole (and later the Lakota, Dine', Comanche, Apache, et al.)
Maybe use that written language and those schools to learn to build things like muskets and cannon. At least they'd have gone down fighting.
The American Spirit people ought to pay attention. All their environmental goodness counts for nothing versus the bigotry of society and the self-seeking politicians who foster it. Yes, the idea of armed insurrection in this case is just silly, but there are other ways to fight. Let American Spirit and smokers generally take a lesson from the NRA and other gun rights organizations as well as the firearms industry, hunting organizations and so forth. Aggressively campaign for smoker's rights. Smokers are no less vilified by our progressive would-be overlords than are gun owners, but gun people don't meekly surrender. And hey, why not make common cause? It's all about liberty, after all.
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