Tars and Sailors Stick Together

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2008 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.

Tars and Swabbies Stick Together

August 25, 2008

Like many South Dakotans, I was an Independent before the Primaries, but I had to become either a Republican or a Democrat in order to vote because in this state Independents are not allowed to vote in the Primary Elections.

Because I wanted to vote for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, I became a Democrat. Needless to say I was shattered when she lost although she did win South Dakota. And I was further dismayed when Senator Barack Obama chose Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

Many of Obama's supporters are attacking his opponent, Senator John McCain, as a "gray-haired old white guy." Therefore I find it strange that Obama would choose another "gray-haired old white guy" as his vice presidential pick. I think he made a bad mistake in not choosing Clinton.

Now I'm an ex-Navy guy and I served under Admiral John S. McCain Jr. when he was with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations during the Korean War. Admiral McCain was the father of Senator John McCain. Navy guys are as thick as fleas when it comes to loyalty to their service because we know what it is to feel the roll of the decks in the open sea, to wake up to the shrill of the boatswain's pipe and to smell the salt spray as our ship turns into the wind.

All ex-Navy guys know the words that follow the boatswain's pipe in the early morning. They go, "Reveille, Reveille, up all hands; heave out, trice up. The smoking lamp is lighted in all authorized spaces." And every sailor knows the thump, thump, thump of the twin forties as they blast away at the sleeve stretched out far behind the tow-plane. We have a strong tendency to stick together.

The history of politics will dictate that immediately following the Democratic and Republican conventions, the gloves will come off. This year it will turn into something more than a bare-knuckle fight; the brass knuckles will make their debut in September. Swift-boating became a part of our vocabulary in the last election much to the dismay of another Navy man, John Kerry. I think "Obamanated" may become our next political metaphor. Or when a guy is pounded to a pulp people may say that he was "McCained." Whether one or the other is "Obamanated" or "McCained," I think we should all prepare ourselves for one of the meanest and dirtiest elections in recent history.

As for me, I will go down to the courthouse and re-instate myself as an Independent because Independents can vote in the General Election in November. I will also become one of the members on the third rung of all election polls: an "Undecided."

Both McCain and Obama have to sell me a bill of goods before I make up my mind. Of course, every voter is usually cautious in the final month or two of any election because there is always the possibility of "the other shoe falling." Whether that shoe involves a John Edwards-like revelation or worse, say a horrific terrorist attack on American soil, the possibilities of the unknown are daunting. Either possibility will play greatly into how Americans will vote.

During the primaries for the Democratic ticket, the focus on gender was much more pronounced than it was on race. Sen. Clinton was subjected to the worst form of misogyny as I have ever witnessed. The mainstream media was relentless in targeting Senator Clinton's negatives as a woman. No such application was made about Obama's race. In other words, it was alright to spit on a woman because she is just a woman, but to do it to a Black man was racism. What a bunch of blarney!

As an "Undecided," I am leaning toward Senator McCain. As a Native American and as a former newspaper publisher, I recall the many battles McCain undertook for the rights of American Indians when he was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs. His experience in dealing with important Indian issues far outweighs that of Sen. Obama. I know this because my newspaper reported on many of his battles to support Indian rights.

One does not disregard the experience of McCain in dealing with Indian issues. When it comes to Native Americans he was always a friend and a fighter and that makes him my favorite. And besides all of that, he is an ex-Navy guy too!

(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association and the founder and publisher of Indian Country Today, the Lakota Times, and the Dakota/Lakota Journal. He can be reached at