I have nothing but the utmost respect for our First Nations brothers who fought in World War 2. The Navajo code talkers were key in defeating the racial fascism and militarism of the Japanese in the Pacific theater.
They are great men who I hold in the highest and utmost of respect. The Navajo Code Talkers are men of steel and courage and duty. Legends.
However, when I think about how the United States has treated its indigenous peoples with nothing but the utmost disrespect, I am both made more impressed by how First Nations peoples have fought in the country's wars, and wonder how they can justify doing such a thing if citizenship and service and rewards in the polity are related to such deeds...and they have been so mistreated on that ledger sheet.
Politics is based on emotions. Most people are not rational actors, human calculators, gaming out the results and profits from their personal and civic choices before they make a decision.
Could the great service given by our First Nations brothers to the United States military in World War 2 be "rational"--just like that of black and brown folks, more generally, but still "irrational" at the same time given how the colorline and white supremacy denied all people of color (to varying degrees) their rights?
I cry and also smile when I hear this honored elder singing the Marine Corps Hymn in Navajo. It is the same response I have to brother Bob Marley's song "Buffalo Soldier". The latter is a tragic reflection on black soldiers who served a country that hated them. Yet, they followed through on their service with honor. There is another connection as well. Black soldiers, "Buffalo Soldiers", were sent out West to hunt and kill First Nations brothers and sisters for White Empire. Black soldiers were also used in the Philippines to kill brown people who were fighting for their homeland and freedom.
Uncle Sam has extracted quite a butcher's bargain for sending his black and red and brown soldiers to do his killing.
How do you locate the singing of the Marine Corps Hymn within a bigger story of race in American history and national identity? Should we cry with in honor, or cry for in sadness, this Navajo elder and United States Marine?