- Ian Thompson
Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome
Adapt, improvise, and overcome. These are words that Amy's father, a 30-year Armed Service veteran and a full-blood Choctaw, has showed us how to live by. They embody a kind of action-inspiring hope that our country could use more of right now. Almost every day, I hear people saying that these challenging times surely mark the end of the world. While 2020 may be the worst time that many of us have seen, it is far from being the worst time that people have faced - and overcome - right here in the place where we now stand.
Picture the following scenario: a never-before-seen disease from overseas invades our nation. Instead of claiming the lives of 4 in 10,000 (the toll COVID has so far taken on the US population) it kills half of us. Our economy completely collapses because so many of our skilled workers and specialists are now gone. Dire food shortages ensue. People share food with the families that need it most, but at some points things get so hard that parents can only look on as their youngest children starve, literally. Two years later, just as we're beginning to adapt to our losses, a second horrifying disease strikes and kills one quarter of the people who survived the first. Instead of sending in aid packages and doctors, our neighbors send us clandestine military units to kidnap our wives and nieces to be sold as slaves in foreign markets. Whenever they can slip past our soldiers, these units destroy as many of our homes and food stores as they can in order to ensure that when the next outbreak of disease strikes, our death toll will be as high as it an possibly be. The waves of new foreign diseases do not just go away in a few years; for generations, they periodically crash into our nation until the diseases and the wars have reduced our population by fully 90%. After fighting on every front for years, our nation is finally so exhausted that we can't hold onto our own lands anymore. We're marched to the west on a humiliating journey that claims the lives 1/3 of our people who had managed to survive every trial up until that point. Before long, powerful influences start pressing to take away our most basic freedoms. Our children are punished severely for speaking their own language. Outsiders dictate to us what our own personal names are and who we can and can't consider to be members of our own families...
What if this were the reality we faced in 2020? - Too horrible to picture? If you are Choctaw, or from one of many other Tribes, this is exactly what your ancestors faced ... and overcame. They didn't just survive.
On the Trail of Tears, Chief George Harkins wrote a Letter to the American People. In it, he said, "I could cheerfully hope that those of another age and generation may not feel those oppressive measures that have been so illiberally dealt out to us, and that peace and happiness may be their reward". Our ancestors faced horrific challenges; they faced unfairness on a level that was downright cruel, and they faced unspeakable loss. When self-defeating bitterness started to take hold, many, like Chief Harkins, changed the focus by sending good thoughts forward from their day into our own.
This is the same strength that is in us. We have already proven that we can adapt, improvise, and overcome just about anything.