As a nation of rich history, enduring grit and humble perseverance, we’ve got a lot to be proud of. We came over here, fiercely battled for our independence, settled millions of acres of beautiful, uninhabited land. Because that’s how it happened, right? We were the first ones here?
Oh. Oh, we weren’t? I didn’t know. Jim Bamblowski doesn’t know either, but he wants to. That’s why he’s taking his family on the vacation of a lifetime, the Trail of Tears deluxe tour.
“You kids comfortable back there?”
“So comfy, dad! Can’t wait to get there!”
Jim junior, Rob and Bob sit in the back seat, hair parted in the middle, Eddie Bauer polo shirts tucked into their Sunday leisure pants. Jim Jamblowski took off a full week away from his cubicle at Sunicorp and he can’t wait to show his nine year old triplets our proudhistory. They’re only a couple miles away from Charleston, Tennessee, the beginning of one of the Trail of Tears land routes. The anticipation is overwhelming.
“Pop, are we gonna see real live Indians when we get there?”
“No, son,” he laughs out loud as his son’s naivety, “no we won’t. See, we forced all the Indians off this land and made them walk to Oklahoma. You’ll learn about all your ancestor’s accomplishments when we get there.”
“Trail of Tears Resort Complex” looms large on a billboard sign. Jim’s wife Nancy reads the map and their Prius hybrid car makes the turn into a posh, lavish hotel turnaround.
“We’re here, kids! Quick, look, the first tour is about to start. You guys go wander off on your own and me and your mother will park the car.”
Jim finds a space and they hurry inside a large museum and hotel combo, complete with a heated pool, gym and souvenir shop. Jim catches up to his boys in the center of the lobby just as the tour begins.
“Folks, thanks for coming to the Trail of Tears deluxe tour, where you’ll learn all about how we created this gorgeous path of suffering and genocide and paved the way for white developments and domination of the deep South.”
The tour guide is a short, animated woman with arms which gesture in karate chop motions and a smile that looka like it’s barely hanging on with some glue and tape.
“Now can anyone tell me what tribes participated in the Trail of Tears relocation event? Anyone in the crowd?”
Little Jim Junior raises a hand. “The Na’vi?”
“No, no, I’m afraid you just named a fictional tribe from the movie Avatar.”
Little Rob raises a hand. “The autobots.”
“No, I’m sorry, that’s Transformers.”
Little Bob’s turn. “The Eskimos?”
The tour guide sinks her face into a hand. “You’re getting so close. The tribes were the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole.”
Jim guffaws and elbows his wife in the side. “Say that five times fast, right? What hilarious names.”
“If you’ll follow me through the lobby we’ll take a look at the Cherokee food exhibit. You can see here what was rationed to the Cherokee for their meals every day during the harsh journey.”
The crowd of five or six suburban families excitedly pushes through into the exhibit and gawk at a bench which holds two cups of water, a handful of corn kernels and a turnip.
“As you can see, our government rationed the men, women and children plenty of food, so it’s surprising that thousands of Choctaw Natives starved to death along the trail. If we move along here we can take a look at the Smallpox blanket exhibit. You can see these simple horse blankets which were provided to native women and children and purposefully laced with incurable deadly diseases. If you swing by the souvenir shop after the tour, you can pick up your very own souvenir Smallpox blanket.”
“Aw, can I get one, pop? Can I?”
Little Jim junior looks up expectantly with wide eyes.
“You don’t need one of those, son. You’ve got plenty of white people blankets at home.”
“Okay kids, come on to the next exhibit and we’ll have some real fun. Here’s our temperature imitations exhibit. The Natives were forced to traverse through a ferocious and deadly winter in frigid low temperatures and many of them froze to death. If you have your parent’s permission, you can come into the temperature chamber and experience firsthand what a few minutes on the trail was like.”
“Go on kids, go.” Nancy pushes her children towards the freezer chamber. “Go pretend to freeze to death.”
The chamber is complete with replicas of barren oak trees, livestock skeletons and fake snow.
“I’ll ask that all of you remove your shoes and socks to get the full effect of the chamber. Most of the natives were without shoes or moccasins for the thousand mile journey to Oklahoma during one of the coldest winters on record.”
“Idiots.” Jim shakes his head. “Why didn’t they wear shoes? It’s called a shoe store, dummies.”
The children gleefully prance around the frozen room and exit with snotty noses and stiff toes.
“Alright, everybody, I’ll conclude the indoor tour with a few exciting facts about your American heritage. This was the first time in our history that we completed a successful operation of raping an entire culture of their freedom and livelihood. The Indian removal act of 1830 still stands today as a sound business model of how to successfully manipulate an entire people into vacating their homelands. Does anyone have questions?”
Jim raises his hand. “What happened to the natives? Where are they now?”
“Excellent question. About half a million Native Americans today are scattered across some 300 federal reservations on 52 million acres. The Indian removal process was basically win-win for everybody. We got millions of acres of undeveloped land spread across nine states and they got to have their names used for professional sports teams.”
Jim’s hand again. “How come every Indian owns a casino? Are they all alcoholics and gamblers?”
“Actually, that’s a common misconception. Not all Indians gamble and not all Indians drink alcohol, but since we are a nation built and run on stereotypes, it’s perfectly acceptable for any of us to judge them accordingly.”
“Hear that, sons.” Jim pulls his children in close to him and a single tear falls from his eye. “Stereotypes. Sometimes it just overwhelms me how proud I am to be a true American.”
Later that night Jim Jamblowski, his wife and three manicured sons watch the news together while they eat room service sushi and play on their iphones. Jim intently leans forward and absorbs his nation’s current events.
“In other news, a family was beaten and robbed today during a home invasion. Three armed men stormed the house and allegedly told them that this was no longer their home and they needed to leave immediately. The father of the household, a homeowner for twenty-five years, refused and was beaten, stripped naked and humiliated…”
“Makes you sick, doesn’t it, kids?” Jim pokes at his sushi with a chopstick and shakes his head. “People think they can just run around, destroy lives and take what they want. Almost makes me wish we were still livin’ back in those Indian days.” Jim pops a piece of sushi in his mouth. “Guess we just don’t have good morals like we used to.”