The Wisdom of Simplicity

Fifteen years ago or so, after getting some books from my local library Taos, New Mexico, I came upon a meeting featuring an Indigenous man from Taos Pueblo. I forget his name but I believe the topic of his lecture was related to spirituality. He was fielding questions at the time I arrived.

One middle-aged Anglo woman asked, “I know this is a bit off topic, but can you tell me what you think of the current presidential election race between John Kerry and George Bush?”

The Pueblo leader, also middle-aged, sighed and replied, “You know, our peoples have been struggling for hundreds of years for sovereignty and justice, so it doesn’t really matter who wins.”

The woman appeared stunned, stating she was “quite surprised” by his answer because this particular election was “really, really important!” and that it certainly did make a “really, really big difference” who won. “The stakes are so high!” she added.

The man smiled and sighed again. Seconds passed and he said, slowly, “Well, like I said, for Native people, our fight remains the same. It always will.”

More silence. The visibly upset woman shook her head, and the meeting ended.

Afterward, I pondered deeply about what the Taos Pueblo man had said; the simplicity of his message. I reminded myself that his view was not necessarily that of all Pueblo people, let alone the hundreds of First Nations in the United States. It’s a grave mistake to think that all Native people are the same, sharing the same opinions on everything.

Nevertheless, most if not all First Nations would agree that there is a commonality to their history, a holocaust carried out in the name of “democracy,” a history that, alongside chattel slavery, the theft of Mexican lands, and vast exploitations of human labor, laid the foundations for the expansion of U.S. capitalism and empire.

And that, as I saw it, was the whole point of what the Taos Pueblo man had said. That for him, and likely for thousands of other Native peoples, it really didn’t matter who was president. Their struggle remained the same.

And isn’t that the case for the majority of poor and working people in the U.S, to one degree or another? That our struggle for peace and social justice and liberation remains the same, no matter who’s President of the United States? Of course, all this is predicated on the continuing rule by the established Democratic and Republican parties. But isn’t that always the same too?

I’ll always remember this meeting: not just the message, but the contrast in attitudes. One calm and direct; the other fearful and filled with pending doom. “The stakes are so high!”

David Perez is a writer, journalist, activist, and actor, born in the South Bronx in New York City and currently living in Taos, New Mexico. Read other articles by David.