I was a tummyless mop of hair, acne, Adam’s apple, terror and trepidation, awkward and unbalanced in size 11 shoes. It’s an awkward age, no longer child, not quite teenager. It was summer, hot. I was making my duly appointed rounds, hunting for processed sugar, when the concept engulfed me.
Stupidity. The Ancient Companion. Wisdom? It’s been around for eons. But, it’s rarely appreciated in its own time. Mostly? When it comes to application vs. theory, people are mostly disgusted by things smart.
Even the wisest souls have been passionately vested in the damn dumbest of things. Like tossing a virgin, when they were available, into a nearby volcano to appease some cartoon god into getting his fat lazy heinie off the sofa to make sure spring’s crops would sprout.
All those generations. Did anyone stop to note that agriculture just — zigzags? We meandered from bumper crops to harvesting miniature blackened asparagus jerky. It didn’t matter if the village beauty was sacrificed on a cold stone altar or fed alive to piranha. Our local Indians, the Tataviam, believed that if an in-law three streams over accidentally glanced at you cross-eyed, that was cause for a Passionate Neighborhood Gang Fight. For centuries, scholars (those aloof and bored people who sit behind big tables?) touted the belief that the Earth was flat and rested upon a giant, slow-moving turtle. The Greeks (the ones with all those amazing scientists and thinkers) believed wind was caused by trees swaying. For centuries and more so today, nuts sprout to hysterically announce the sky is falling, the world will be ending in 20 minutes. Or sooner.
We are passionate about our hysteria.
Here in Santa Clarita, for decade upon decade, high school kids, teachers and parents, indulged in an innocent and harmless community theater. At Hart High, we pretended to be The Indians. The Mighty Indians. Better than the Geheime Staatspolizei, Germany’s secret police during World War II, better known as the Gestapo.
There was a big darn dumb idea — the Third Reich. An entire nation marched behind a certified imbecile with a paint brush moustache, dressed in outlandish Manhattan doorman uniforms. Hitler was part mad dog, part disturbed child and in a larger part, the personification of the German collective conscience. Adolph Hitler said the stupidest things, but with maniacal fire and passion. Seventy million Germans goose-stepped behind, Zieg Heiling and exchanging heartfelt congratulations regarding the niceties of The Master Race. Thank God America was imbued with spiritual values, courage, strength and resolve to stop the Nazis. I’m not sure if World War II happened today, we could defeat Cabo.
Whilst they slept.
One of the current statues of stupidity we’ve been dutifully sculpting since Franklin Roosevelt is Mandarinism. It’s an obscure socio-political term describing the civil service nightmare that hung over China from about 600-1900. In the beginning, the early Chinese emperors, like all state leaders, needed staff. You know. Bodyguards. Food tasters. Concubines. But, you know how government is. Democracy. Dictatorship. It grows. What started as a couple of loyal secret service agents turned into armies. To guard one guy. Food tasters had food tasters and soon, assistant food tasters employed junior addendum food tasters. Courtyard tarts could number in the hundreds.
Imagine. Near a thousand high-pitched voices, all whining “I want a Mercedes!” This system of protecting and growing the bureaucracy grew so bad, several times it nearly drove the empire to insolvency. A few emperors who had the temerity to rein in the — ahem — swamp, were assassinated by their own adoring staff.
We’re going through that now in America, certainly Santa Clarita. Government is mightier than people.
In five days, July 14, 2021, the William S. Hart Union High School District board of trustees is scheduled to vote on the zaniest of issues. Caught in an absurdist theater of their own creation, they will decide whether to keep an embattled mascot, The Hart High Indian, or, put an ax to the back of its neck. That mascot created a harmless culture and sense of community that links current students to their parents who attended Hart and in some cases, grandparents and great grandparents. It was created in the late 1940s not to denigrate any indigenous peoples. It has absolutely nothing to do with Tataviam descendants, the few distant relatives a handful of whom live in the San Fernando Valley. The Indian was chosen by the namesake of our school district, William S. Hart, who spent part of his boyhood growing up with Sioux in Montana. Hart revered and cherished the Native American, kept their memory and heritage alive.
Many of us have spent our lives fondly honoring The Indian. You talk to these supporters and they’re the same ones who harbor these foolish notions of respect, equality and love for their fellow man. There’s not one single supporter of the Indian mascot who does so because he’s intent on shaming or ridiculing. The only ones spewing spittle are the obligatory statue topplers. To the pro-Indian supporters’ fault, most are too quiet for their own good, perhaps too lazy, to stand up to our own and well-meaning albeit power-grabbing Mandarin.
I’ve got ears around town. Word is, the upcoming vote is already a done deal. One administrator was overheard saying that the Indian would go, whether everyone liked it or not. I hope that the ancient octopus hasn’t wrapped itself so tightly around the heads of — of all people, our alleged educators — that they make a self-serving decision to appease a small, loud and forever unsatisfied mob.
There’s a zen koan: “An idiot can throw a rock into a pond that 12 wise men cannot retrieve.”
Today, that rock is a small, innocent thing to many of us who attended the SCV’s first and oldest high school. It’s our memories and heritage.
Next Wednesday, trustees Mr. Bob Jensen, Mr. Joe Messina, Dr. Cherise Moore, Mrs. Linda Storli and Mr. James Webb will vote.
Person of wisdom?
Please. Surprise me.
John Boston is a local writer and Mighty Indian always.