by Mel Griffith
Recently there has been some renewed interest in the home place of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokees at the time they were removed to Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the actual cabin of John Ross in the Flint Springs community is long gone. A cabin from the same time period has been moved there, but has been neglected for several years and is almost beyond repair. Some restoration efforts have begun. We need to remember the story of John Ross and the Trail of Tears because it is an example of how Washington can get things terribly wrong. In this country where civil and property rights are supposed to be respected, thousands of peaceful farmers were rounded up, their property taken away and they were shipped to Oklahoma. This was done more or less in the name of national security, just as the roundup of Japanese-Americans was done at a later date. In earlier wars, various Indian tribes had sided with the enemy and Andrew Jackson was determined that it would not happen again despite the fact that the Cherokee had given no trouble in a long time. Many of the "Indians" rounded up and shipped off were about as much white as Indian, some of them more so, the result of the races living side by side for several generations. In fact, Chief John Ross was seven eighths white.
Pretty much everyone now agrees that both the roundup of the Indians (The Cherokee weren't the only ones, but we remember them because we are now living on the land that was once theirs.) and the roundup of Japanese in World War II were bad ideas and unfair to the people involved. When we look back on these events we need to remember that they were done by the federal government in its great wisdom. It made mistakes back then and can still get way off track when it gets a single-minded, tunnel vision approach to solving apparent problems. Washington again appears to be in danger of trampling on individual rights in its efforts to "fix" healthcare, deal with the imaginary problem of global warming and a number of other single-minded efforts to fix specific problems without regard to the consequences.
The president's Chief of Staff has said that you should never let a crisis go to waste. By that he meant that if people are scared about a problem, real or imaginary, you can pull things over on them that they wouldn't let you get away with if they thought the situation through carefully. In earlier times, the government was able to use fear of Indian raids and fear of Japanese spies to get away with things they shouldn't have. We should pay close attention when modern-day tries to drum up fears and worries to convince us to give them power they shouldn't have and which are likely to destroy our freedom and democracy.