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Killing Crazy Horse: The Merciless Indian Wars in America by Bill O'Reilly

Whatever your opinion is of Bill O'Reilly, hopefully it doesn't affect whether or not you read his books. Him and his writing partner, Martin Dugard, do some fabulous work with regard to their "Killing" series. It's very informative, wildly entertaining, and thematically and tonally consistent. They do a very good job of being rather unbiased—meaning everyone will find something with which they disagree, factors that come with telling the truth, something I believe they do to the best of their knowledge and resources, which are both at or near the top of the historic game.

Before reading Killing Crazy Horse, I had the pleasure of reading Killing Kennedy and Killing Jesus. Both of which are fantastic reads with keen insight and plenty of page-turning drama, suspense, and thrills you might find in a great work of fiction. O'Reilly spares no detail when describing sensitive topics. Unlike many of today's "nature" documentaries that only seem to show the prey escaping the predator, O'Reilly tells it like it is in each book as was customary for the time.

In Roman times, crucifixion was an unimaginably cruel way to die. Through Killing Jesus, we are able to see the real cruelty. Kennedy's assassination is not one for the faint of heart. Yet, we have been shown the Zapruder film over and over again. We, as a culture, are almost desensitized to it. But Killing Kennedy puts into words the feelings and emotion of the day and the events both leading up to and after November 22, 1963. The shocked, aghast feeling you got the first time you saw the assassination, is felt again after reading that book.

And if you've ever studied Manifest Destiny, American expansion and expedition, or any history detailing the wars and battles between the United States and Native Americans, you know it is never not graphic. Sure, in most textbooks, some of the more hellacious, inconceivable cruelty is left out, but we all know they killed each other without a second thought. And if you've ever read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, you know the story is fiction-based, but the cruelty within is very much inspired by the real cruelty no little boy could possibly imagine when playing a game of cowboys and Indians.

As a kid, I was always fascinated by the sinking of the Titanic. My parents bought me this huge Almanac that chronicled America's headlines from it's inception, and one of the headlines that always stood out to me was that of the Titanic. So when I came across a 1986 issue of National Geographic with a big color picture of the ship at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, I made my grandmother buy it at the grocery store. After reading the article ten times and staring at the pictures for hours, I decided to flip through the rest of the magazine.

Something caught my eye:

This painting, along with sketches of Custer's Last Stand and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Red Cloud, stopped me from flipping. In fact, when looking for the NatGeo issue online, Google had to remind me that it was Titanic on the cover and not the story of General Custer or Crazy Horse and the Oglala Sioux. From that day forth, I was very interested in America's tainted past.

For a long period of my life, I was disgusted by how American's stole the land from the natives and forced them onto reservations. I was appalled at how they slaughtered the buffalo. I was enraged at how they oppressed these people who lived according to nature. I remember reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and wondering how we as a civilized society could balance our wasteful and destructive ways with the ways of the earth. I remember reading A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and feeling a bitter distaste for my country. I also remember turning the air conditioner on every time it was hotter than 78ºF. I remember turning on my computer to chat with other teens on chatboards about whatever teens chat about. I remember playing on loud stages with intricate sound and lighting systems with the various bands I was in. I remember living a relatively safe life in a community guarded by law enforcement, in a country guarded by the strongest military to ever exist. I remember growing up and realizing people die on both sides, but it is much better to be on the side we are on.

As I grew up, I realized I was indoctrinated by liberals. My education, my entertainment and leisure, my news. They were all liberal and growing up in Los Angeles, California, it was a way of life. We were rebelling from the rich, white, rulers and siding with the marginalized—the blacks living in Compton, the Latinos in east LA, the Japanese a generation removed from internment, the Armenians in Glendale, the Thai in Hollywood, the Chinese in Alhambra.

But somewhere in between trying to find equality and trying to be heard, the liberal movement shifted to marginalizing whites and teetering the see-saw of inequity back the other way. I first started to notice this in college when it seemed like the blacks and Hispanics were receiving preferential treatment both financially and academically. Yet, the whites were treated like second-class students, and the Asians were outright ignored.

