Tilting at Windmills


Redskins logos through the years

Have you ever tried to help someone who wasn’t in need of assistance, and it turned out to just be a misunderstanding where you projected your needs onto them?


I eventually took up drinking coffee in my early 30s and was pouring myself a cup one morning when a co-worker, who was talking to someone else, picked up her coffee mug and then set it down on a different table surface closer to me.  I thoughtfully poured a steaming 8 ounces of hot java into her mug.

“What are you doing?” she blurted out.  “I keep my pencils in there!”

Oh…. OK… whoops… my bad.  I thought I was being helpful.

Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Cole (R-OK) are nobly desiring to help others, using their very important elected seats in Washington, DC, not to address the faltering economy, the underfunded armed forces, or the swollen budget deficit, but to push legislation that would apply governmental pressures to force the National Football League’s Washington, DC team owner, Daniel Snyder, to change the name of his team from the “Redskins”, who were founded in 1932 originally as the Boston Braves, to something more palatable to politicians.

Self-appointed defenders of the offended, including sportscaster Bob Costas, would like all of us to join them in being offended with Native Americans.

But who is really offended?  In a 2004 survey of Native Americans, only 10% found the term “redskin” to be offensive.  Many embraced it in the same way some highly technical people embrace the term “nerd” or “geek”.  They are proud of who they are.  So these vigilantes of justice are offended by proxy… thoughtful, but perhaps a bit wrong-headed.

I don’t mean to say that there aren’t folks who find the term something they prefer not be used.  As a Christian who prefers movies and TV shows be filtered for “f-bombs” and gratuitous sexuality, I understand what it’s like to hear a word that makes me cringe.  But, let’s face it, people are not going around referring to these communities as “red skins”, as might have been portrayed in 1950s Hollywood films.

Neither let us pretend that the Native American community has no ability to speak up for themselves.  They are surprisingly silent in this matter, where “meh, whatever” seems to be the pervasive attitude.  In fact, many have written in support of keeping the name the way it is.  The cause-seekers and politicians are the ones who make the most noise.

Incidentally, “Oklahoma”, home to Sen. Cole, means “Red Skin” in the Choctaw language.  Shall we insist that he first rally the 3.85 million people living there to change the name of their own state?

in 17th century Spanish literature, the fictional character Don Quixote took the easily influenced Sancho Panza on an adventurous “quest” to conduct acts of chivalry, finding drama wherever they could… which usually meant inventing it.  Seeing a significant farm of windmills, Don Quixote boldly declared:

“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.” 

To which, Sancho replied:

“What giants? … Those … are … windmills!”

Like Quixote, politicians such as Cantwell and Cole, acting as self-appointed defenders of the weak, are trying to be helpful, but instead are tilting at windmills attempting to slay monsters where there be none.

For further reading, try these (read both for a bit of balance on the issue):