by Yule Heibel on May 29, 2003

I spent the better part of today’s ruminating time thinking about the current blog entry on Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light, and in particular about the passionate commentary flying back and forth. I ended up having to write my own 2-cents worth, although I really felt the limitations of the format. Still, at least the conversation is happening, vividly.

On an obliquely related note, an odd story caught my eye yesterday. In my mind it’s related to Making Light‘s topic today insofar as it has to do with qualities. It has to do with the nature of myth, expertise, and reporting spins. Three native Americans, from the Navajo, Sioux, and Tohono tribes, who happen to be US border patrol agents, have been deployed to Poland to help track down, find, and detain illegal immigrants on Poland’s eastern border with Ukraine.

Or should one say: Three US border patrol agents, who happen to be native Americans…? The newspaper article makes hay of the former wording.

The hunted illegals are accused, among other things, of bringing additional drug trade to Poland. The border area in question is very leafy, wooded, sparsely populated, and inadequately monitored: lots of hiding places. And the Natives have roundly amazed the native Poles with their “incredible” skills, which so impress the indigenous agents as to make them speak of genetically gifted skills on the part of the visiting trackers.

In the wilds of the Newly-Wild East, American immigration specialists who happen to be Indian are deploying skills that used to spell their survival. Their expertise is rented out to the European East, where things apparently are getting a little out of hand. It’s an odd kind of slippage that rearranges perceptions.

It also reminds me of the Navajo code talkers in World War II, who were the only ones capable of confounding Japanese spies.

I would like to know if the agents are typical of their people, or if they are the lucky ones who have special gifts and happened to land decent jobs? Can these gifts be taught, and can they be transferred? Presumably they can be transmitted, which begs the question of why those skills and gifts haven’t been transferred more widely and haven’t figured more prominently in a North American pantheon of talent.

I also want to know why the Europeans, especially the Germans, give front-page coverage in one of their major newspapers to this story? It’s headlined, “Indians Help the European Union Keep Refugees Off Its Back,” even as it then goes on to describe the “refugees” as undesirable drug peddlars. (What are they then, refugees or drug peddlars?)

This story makes me wonder what the Wild West was anyway, and just how wild today’s East really is.

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