Monday, February 7, 2011

Cranks: An Academic Work Hazard

After a long day at a political science conference, I went to the hotel's whirlpool with one of my fellow conference goers.  There was also a muscular, tattooed, middle-aged Native American.  My colleague and I talked about my presentation earlier in the day, along with the discipline.

After about 10 minutes the Native American jumped in and started talking about politics and history.  He said America was settled by the debtors, rapists, and thieves of Europe. He pointed out American institutions derived from the Iroquois.

Furthermore, Native Americans did not cross from Asia to the Americas, but from the Americas to Asia.  The proof is in the Bible, which refers to "red people" in various parts.  [Of course, the Bible has a completely different god than his tribe's god.]

He also mentioned that his god gave the four races of Earth each a gift.  The four races - his words - were the red men, the yellow men, the black men, and the white men.  The yellow men were given knowledge of technology.  He said that black men were given the gift of athleticism, and nodded respectfully to my colleague on the other side of the whirlpool, who happened to be black.  Finally red men were given the gift of compassion, and white men, knowledge of how to wield power.  This guy thought it was outrageous that Natives were called Indians, but calling them red was okay.

My colleague excused himself and went to the sauna calmly and silently.  According to him, I had a glazed look on my face as if I were struggling to find a way to bring the conversation back to a reasonable level.

I asked, what about the Aztecs?  They ran an empire.  He said, "well, just as there are regional differences in Asia between the Chinese and Japanese and Koreans, there are some regional differences among the Native Americans."  I excused myself shortly after this point.  Arguing with random strangers like this is not worth my time.

The next day, my colleague and I came home from dinner and went to the hotel bar, rather than the elevator, since the Native American was about to take the elevator.

What's your favorite story of a crank?

No comments:

Post a Comment