There was so much concentrated awful at Donald Trump's Mount Rushmore hate rally that you might've missed this bit of racist trolling. Historian Daniel Mandell noted on Twitter that Trump's campaign staff played “Garryowen" as the president's intro music. Mandell links to a Medium post by David Weiss, which helpfully explains that “Garryowen" isn't the guy who voiced Space Ghost but is actually "the official marching tune of Colonel George Custer's Seventh Cavalry."

“Garryowen" became the theme song for Custer's state-sanctioned pursuit and massacre of Native people.

This passage from Weiss's article is vital reading:

In November 1868, Custer's troops had quietly positioned themselves around a small Cheyenne village on the Washita River in Western Oklahoma. Black Kettle, the chief — one of the Council of Forty-Four Peace Chiefs of the Cheyenne — had just returned a day earlier from talks seeking peace at Fort Cobb, about 100 miles to the east.

At dawn on November 27, Custer's troops — 700 men — played “Garryowen" as they launched a devastating attack on the village of about 250 men, women, and children. The village was destroyed. Around 50 persons, mostly women, children, and elderly, were killed. Pregnant women were cut open, their babies left to die on the frozen ground. Many more were wounded. Another 53 — women and children — were captured and used as human shields (deliberately positioned on horseback throughout Custer's troops) to keep the regiment safe as they marched on to the next fort.

The body of a Cheyenne child killed in the massacre eventually wound up displayed in a local history museum in Cheyenne, Oklahoma.

Trump probably doesn't visit museums so his awareness of Custer and “Garryowen" likely comes from the movie They Died With Their Boots On.


Garry Owen from 'They Died With Their Boots On' www.youtube.com

On the 100th anniversary of the massacre, in 1968, the "Grandsons of the Seventh Cavalry," descendants of cavalry members, and relatives of the Cheyenne met for a ceremony where the Cheyenne buried the massacred child in sacred ground.

From Irish Central:

The 7th Cavalry captain Eric Gault was presented with the blanket that had wrapped the baby's coffin as a gesture of goodwill, an incredible kindness. [...]

Lawrence Hart, a Cheyenne peace chief, remembered the captain approached him crying.

"He took a pin from his uniform and said, 'Lawrence this is the Garryowen pin worn by the original members of the 7th Cavalry. It is the signal to attack. I have taken it off my uniform and I want you to have it on behalf of the Cheyenne people. We are sorry that 'Garryowen' was played that day 100 years ago and never again will it be played against your people.'"

Oh well.

Trump chose to hold his America Uber Alles rally in the Black Hills, an area sacred to the Sioux, which like Tina Turner has existed on Earth longer than Mount Rushmore. Yet his campaign played that song. It's a punch in the face to the Cheyenne or any Native person who understands its history. Trump's speech at Rushmore wasn't about history, though, but great white male myth making.

We should also discuss an especially odious and appalling passage in Trump's speech, which the White House Twitter account chose to share Monday above a photo of Trump and Mike Pence's fucked-up heads. We all know he didn't write this because it has adjectives and punctuation.

So, I grew up in South Carolina in the 1980s and even my schoolteachers looked slightly askance at manifest destiny. We were still taught that there were “nice slave owners," but there was a sheepish admission of America's brutal imperialism and violence against Native people, who had already charted a lot of that “uncharted wilderness."

Columnist John L. O'Sullivan first used the term “manifest destiny" to describe his belief that God wanted (white) Americans to have all the land ... you know, for kids, and to spread democracy. He believed the “inevitable destiny" of Mexico was to fall before the might of the US.

CRAZY-ASS RACIST: They must amalgamate and be lost, in the superior vigor of the Anglo-Saxon race, or they must utterly perish. They may postpone the hour for a time, but it will come, when their nationality shall cease.

(Yes, he's talking about fucking when he talks about “superior vigor.")

After the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded territory to the US that now accounts for New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Texas, and western Colorado.

O'Sullivan was later a supporter of the Confederacy and believed Blacks and whites couldn't “coexist" without slavery, which Black folks would argue isn't really much of an “existence."

Not everyone was on board the Manifest Destiny Express at the time: Republicans Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant both rejected it.

GRANT: I was bitterly opposed to the measure [to annex Texas], and to this day regard the war [with Mexico] which resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.

Further back, in 1843, former President John Quincy Adams changed his mind about expansionism because it also meant expanding slavery into Texas.

Adolf Hitler, though, was a big fan and considered his conquest of Europe as Germany's “manifest destiny": “There's only one duty: to Germanize this country [Russia] by the immigration of Germans and to look upon the natives as Redskins."

It's one thing to spin American expansion as a history of relatively peaceful exploration, like you're the Federation in Star Trek, but when you start talking about “our manifest destiny," you sound like a common Borg. Fortunately, resistance to Trumpism isn't futile.

[Medium / Twitter / Irish Central]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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