Somebody loved those four shot-dead Paiutes up in the high desert of backwater California, 200 miles or more from the nearest Starbucks. The accused, a bully, probably also had her admirers, perhaps even as many friends as tattoos.
The universe of this chaos is small, 35 members of a federally recognized tribe in and around Alturas and Cedarville, California. Together they own a 26-acre reservation, a "rancheria" in local lingo.
Ms. Cherie Lash Rhoades was chief of the tribe until it fired her as the FBI investigated missing tribal funds, about $50,000.
Money. If it isn't sex, it is money, isn't it? Cherchez la femme or her man; that petering out, cherchez l'argent.
L'argent here is $1.1 million in one year, 2012. At its source, the figure is much higher, allowing for normal government overhead. First you -- and I mean you -- must earn it; the IRS must extract it from you; the money must be trundled from Treasury to the Department of the Interior to its Bureau of Indian Affairs and finally to whom ever handles the net tribal take -- the $1.1 million -- for 35 souls. All along the twisty route beady little eyes dart about as greedy little fingers dip and dip and dip.
Of course you just fingered your little calculator and said "wow!" That amounts to $31,428.57 per Paiute. Assuming they family-up at roughly the national all-races average, you multiply by 3-plus for something like $95,000-plus per family. They could afford a Starbucks and professional aromatherapists.
This is not totally fair. The AP reports that about half the money goes for roads.
Or maybe it is. The little tribe also gets a few dollars from the Indian-casino industry, a federally protected activity. There's income from cheap (because untaxed) smokes. One assumes that Jerry Brown's California also contributes, assuaging its guilt for what we did en route to our Manifest Destiny.
Guilt is justified to one degree or another, but as time passes it should moderate.* We White Eyes murdered our last Redskins in job-lot quantities more than 124 years ago, on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek. We killed about 150, many or most with Hotchkiss guns, a weapon notorious for non-discrimination among braves, little old grandmas, and babes-in-arms.
But over that five or six generations, amends have been made, or attempted, however misguided and inept. The results are mixed, at best, and on average probably well illustrated by the grief among the 31 surviving Paiutes of Alturas, a grief rooted in the outcome of condeming a race to permanent wardship.
I wonder what would happen if we decided to end it over next two generations with what once was fashionably called "tough love."
"Here is the school. It's free. It is your gateway to the pride of self-sufficiency. Don't fuck it up."
Humility requires a qualification of everything above. Maybe the killer was just crazy as Hell and would have run amok in any society in which she found herself.
And finally, it might be suggested that she would have created less tragedy had she been confronted with counterforce the second she displayed one of her two pistols. Unfortunately it happened in California where practical counterforce is reckoned to be calling the cleanup service, available through 911.
*If not, I am personally entitled to vast sums from Her Majesty's exchequer in recompense for my family's Annaly estates, stolen at gunpoint by English thugs c. 1400-1700.