Then, in 2014 it came to a head for me and I made the switch to being conservative. From there, I started to look at things differently. I started watching Fox News more. I felt the things Bill O'Reilly would say resonated with me and where I was in my life. And in that Fox, conservative way, O'Reilly would always promote his books. I decided to give Killing Kennedy a read. I was, of course, an avid enthusiast of Kennedy and more specifically his assassination, even before my interest in the Titanic or the Little Bighorn. I had read all about the Umbrella Man, James Files, and even the theory that he was shot accidentally by one of the Secret Service men riding behind him in the motorcade. I was moved by Roger Craig's story, "When They Kill A President." But ever since visiting Dallas in 2002 and again in 2004, my mind was made up that whoever killed JFK, did it from the 6th floor of the School Book Depository because that is not only the best line of sight from where he was shot, it's pretty much (in my opinion) the only continuous line of sight for a gunman.

But as is customary with all of my posts, I digress. I question everything, and official accounts of things are not excluded.

So when accounts of the battles between whites and Indians were being rewritten from the Indian perspective (through the aforementioned Howard Zinn and Daniel Quinn books, among others), naturally I had to take a deeper look.

We all know the end of the story. America is a land from sea to shining sea. That's what I was taught. Who knows what they teach now. The "whites" won and the natives lost. In nature, it is always about who wins. The winner in nature gets to live. The winner in nature gets to procreate. The winner in nature survives. Somewhere though, humans got a taste of what it's like to cheer for the underdog. Nevermore was this evident than when we study the Native American.

Sure, it's relatively easy for a somewhat empathetic person to feel distraught over what happened to the Indians. Much like it is common for people to feel for those who are victims of any crime. I must preface this next statement with much clarity: I do not speak to individual circumstances or cases, but in general, there is hardly a black and white case in crime. With enough context, sometimes you can actually be empathetic towards the criminal, if not, at the very least, understand why he or she committed the crime. We are all human. It's easy to write off cruel behavior as psycho or sociopathic. It's easy to tweet good behavioral tactics when no one can see inside your windows, or your head for that matter.

But what O'Reilly includes in his book is absolutely abhorrent. It made me wince and shake my head. These heinous acts of brutality were committed by Christians. Yet, what most people forget is that at the time, the Native Americans were very often referred to as savages. In fact, the two were synonymous with each other. Savage literally meant Indian. Why is that?

Well, because they were the instigators. The Christian white men learned these atrocities from the Indians themselves. They had been doing these things to each other for hundreds of years. They did these things to white settlers who would never think to scalp a person or cut the unborn from their mothers or shoot arrows into private parts or tear the clothes off the dead, dismember them, and desecrate their remains. It was the Indians who started it all, the Indians who would not assimilate into our culture. We were expanding because we needed to, not because we thought it was a fun thing to try and accomplish.

All throughout reading the book, I was trying to find corollaries with times back then and what we are experiencing now and it much reminds me of the mainstream media's treatment of Donald Trump. He is framed as the bully, the bad guy, the offensive loud-mouth but if you watch closely, you will realize that the President is only ever on the defensive. He cannot talk about a policy of his without someone criticizing it. He cannot boast of an achievement for one moment before someone tries to punch a hole in it and point a finger at him. And when he does achieve something, someone else tries to come and take credit for it.

Much can be said about the American government and their handling of the Native crisis. Because the Americans won, we look like the aggressors, the bullies, the instigators but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, we wanted to expand. But we did not want war. President Ulysses S. Grant wanted the Indians to become citizens. They wouldn't have it. Even presidents who disliked the natives didn't start by killing them. Yes, we almost made the buffalo go extinct. But when peace and negotiation do not work and are only answered with utter death and mutilation, you do what you have to do. Species go extinct all the time. Some by man's hands, some (an overwhelming majority) because of nature. It is nature's way.

Nature awards the winner. It's that simple. Leave it to a liberal to want nature turned upside down.


I know this is not your average book review. I figure you could find something more mainstream pretty much anywhere. What I try to offer is my opinion of the book, and how I relate it to my perspective on life and what is going on in the crazy world we live in.

In fact, this book has brought a new perspective in that we live in great times when compared to the harsh, rugged, unpredictable life of both the Native and non-native American. If my family and I are tired of California and it's insane policies, we can move somewhere else. If I feel like New York is eating itself alive, I can up and relocate at the drop of a hat. And if I ever feel like Pennsylvania is caving to Philadelphia and its inferiority complex to bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles, I can again, pack up and head out. It's all because of the sacrifice American citizens made before us, in the times of expansion. Pioneers, settlers, soldiers, and citizens alike, looking for opportunity, a better way of life, more freedom, and room to breathe. We do so with the creature comforts provided to us by western civilization, innovation, production, and commerce. None of which would be possible if nature were turned upside down and granted the weak winners.


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