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Green corn / black corn

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The dying corn images in "Twin Peaks: The Return"
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The iconic scene in the 1989 film Field of Dreams involves a man (Kevin Costner) building a baseball field out of an Iowa cornfield. It’s a little hokey and certainly all-American in its content and context.

Many movies have utilized the image of the green cornfield as a symbol of fertility, abundance and promise. Vice-president Mike Pence of Indiana has noted how he is just a guy who "grew up in a cornfield," accompanied by an "aw shucks" manner and an unspoken love of Mom, baseball and apple pie - or is that cherry pie?

But as I noted in my “Maize/maze” Dust Devil Dreams post a few years ago, corn symbolism also has a dark side (and comes up in dreams, my friends, in eerie ways, as it did, right before my 42nd birthday) and is currently being highlighted in Twin Peaks: The Return, specifically with Native American police officer Chief Deputy Tommy “Hawk” Hill, played by Native actor Michael Horse. 

Corn, of course, has long been an important crop to Native American tribes for centuries.

In episode 11 of Twin Peaks: The Return, Hawk and Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster) look at an old Native American map (made by Horse, who is also a noted artist) of the area where the town of Twin Peaks, Washington is now located.

As Andy Kelly recounts: “Hawk describes the map as a ‘living thing’ that’s always up to date, and points out several icons to Truman. There’s black corn, which symbolizes death, and a fire he likens to electricity, which can be good or evil depending on who wields it. We know abstractly that Lodge spirits are connected to electricity somehow, but this makes it explicit.”

Hawk notes the combining of the dying or black corn and the fire - and how that is very bad. It reminded me of the storyline in the recent Disney film Moana, where - due to the actions of a trickster god - the Earth mother is dying and the crops on the island where Moana lives are turning black and dying. Ever since seeing that film, I sense that there is some not-so-subtle commentary taking place on what the American military did to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific after years of testing nuclear bombs on their islands. 

CORN IN VIEW

And so, on a recent drive back from Florida, I noticed, once I crossed the Mississippi River into Louisiana field after field of corn, all the way up into Arkansas. But the fields were brown and dying - or, should I say, drying. Clearly, the corn crop was wide and vast and a critical part of our agricultural economy.

In a recent interview with Collider.com, Horse says his character, as a Native American, “knows what’s going on.”

I think that is one of the many reasons Hawk is one of my favorite Twin Peaks characters. He is tuned in. So tuned in and intuitive, in fact, that Horse told Twin Peaks fan and writer Brad Dukes during an interview that he sensed an evil presence on the set during the filming of the scene where Leland Palmer dies in the jail cell in the original 1990-91 series.

Said Horse to Collider: “I think of it as, “How does Hawk feel about this?” Hawk knows that there’s more. He’s one of the very few people in the Twin Peaks world that really knows the levels of what’s going on. He knows the past, he knows the dimensions, he knows the evil that exists in the human condition, and he’s not afraid of the future. As indigenous people, our future has been so tampered with and stepped on, but we still survive. We’re still here and we’re growing. We have an acceptance of the future.”

I start out with that, I guess, to say that corn has played a major role in American life since our founding, with that first Thanksgiving. 

But corn has been twisted in our modern, Atomic Age world. With high-fructose corn syrup (read my 2009 review of the documentary King Corn), the Marshallese, who grew and consumed healthy crops on their atolls for generations, are now unhealthy, in many respects, not only from radiation exposure but the processed, corn-laden food we gave them and continue to give them.

Today happens to be the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma’s Green Corn Rebellion (which kicked off in Seminole County on Aug. 2, 1917), a name chosen, in part because this week is traditionally when the August Green Corn Moon (the Full Sturgeon Moon, as known by tribes along the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain) appears and the Green Corn Ceremonies celebrated by Oklahoma tribes including the Seminoles, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek and Cherokee, as well as the Iroquois of areas further north, are observed.

This observation includes feasting, fasting, dancing and religious activities.

This ongoing "corn theme" is one I will continue paying attention to and highlighting, as we move forward in these uncertain times.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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