Why you should be a goat rather than a sheep
In the violent, anti-intellectual America that we live in, progressive corporate leaders in the Southeast have become the natural allies of Native Americans. Because of enlightened self-interest, they have come to share most of the values that Southeastern indigenous peoples have traditionally held.
Personally, I could not identify with the degenerate politics of either major party during this past election. Conversely, MANY Muskogean Native Americans cannot identify with the rabble rousing Native American leaders elsewhere, who paint all indigenous descendants as being “damaged goods,” whose intellectual and professional skills are so inferior that they require special treatment and government money in order to compete with mainstream society.
No change will come from incessant political demonstrations. Instead, we should pay close attention to those business and professional leaders, who have progressive ideas that will promote the welfare of the majority of Americans. Native Americans should be prepared to utilize their special, natural abilities and to work harder than anyone else.
Harry and Lillie Lerner were survivors of the Holocaust. She lived through Auschwitz, while he escaped a group of Jewish Hungarian Army prisoners being marched to a NAZI firing squad. Harry fought with the partisans for the remainder of the war.
They came to America penniless . . . initially to New York City, but for most of their adult lives in Asheville, North Carolina. They founded Connie’s Fashions. It was a vertically integrated apparel manufacturer, which provided jobs to hundreds of North Carolina mountaineers then distributed the clothing nationally in a chain of retail stores. This was an economic model, which could have prevented the evaporation of industrial jobs in the mountains, but the politicians were not paying attention.
Because of the horrors and poverty they had experienced, they gave back to the community. My architectural commissions from Harry Lerner also included the designs of inexpensive rental units, designed especially for single working mothers. The grounds provided tot lots, playgrounds and even places for teenagers to socialize in semi-privacy.
Their oldest daughter, Connie, went on to become the first Jewish girl to win a state beauty pageant in the Southeast . . . Miss North Carolina. She then went on to be runner-up to Miss America. She and her family now live in Toronto. Harry and Lilly’s younger daughter, Vivian, moved to New York City and joined a commune, which maintains traditional Jewish values. I will never forget the beautiful painting of Vivian which was hung along the “Gone with the Wind” style staircase I designed for their house.
Lillie Lerner grew up on a farm in rural Hungary. She wrote that remarkable book, The Silence. It should be a movie. One can hardly hold back the tears in many sections of the book. The most dramatic moment is when Lilly, her sisters and a cousin are lined up by the Nazi’s at the rail station in Budapest. After reviewing the names of the young women, destined for the gas chambers, SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Adolf Eichmann ordered Lilly and her sisters to move to separate lines, so they couldn’t provide emotional support to each other. With machine guns pointed at them, they obeyed the order . . . but as soon as Eichmann turned his head, the four girls jumped back in line together. As a result, they survived Auschwitz. Lilly went on to be named to the Advisory Board of the College of Divinity at Wake Forest University. Harry was a cantor at a synagogue in Asheville.
After designing their home in Asheville and afterward, several of their retail stores, Harry and Lilly became two of my dearest friends. The last time I saw Lillie, she was dying of leukemia . . . but bravely came downstairs in a night robe to hug me and give me guidance that would carry me through many storms.
She said, “Richard . . . be a goat, not a sheep. We Jews were like sheep. We thought if we didn’t speak up against injustice and stayed out of sight by just doing our daily tasks . . . essentially, cowering in the corner of the barn . . . the Nazi wolves wouldn’t notice us. Most of us died, because we made easy pickings for the wolves.”
“On the other hand, when danger threatens a herd of goats, the entire herd forms a tight circle with the strongest bucks and does facing outward with their horns. A few adults might get injured, when the wolves try to break the circle, but all the kids and pregnant does survive. The wolves soon get tired and leave the pasture to hunt for sheep elsewhere.”
An amazing alliance of Fortune 500 leaders in Dixie
Maria Saporta published on June 13, 2017 an amazing story in her online newspaper this week. To read it, go to Fortune 500 Leaders. You probably do not know who Maria is. I remember her as a cute, perky teenage girl, who went from drafting table to drafting table at Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture. You see, Maria’s father was Architect Ike Saporta, my faculty advisor and President of the Atlanta Archaeological Society. He and his friend, Archaeologist Arthur Kelly, are responsible for me getting the Barrett Fellowship to study in Mexico.
