Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Taking a stand on General Custer — in New Mexico?

By Rosemary Joyce

The Republican National Convention is over, and most people have already forgotten the line-up of speakers. Other than the nominees for president and vice president, after all, the rest is hardly news worthy.

But here's an interesting question: what highly promoted speaker on the program was denounced by a Republican National Committee member for lack of patriotism?

Give up? well, let me try a couple of hints. This speaker was a two-fer: both a woman, and a Latina.

No? Still don't have it?

The speaker: New Mexico's Republican governor, Susana Martinez.

Her critic: a man named Pat Rogers, a lawyer and member of the Republican National Committee, who has since resigned from his law firm, but remains on the RNC.

In an email sent in June, Rogers characterized the New Mexico governor as a "quisling." I give him high marks for vocabulary here: quisling, defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "a traitor who serves as a puppet of the enemy occupying his or her country," comes from the name of the government of Norway under Nazi occupation.

Unfortunately, I have to take away all his credit for usage. He may know the word, but he doesn't know when or how to use it.

The crime for which he labeled Governor Martinez a quisling was meeting with the leaders of Pueblo Indian groups in New Mexico. If we are going to start a fight about collaborating with the enemy occupying one's country, well, maybe attorney Rogers should have given this one a little more thought.

Of course, he claims that his email was merely an attempt at humor that fell flat. I will let readers figure out what's funny: here's the entire text of his email (line breaks as in the original).

Quislings, French surrender monkeys, secret supporters of JAJ.

The state is going to hell. Col. Weh would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.

I hope whoever recommended this is required to read the entire redist transcript and sit through the entire meeting with the Gov.

Wow. That is hilarious, right?

Various commentaries on the email explain that JAJ are the initials of a current candidate for congress from New Mexico, and Col. Weh was Governor Martinez' opponent in the primary election for Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010.

"French surrender monkeys", it would seem, is an adaptation of the phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", attributed by the Urban Dictionary to a character from The Simpsons, applied to the French. It is, I suppose, kind of Attorney Rogers to help us out by substituting the direct national slur.

There is something over-the-top weird about this entire email, particularly when we take into account the fact, reported by the Albuquerque Journal, that it isn't really the governor's decision to attend this meeting:

The email referenced a news report about the governor’s participation in a tribal-state summit in Mescalero in June, an annual meeting the New Mexico governor has been required by law to attend since 2009.

Now, why would that be New Mexico law? Perhaps because the state is home to 23 recognized tribes, all of whose members are citizens of New Mexico?

So meeting with the leaders of these groups of citizens is not only a legal requirement; one presumes it is good government, and it probably could have been good (Republican) politics, until Rogers called foul on Martinez.

As for the substance of his complaint: I am not the only one to find bewildering why a New Mexico Republican lawyer would consider a New Mexico governor talking to the leaders of New Mexico tribes an offense against the memory of George Custer.

No less an authority than John Yellow Bird Steele, President of the Oglala Sioux, has pointed out that it was his people who successfully fought off Custer's attack at the Little Big Horn:

Raising this issue vis-a-vis the Pueblo Indian tribes is simply nonsense. The Pueblos, our friends, live over 1,000 miles away from the battle site at Little Big Horn. What part does Rodgers think that the Pueblos had in the Custer fight?

Great question.

Maybe it's because you can't really tell those 19th century cavalry officers apart-- after all, they all look the same. Maybe Rogers meant to say Governor Martinez was dishonoring the memory of General Stephen Kearny, who led the US forces that seized control of New Mexico in 1846.

Now, that would make sense, right?