When cross-country travel meant you were on US highways that went through the various towns and cities of this great nation you could absorb the nuances of culture that differentiated this country. The legendary Route 66 from Chicago to LA was such a journey. You saw some amazing and beautiful things along the way. You also could get a glimpse at the sordid underbelly.
Now you don't need to drive down any Main Street you don't want to see. You can just cruise along the antiseptic concrete of indistinguishable interstates with only the occasional off-ramp to a fast food joint that offers exactly the same thing no matter where you are. That's sad.
When I first drove to New Mexico, you passed through Gallup and Grants. They were cities on the edge of the huge Navajo reservation and you could visit shops selling Native American crafts. Artisan rugs, silver and turquoise jewelry, sand paintings and pottery were on display. But if you looked carefully you saw the reservation residents stumbling down side streets, asleep on benches, begging in front of liquor stores. Alcoholism is an issue and has been for as long as we've recognized the dependency.
Years later when I lived in Alamogordo and my wife worked in Ruidoso we would pass through the Mescalero Apache reservation daily. The economic situation was considerably different than the harsh Painted Desert and barren landscape of the Navajo. The Apache had a wonderland of mountains, forest, streams, and ranchland. They built a magnificent resort hotel and expanded it into a glittering casino. They offered trophy deer and elk hunts. They raised cattle and still they were mired in poverty and alcoholism. The reservation town was dreary and looked trapped in a World War II government-issue time warp.
Take a look at this from the Sioux:
Beer Companies to Blame
Is it possible to be sympathetic to that argument? Let's take a quick and admittedly superficial look at the situation.
We provided reservations for the tribes in the 19th century and early 20th to preserve their culture and tribal identity. We recognize them as "sovereign nations" within the US. They police within their own territory, they are immune to laws of the states within which they exist (hence the plethora of casino developments), and they are heavily subsidized by US tax dollars.
They get schools, homes, healthcare, immunity, and a stipend. In many areas the tribes are operating very successful business operations.
They are not fenced in to the reservation nor out of the United States. They are not illegal aliens. They can leave the security of the reservation whenever they choose. They can compete in American society as totally accepted citizens. They can escape the poverty, the dependence and the alcoholism which pervades their communities. They are not prisoners.
It is possible to retain a people's culture without creating total dependency. We have Italian, Irish, German, Polish, Hispanic, Korean, Jewish, Middle-Eastern and Black communities that very effectively preserve all that is good about those demographic segments of our society. Why can't Native Americans assimilate? Why should they be dependent? Why should they blame the beer company for choices which they make?
Yes, it is harsh to say it, but isn't it time for some tough love and some serious weaning off of the public teat?