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An International Crisis of The First Water

My Family Has a Leaky Roof

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 12, 2000.

Well, here's something many of you may not be aware of. Oddly, it has not elbowed its way past the standard news stories in this country. For some reason Elian and Israel, and world peace and local wars are considered more important, which speaks to the utter hypocrisy of the news media, perhaps proof of a conspiracy of silence. I'm tempted to join it, but…

The Clan MacLeod, which has lived in its hereditary castle on the Isle of Skye for, what, nine hundred years, has suffered a leaky roof in that incredibly odd looking building. Fixing a castle roof is not the usual roofing effort. It can be pricey, and the Clan MacLeod, or specifically its chief, cannot afford to fix it. Therefore they decided to sell a mountain range nearby for sixteen million dollars. Teary yet? Throat constricted? You unfeeling brute……

Now, even given the complexity of a castle roof, it is, for the most part, flat and you can repave many furlongs of roof for sixteen million dollars. But in Scotland, the government takes about half of the sale, so the Chief has to sell a forest and mountain range that has been his, sort of, for centuries so the plaster doesn't get stained in the study. So that leaves eight million dollars to fix a leaking roof. The Humanity!

Dunvegan castle is quite beautiful from the west. It rises high off the loch, it has a sea gate, and it looks every bit the impressive castle you want in romantic recollection.

From the east, however, problems emerge. Like all actual castles, it was not constructed in one fell swoop. Dunvegan went through many stages of development in the centuries from Viking hovel to tourist trap. Parts, like what can be called the traditional keep, are solid and impressive. Other parts, though, look like they were the contribution of an enraged set designer recently fired from a Laguna Beach production of Brigadoon. It looks stucco. It looks like mud. It looks bad. It clashes with the rest of the castle. It looks like it was constructed for a festive brother of Eric the Black as a conciliatory gesture. My last name is MacLeod, did I mention that? I'm totally objective. Trust me.

Now, of course we all agree that the citizenry of Great Britain should shell out to save what is the private residence of a laird, a clan chief. And of course, a tax abatement to preserve our - I'm sorry, their - ownership of a mountain range. After all, the Scots were there before the central government and the MacLeods, who by the by are the Sylkie of song and legend and not the Highlander of cinema and television, were there before there were Scots, or people who thought they were Scots. The Scots, you see, have more blarney in their history than the Irish, who provided them with the name of the Scotti tribe, and the Highland Scots are really, for all intents, Norse Vikings pure and simple. Which is to say, thugs of the first water. My people. The lowland Scots are composed of different strains, which is why Highlanders are huge and often blonde and terrified everyone, especially the delicate British. It was the Highlanders who inspired Hadrian's wall. So the MacLeods were there forever, so to speak. Just like, oh, the Sioux have been in the Black Hills forever, despite all evidence that they have been there only about 200 years or less since the Chippewa threw them out of Minnesota. And the MacLeod land grants are vetted by various British governments; they own the land. But they are losing it, as all Scotland is losing its land to foreign purchase, and this supposedly was a reason for which the Scots sought independence and the return of their parliament, which they got. Last year, ancient animosities prevented the parliament from passing any bills dealing with land whatever, and the pillage continues.

Does this sound vaguely familiar? It is Native American awareness week. The British Isles don't have an aborigine awareness week because the term is both fatuous and wrong, just as it is here. The Scots and the British and the Bretons themselves were not the first to the island. There were others, and their slaughter by the first invaders is the root of the Leprechaun stories. If any descendents of the first people are alive, they are not Celt. Here in the Americas, it turns out that the people we have called Native Americans were not native, which we knew - the land bridge and all that - and were not the first, which is new and politically devastating. New evidence, which the desperate tribes want to hide, reveals that people not notably Asian or European were here thousands of years before the first Native American, so called. What happened to these first people, if they were in fact first? As archeology suggests, they were probably conquered and absorbed by the new invaders, who in turn were the recipients of new conquest, and eventually all under the white man, Satan himself.

It is beneficial for those who would take up the cudgel of the Native Americans to study the conquest of Scotland. In the 1700's, Samuel Johnson, who wrote the first English dictionary, considered the Highland Scots far more barbaric than the Indians of the colonies. They were called white apes, just like the Irish. Not without reason, I hasten to add. Writers of the nineteenth century, seeking to damn Indians, compared them to Scots.

And at the beginning of the twenty-first century, one conquered people has to sell a mountain range to repair a castle roof while another conquered people pretends it can live in the past in the same patriarchal society while enjoying modern inventions. Both peoples have severe alcoholic populations, and both have success stories, but which is getting on with it and which is living in the past? Well, put it this way. Are you going to contribute to some liberal, namby-pamby organization to feed starving Native American children, or are you going to contribute to a fund to fix my castle's roof? Um. Well, his castle roof.

What?!? You bastard! We'll see you next week.