“Even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians — an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government.” – Simon Waxman
It’s been said that the most efficient and effective way to win a debate is to become indignant. In my experience, that is absolutely true. I have participated in many debates—both written, and spoken—in which the person with whom I’m arguing has claimed offense. Being offended shuts people down. When someone claims that they are offended by your point, they have taken the moral high ground by sheer force of will, and have given themselves an out. The truth of the matter, however, is that they have won nothing. They have, in fact, lost because they have given up reason for emotion—the weaker of the two persuasions.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Simon Waxman argued that naming weapons after Native American tribes is tantamount to linguistic oppression. Waxman claims that the United States is lording its centuries old victories over the native population by writing “Black Hawk” on our helicopters, and “Tomahawk” on our missiles.
“Perhaps the senators outraged by the Redskins name could…choose not only to be offended on behalf of Indians but also to be partners in improving their lives. War and forced removal have been replaced by high rates of unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, illness and disability; by inadequate housing and education; by hate crimes, police harassment, disenfranchisement and effective segregation. Being a Native American means living, on average, more than four years less than other Americans. The violence is ongoing, even if the guns are silent.“
What Waxman is attempting to accomplish is to build a substantive case against the United States military. He is trying his hardest to indict those who he believes are cultural oppressors. In reality, all he is doing is building an emotional and empty argument on the backs of the natives for whom he claims to be offended. Let’s follow his argument step by step.
White, male Europeans decimated the native culture. Fast forward five hundred years, and Native Americans have some cultural problems, including lower than average life expectancy. The military named weapons, and vehicles after powerful native tribes. In doing so, the American government is oppressing the Native American people, and appropriating their culture. Therefore, every problem facing the Native American community is our fault, and it’s our responsibility to fix it.
First, Waxman attributes modern problems facing America’s native population to what was done to their ancestors five hundred years ago. At some point, one must accept responsibility for what is happening now, and understand that the past only reaches so far forward. Second, he is assuming negative intent on the part of the military. He wants us to believe that naming a military helicopter “Apache” is a form of linguistic oppression, when it’s clear to most sane individuals that that is not the case. Finally, he links the two parts of his argument together to make it appear as though they are connected.
A) We destroyed the natives five hundred years ago.
B) We then named weapons after them.
C) That act, in connection with what we did centuries ago, makes us oppressors.
A and B do not equal C in this case. It’s clear that Waxman’s argument is nothing but an emotional appeal. He is burdened by liberal guilt, so he is campaigning for ridiculous causes to alleviate that guilt. His argument is based on being indignant. It has no factual, or circumstantial foundation, so he must trump it up with high emotions.
Never allow someone becoming indignant to stop you from advancing your argument. In fact, let it fuel you, because it means that you are winning.