My friend Bruce and I met many remarkable, giving people when we rode our bicycles cross-country in 1984.
Among them were the Cookie Lady in Virginia and Lazy Louie in Missouri, both known for offering welcome support for exhausted traveling bicyclists.
Not so well-known is Roy Hawthorne, who lives in Window Rock, AZ, on the Navajo Reservation. We met Roy and his wife at a Fourth of July Navajo Rodeo in Gallup. They invited us to their home to spend the night the next day. That’s where we learned that Roy was a Navajo Code Talker who fought in WWII and the Korea, where he lost his leg.
(The Navajo Code Talkers was a Marine Corps cadre formed in WWII to use the Navajo language to communicate on the battlefield. The Japanese never figured out the “code”.)
With pleasant memories of the Hawthornes’ hospitality and Roy’s patriotism and sacrifice, I was happy to see President Trump honor them at the White House on Monday.
But that turned into shock when Trump used the occasion to make a racial slur to take a jab at an opponent, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Once again, Trump is unable to curb his political pettiness, this time insulting all Native Americans.
Unfortunately this President doesn’t have the intelligence to understand the meaning of his words, nor does he have empathy for the many different people who make up this nation. All he knows is what he gathers from sending and reading tweets in the gilded rooms at his country clubs.
After one of the code-talkers gave some remarks, here’s what his President said:
“You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”
Apparently his press mouthpiece is as tone deaf as he is. Here’s the press briefing by Sarah Hucklebee Sanders after the event:
Q Sarah, at the event that the President just did with the Navajo Code Talkers, he referred to “Pocahontas” being in the Senate. Why did he feel the need to say something as offensive to many people while honoring the Navajo Code Talkers — these genuine, American heroes?
MS. SANDERS: I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.
Q But she said it was a racial slur. She said it was a racial slur. What is your response to that?
MS. SANDERS: I think that’s a ridiculous response.
Q If I could follow up with that, because the President was speaking at an event to honor members of the Greatest Generation — people who fought in World War II, who are in their eighties and nineties now. And the moment had many people online asking whether the President lacks decency. What’s your response to that notion?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think the President certainly finds an extreme amount of value and respect for these individuals, which is why he brought them and invited them to come to the White House and spend time with them, recognizing them, and honoring them today.
So I think he is constantly showing ways to honor those individuals, and he invited them here at the White House today to meet with them and to also remind everybody about what the historic role that they played many years ago.
Q Why is it appropriate for the President to use a racial slur in any context?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t believe that it is appropriate for him to make a racial slur or anybody else.
Q Well, a lot of people feel as though this is a racial slur. So why is it appropriate for him to use that?
MS. SANDERS: Like I said, I don’t think that it is, and I don’t think that was — certainly not the President’s intent.
Q Sarah, does he see —
MS. SANDERS: I think, like I said, I think the more offensive — the most offensive thing —
Q Does he see political value in calling people out racially?
MS. SANDERS: I’m sorry?
Q Does he see political value in calling people out racially? Why use that (inaudible)?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think that Senator Warren was very offensive when she lied about something specifically to advance her career. I don’t understand why no one is asking about that question and why that isn’t constantly covered.
For the record, it was a newspaper that uncovered the questions about Sen. Warren’s heritage. Further investigation revealed that she is 1/32nd Cherokee (not Powhatan, as Pocahontas). There’s no evidence that she used that heritage to further her career.
Meanwhile, Navajo National Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty responded:
The reckless appropriation of this term is deeply offensive and dangerous to the sovereignty and identity of our peoples”, she said, adding that “The Navajo Code Talkers are not pawns to advance a personal grudge, or promote false narratives”.
I’ll readily admit that I’m not a supporter of Trump, but I’ve tried to keep this blog apolitical over the years through the Bush and Obama administrations. This comment really stuck in the craw, however, and I couldn’t do anything until I got it out of my system.
Here’s what my friend Bruce and I wrote about our visit with the Hawthorne’s in 1984: