• Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
  • Derrick Rose

If you ask me, people who wait for the messiah aren’t making the best use of their time. Messiahs dawdle. They show up late or not at all. They don’t care how long you cool your heels. And if and when they finally drop by, they don’t fix what they’re supposed to fix.

Beckett nailed it in Waiting for Godot. But I also want to point to “The Song of the Messiah,” John G. Neihardt‘s epic poem about Wovoka, a shaman who at the close of the Indian wars persuaded the subjugated Lakota Sioux that if they performed a circular dance known as the Ghost Dance, the white man would soon go away and the buffalo reappear. The Lakota were desperate enough to take this self-styled messiah at his word; the Ghost Dance soon spread from tribe to tribe. U.S. soldiers who didn’t know what to make of the strange and ominous dancing became apprehensive, and tensions built. The outcome to the high expectations of the Lakota was the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.