Monday, May 23, 2016
Off The Reservation!
Recently Hillary Clinton got into trouble for saying that some men have from time to time "gone off the reservation" when it comes to women's rights and the long task of finding equality for women in the workplace and beyond. In her efforts to stand up and speak for women she accidentally insulted Native Americans. I did not know that the phrase "off the reservation" was deemed offensive, but I can see the argument, though since it deals with specific behavior in specific context, it strikes me as something which one has to work hard to dredge up much animus about. Here is an article with a bit of context on the phrase.
I'm not interested in litigating whether Native Americans have had a tough time in the greatest country on the planet; that's not a debatable point, nor even the subject of this conversation. They were subjected to no less than genocide by the United States as it sought to overtake the territory it deemed part of its "manifest destiny". Cultures were demolished or nearly so, and the peoples were rounded up and herded onto reservations. But then quite understandably the natives grew restless (is that off limits too?) and they went "off the reservation" to perpetrate attacks and whatever else they deemed necessary or desirable. I don't judge that behavior from my remote historical vantage point. Frankly I see Palestinians in a similar situation today, and much is made of the justifications for violence they use to redress the injustices they've suffered.
But to reference such historical events and broaden them into modern metaphors for use to describe behavior seems not all that offensive to me. It's not the nature of the people which is being commented upon, but activities they undertook on which no judgement is being passed directly. I see how one might become offended here if one tried, but I dread more the loss of all hyperbole from the language as we parse and denude our conversation of all evocative expressions. It seems we lose more all the time, some properly so, but this one seemed a stretch to me.
Can't we just bury the hatchet? Can we pow wow or do we all have to stay on the warpath and walk this trail of tears? Or am I off the reservation when it comes to this particular bit of political correctness?