Can we all pay attention to Chief Malerba's message?
So now the politicians are involved, indicating we're sinking so low into the morass that we contemplate legislating common decency.
Of course, a more cynical fellow might suggest that instead of weighing in on Native American logos, mascots and related team names from public high schools, our elected officials might use their time better figuring out sports betting, legalizing pot and sending the idea of tolls careening into a ditch somewhere.
But then, there I go with all that idealism again.
Day reporter Sten Spinella wrote Thursday, "Speaker of the state House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin (also the Berlin High School football coach), said he wants at least a discussion, and possibly a bill introduced, regarding action against towns that decide to keep such Native American imagery and labels. One step could be withholding state funds. The idea is at its beginning stages and there hasn't been a caucus about it yet."
Alas, the opinions from our lawmakers on this issue are irrelevant. So is mine. I am not Native American and have little concept what is truly offensive. I can surmise, sure. But I have not lived it. This counts.
One of the things that amuses me about our country: The number of people who have never been part of a minority anything — and have a hard time tolerating people who are — who still influence public opinion and policy. Everything they say is substantiated by nothing more than their own opinions. And yet we entertain them as if there's some educational and cultural value to their whims.
It's why the recent ruckus in Killingly redefined pathetic. An offensive term to describe Native Americans became political. Heck, one of the dramatis personae had ties to a hate group. And yet politicos get to make policy for an entire town, some of whose inhabitants believe "tradition" is a get out of jail free card against insensitivity.
Now the discussion goes south to Montville, a town whose foundation rests on Native American history. The sheer eloquence of Mohegan Chief Marilynn Malerba in Thursday's Day nearly made me weep tears of joy. Or perhaps summon Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Not only does Malerba have the definitive opinion here, but she expressed it without shouting damnation at any anybody else.
"It is the position of the Mohegan Tribe that the use of American Indian mascots and American Indian named teams be discontinued," she wrote. "While the stated intent may be to 'honor' American Indians, there is great potential for less than respectful behaviors to occur in conjunction with these mascots."
Malerba said there is nothing but respect between the Mohegan Tribe and Montville schools, indicating she would be open to productive discussion.
Perhaps Montville and the Mohegans could be national beacons here. Imagine: If we come to the table with ears open and mouths shut, we might process the most relevant words about this entire issue, from a tribal chief herself: "While the stated intent may be to 'honor' American Indians, there is great potential for less than respectful behaviors to occur in conjunction with these mascots."
Everyone in Killingly get that?
Everyone in other towns with Native American logos, mascots and related names get that?
There is no need for this to become part of the political process, especially at the state level. Mr. Aresimowicz's heart may be in the right place. Perhaps his words are generating the discussion necessary. But this is about respecting Native American traditions and leaving our uninformed opinions out of it. Once again: "While the stated intent may be to 'honor' American Indians, there is great potential for less than respectful behaviors to occur in conjunction with these mascots."
Game, set, match.
Except that I'm sure there's an alarming number of folks out there who honesty think they know one more fact about this than Chief Malerba does. And won't be afraid to express themselves. I guess the late, great Dan Jenkins was spot on when he wrote, "billions of people have been known to be loud and wrong at the same time."
Kudos here to Chief Malerba for not merely speaking out, but for being so articulate and measured. Her message ought to resonate.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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