"The Lakotah had no language for insulting other orders of existence: pest, waste, weed ..."
But what about "bugsplat"?
That's the word for the cop at UC Davis, walking up and down the line of students sitting with their arms locked, zapping them in the eyes with pepper spray. It's the word for the Tunisian police and bureaucrats who humiliated Mohamed Bouazizi and destroyed his livelihood as a street vendor. It's the word for anyone whose power exceeds his humanity.
And, according to a 2003 Washington Post story, it's the name of a Defense Department computer program for calculating collateral damage, as well as, apparently, casual terminology among Pentagon operation planners and the like to refer to the collateral damage itself ... you know, the dead civilians. CIA drone operators talk about bugsplat. The British organization Reprieve calls its effort to track the number of people killed by U.S. drone strikes — in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen — Project Bugsplat.
It's a term I've only recently come across, but I can't get it out of my head. The only way I know how to begin thinking about it is to quote that passage from Rupert Ross' extraordinary book about Native American wisdom, "Returning to the Teachings," and contemplate the idea of a people who have "no language for insulting other orders of existence." Such a thought, it seems to me, is worth sitting with for a while, especially as we read or listen to the news and behold the daily unfolding of our casual disrespect for every order of existence, including our own.