Settler Colonial Dreams

A rainy night and an unseasonably cool morning. The world is emerald green and mud luscious and out on the marsh the herons are dancing their entrancing mating flights.

The news this morning is that the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe Vs, Wade. This is likely to further polarize our country, much to the pleasure of Putin I imagine.

Abortion rights remains a central, intensely contested, topic, the discussion of which is framed in oversimplified arguments that create a false narrative. Obscured by the fierce debate is the settler colonial quest for power and control, and extends the ramifications of that search deep into the lives of everyone. (Paradoxically, many of those who favor outlawing abortion refuse to wear face masks for the protection of others.)

The abortion rights debate is framed as a fight between the moral right and all the immoral others, totally obscuring the settler colonial agenda of control of resources, including bodies, without concern for the wellbeing of those controlled. Women, disabled folk, Mother Earth (Pachamama), poor people, people of color, and other marginalized communities are all treated as commodities/resources rather than beings with agency. Continual war and the extirpation of millions of species for economic gain is simply business as usual.

The strange thing is that settler colonial states get away with framing greed and control as morally right and in the self interest of the population at large. As a result the settler colonial agenda remains deeply obscured, a sort of “fog of war” ala Tucker Carison.

This fogginess was played out here recently when our town held a referendum on changing the high school’s logo. The logo portrays a stereotyped Wampanoag man in profile and those favoring retaining it framed the logo as an emblem of respect. (I endured a high school with a Native mascot and I continue to find the use of our images offensive and disrespectful.)

The contest featured a group of folks who took the moral high ground and encouraged the removal of the offending image vying with a large majority of folks who wanted to keep the logo. The keepers won by a very wide margin.

Interestingly both sides produced Native folk who argued on their behalf, yet, as far as I can tell, neither side suggested the issue be given to the Wampanoag to decide. Thus, what on the surface was a moral question was actually an enactment of settler colonial control and privilege.

As we move inexorably toward a world largely without songbirds, insects, and sea mammals, a world in which marginalized groups experience ever more suffering, false moral narratives serve only to divert our attention from settler colonial dreams of control and greed, and the unfolding tragedy of a destroyed common heritage and future.

6 thoughts on “Settler Colonial Dreams

  1. Nicely written, Michael. The line that made the issues clear to me in a whole new way was “neither side suggested the issue be given to the Wampanoag to decide.” Thank you.

  2. We have had similar issues in central Maine, but with better results, I am happy to report. This is my take on such things: If a particular group finds a name or word offensive, don’t use it and change it if necessary. I know I sure wouldn’t be keen on a Maine team named the “Fighting Frenchies” or “The Fighting Frogs.”

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