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Douglas Turner: Trump's 'Pocahontas' slur is one more act of gross disrespect

Douglas Turner

WASHINGTON – Wish good luck to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, representing Native Americans and Canadians along the New York/Canadian border. They have asked President Trump for an apology.

They want this president of the United States to stop exploiting indigenous people, using them as props. The Mohawks were among those who protested Trump’s inviting a group of Navajo code talkers to the White House, then, with these Navajo heroes of World War II sitting beneath a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, taking the occasion to smear Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

With the lights turned up full and the room packed with White House staffers and visitors, Trump reached into his bottomless barrel of distractions to mention Warren’s controversial and unproven claim that she had Native American blood in her veins.

The gibe had nothing to do with the fact that these Navajos had saved thousands of American lives by using a code based on their language, which confounded the Japanese in the Western Pacific.

After Trump tossed out his code word for Warren – Pocahontas – the Navajos simply continued with their part in the awards ceremony in a most stoic and dignified way. What else could they do? What else can any of us do? The new normal is gross presidential disparagement, disrespect and perpetual chaos.

The noted the portrait of President Jackson had been recently installed by Trump. Jackson is scorned by Native Americans for forcing the resettlement of Cherokees and other Native Americans far from home at the point of a gun.

As for an apology, think of the decades it took the courts to force Trump to even acknowledge outright frauds. It took Trump 14 years to settle, for $25 million, with those victimized by his “Trump University” scheme, thanks to efforts by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and half a generation of lawyers for the State Education Department.

Trump’s pattern of half-truths, coverups and corporate cruelty appears to be a lifetime career of bait and switch. A federal district court judge for the Southern District of New York recently ordered the unveiling of the Trump organization’s sorry history dealing with the construction of Trump Tower.

Trump based his 2016 presidential campaign on opposition to illegal immigration, particularly by Mexicans and Arabs, meaning Muslims. The documents concerning Trump Tower were released as a result of freedom of information suits brought by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Time Inc.

As reported by the New York Times, the landmark Bonwit Teller Building had to be knocked down to provide the site for Trump Tower. The Trump organization through a series of back-door subcontracting arrangements hired 200 undocumented workers not from Mexico or Yemen, but from Poland.

Trump himself denied he knew the workers were undocumented. In the records unsealed by the federal judge, representatives of the Polish workers testified Trump frequented the demolition site.

The imported workers toiled for $4 an hour, or less, so the testimony went. They had no hard hats, masks or gloves, and worked 12-hour shifts with no overtime, often sleeping at the job site on the floor. The whole dispute with the workers’ claims took more than 35 years.

The unsealed documents revealed that the Trump organization had to settle – in 1998 – for $1.375 million, with most of it going for lawyers fees and payments to workers’ welfare funds.

So we now have a view of a workers’ paradise under Trump, and a foretaste of how this president will react to Republican plans to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, even perhaps Social Security.

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