Maria has discovered that the executives of some of the United States most respected corporations . . . which are based in Atlanta . . . have banded together to promote energy conservation, a healthy natural environment, protection of our national park system and preservation of our cultural heritage. These companies include Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot, UPS, Rubbermaid, Georgia Pacific, Cox Communications and Suntrust Bank. Executives are going on speaking tours to civic clubs and national conventions to promote their progressive values as a counter-balance to the depraved, ignorant, inflammatory public postures being taken by many demogogic politicians and some other corporate executives in the United States.
Their reasoning is perfectly logical. What is good for the majority of American citizens is good for business. The trickle down theory that has made the rich richer and the poor, poorer . . . is bad for business . . . and could soon put the United States in economic crash that will dwarf what happened in 1928. A grossly inefficient healthcare system that costs over twice as much as any other country . . . is bad for business.
By the way . . . Ike Saporta was also a partisan in World War II. He fought the Nazi’s in Greece . . . and also came to America as a penniless refugee. Within a couple of years after hardly having a penny to his name, he was a major force in founding the Atlanta Metropolitan Planning Commission. Many parks and historic preservation projects in Atlanta are the result of his dedication to his adopted home.
Ike was also a real hoot The last time I saw him, he was sunbathing naked on the second floor deck of his home on Ninth Street in Atlanta. One of his favorite hobbies was sketching on paper napkins, pretty young women at restaurants. He would hand them the napkin as he went out the door.
An afternoon in the magic garden
A few weeks ago, my little rented cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains had some very interesting guests from Atlanta, New York City, Denmark, Germany and Namibia (Southwest Africa). Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t give you their names, but let it suffice to say that the leader of the group is a co-owner of Cox Communications, and according to Wikipedia is worth $6.4 billion.
My visitors were incredibly gracious, considering what a hovel I live in . . . especially after the tornado this spring. However, I did notice that several would not use my bathroom, which is still has damage that has not been repaired. They rushed to the restrooms, when we went to the Sur de la Frontera Restaurant in Dahlonega that evening. LOL
There was a little awkwardness a first. One of the visitors was a Jewish lady from New York City. She were afraid that since I was a Southerner, I might be anti-Semitic. Well, that was prejudice on her part. I reminded her that the warm acceptance that most late-20th century Atlantans felt toward their Jewish neighbors in the movie, “Driving Miss Daisy,” was fact, not fiction. When some klansmen from another state bombed The Temple in Atlanta, my church, Peachtree Christian invited their Jewish neighbors across Peachtree St. to utilize their sanctuary and educational buildings free-of-charge during the months of repair.
I was worried about them thinking that I was a drug addict, alcoholic or an incompetent architect because of living in a hovel. That turned out not to be a problem. Everybody there was in agreement. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right when he said American democracy was dependent of a strong, predominant middle class. Destruction of the middle class in America would lead to first a dalliance with fascism and then a violent Marxist revolution. We are in stage two right now.
When the Billy Bobs of the nation eventually get tired of coming home from “gun rats” and “kill the libruls” rallies to empty refrigerators. They will snap, grab their guns and starting shooting indiscriminately anyone who they perceived to have caused their poverty.
My terrace garden is shaped like an amphitheater. We moved some chairs out to the base of the garden and chatted for a few hours. Many of the things that we talked about, are confidential. Obviously, there was a very special purpose for my visitors flying down from New York City. However, the most interesting part of the afternoon concerned the primary vocation of this multi-billionaire . . . organic farming . . . would you believe.
This key member of the Cox-Chambers Family has proven that large scale organic farming is commercially viable. He purchased a large tract of land in upstate New York and began designing a labor efficient layout for growing vegetables. Most of the Native American crops, which we southerners adore, supposedly would not grow in Upstate New York. Also, okra, an African plant supposedly would not grow there.
He did not take the word of “experts” as the final answer. Instead he selectively bred Southeastern vegetables to grow in a northern climate. Now he essentially has a monopoly on the distribution of “Southern” vegetables to supermarkets and restaurants in New England and Canada. Vegetables coming from the Lower Southeast and California are quite a bit more expensive due to shipping and refrigeration costs.
That’s the sort of “Can Do” attitude Native Americans in the Southeast need. Don’t think of reasons, why you can’t do something . . . think of ways to make it happen! Be a goat!
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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