It was a hope born of desperation. After centuries of valiant resistance, the native peoples saw that their way of life was doomed. Bows and arrows were no match for guns and cannons. The immigrants had conquered their lands. Despair hovered about the native peoples like the ubiquitous smoke of the campfires that warmed their chilled bodies and roasted the meager rations doled out by their conquerors.
Wovoka and the Ghost Dance
Gradually at first, the new hope began to circulate. It began with Wovoka—Jack Wilson to his white acquaintances—a Northern Paiute from the nation’s southwest. Wovoka taught that if native peoples would dance the ghost dance and sing the accompanying songs, those conquering immigrants would be removed from the native people’s lands.
As the ghost-dance movement spread to other tribes, new elements were added, including ghost shirts that were believed to protect their wearers from the immigrant conquerors’ bullets.
Slaughter at Wounded Knee
Fearful of a native uprising, the immigrant conquerors cracked down on the subjugated natives. Tensions grew. Then, on December 29, 1890, a misunderstanding led to a struggle over a rifle, which led to an accidental discharge of that rifle, which led to the slaughter of between 250 and 300 Lakota Sioux men, women, and children. At Wounded Knee, South Dakota, ghost shirts provided no protection from the immigrant conquerors’ bullets.
One hundred thirty years after the Wounded Knee massacre, many of the offspring of those immigrant conquerors—having elected as their leader a man who promised to keep immigrants from overrunning their land—don, literally or metaphorically, their version of ghost shirts: red caps with a white inscription—MAGA.
The New Immigrant Conquerors
The new immigrants just might be even more lethal and malevolent than the immigrant conquerors of old. This immigrant dominates not through brute force; it’s too small for that. This immigrant conquers through subtle infiltration. Since its arrival here just six months ago, it has already killed nearly 156,000 of the nation’s inhabitants. Bullets and bombs are inoperable against it. The best defense against it is not a magic ghost shirt, but a simple 40-cent face mask.
But instead of choosing the simple, inexpensive defense against this new immigrant conqueror, many of the old immigrant conquerors’ offspring choose to wear the new equivalent of the ghost shirt—the MAGA hat, which represents unwavering faith in their protector-in-chief.
The protector-in-chief for months told his devoted followers they need not wear masks. He told them the invaders would magically disappear soon. He told his followers that he and his fellow “leaders” had everything in control; they need not worry. So those followers went out each day wearing—literally or metaphorically—their MAGA hats and no face masks, confident that their faith in their protector would shield them from the new immigrant conqueror.
The protector-in-chief called his faithful followers to gather in close quarters at rallies, to chant and to recite hollow, superstitious platitudes. Meanwhile, the new immigrant conquerors were in their midst, unseen but not unproductive.
New Failed Beliefs
Now, thousands of those followers are dead. Perhaps a few among the living followers have begun to question their protector-in-chief. But the true believers remain faithfully steadfast, even as their neighbors die and their nation reels.
Native Americans’ ghost dance and ghost shirts symbolized the demise of native culture and the dominance of their immigrant conquerors.
Current Americans’ MAGA hats and MAGA rallies symbolize the demise of rational humanity and the dominance of a microscopic, non-sentient virus’s dominance over sentient-but-irrational beings who’ve chosen modern-day ghost shirts as their defense against the new conquering immigrants.