Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hoping Against Hope and the Dead Dog

Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run
--Bruce Springsteen, “Reason to Believe”

Leonard Peltier is serving back-to-back life sentences in Leavenworth for the murder of two FBI agents during the 1975 shootout at the Jumping Bull ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A leader of the American Indian Movement and a citizen of the Anishinabe and Lakota nations, Peltier continues to maintain his innocence.

Amnesty International considers Peltier a political prisoner. According to the website The Case of Leonard Peltier, he is nine years overdue for a parole hearing. There’s ample reason to believe that the government both withheld and falsified evidence in their case against Peltier, and there’s nothing that ties him to the murders beyond the fact that he was one of 30 people on the Jumping Bull ranch that day. Even the US prosecutor on the case has said “We can’t prove who shot those agents.”

The whole sad story is covered in Peter Mathiessen’s book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, and in Michael Apted's documentary “Incident at Oglala.” But in surfing around the internet last night I ran across something that took the sadness to a whole new depth.

It was a simple thing, but heartbreakingly sad. It was an online petition asking George W. Bush to look into the case of Leonard Peltier.

The group behind the petition is called Kola, which happens to be the Lakota word for “friend.” Their website describes them as a grassroots human rights organization whose objectives include spreading “correct information on every issue concerning American, Canadian, and Australian indigenous peoples.”

I applaud their efforts. I wish them the best. I hope Leonard Peltier gets to experience freedom again someday.

But asking George W. Bush to look into something that will have no immediate political benefit for him and his sycophants is like taking a stick and poking the dead dog in that Springsteen song. The dog’s not going to run.

The petition assumes George W. Bush has a conscience. It assumes he has the mental capacity to understand the facts of the Peltier case. It assumes he’s a serious, thoughtful person who’s dedicated to justice.

Those are three assumptions for which no evidence exists.

Kola is trying to appeal to the humanity of a person whose response to Hurricane Katrina was to yuk it up and pretend to play a guitar. There’s nothing there, folks. There’s nothing to grab onto.

Can’t you imagine that petition crossing the poor dope’s desk? Can’t you just see the smirk? “Free who? Lenny Pelter, who’s that? An Indian? What is he, an outfielder?”

Even if Bush had the reading comprehension required to understand phrases like “falsified evidence” and “coerced affidavits,” and even if he were to make some statement about the Peltier case at all, I’d lay odds that his comment would be something like “Well, if the court found him guilty, he must be guilty.”

I’d love to be proven wrong about this. But Bush showed his true colors early on and hasn’t wavered once in the last six shameful years. Sad to say, but poking him with a stick at this late date isn’t going to accomplish anything.

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