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Mandatory Blanket Passports in the Old West

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 17 Aug 2022

Most people don't know that in the Old West, The U.N. and New World Health Organization distributed free blankets to the Native populations of the Western Territories.  Touting a forced, disingenuous interest in the "BIPOC" communities of the day, wealthy, godlike elitists from New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland gave thousands of free blankets to tribes of Navajo, Apache, Tooti, Fruti, and Paiute Indians throughout the Western Territories.  The fact that these blankets were infected with smallpox, tuberculosis, and AIDS was either unknown to the authorities, or ignored by them.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of indigent, indigenous peoples were destroyed.  Fortunately, because of their blankets, none of them were cold when they died.

The pandemic of cold-ness was such that it was impossible to get a job, even as a privileged white man, without a blanket passport.  In this scene from the 1995 documentary Dead Man, a privileged administrator denies a fellow privileged white man a job, because it's illegal to hire him.  The protagonist, played by none other than Johnny Depp, even produces a blanket passport for the man, but is laughed out of the office at gunpoint by the entire administrative staff.  Here's the look of indignant, incredulous consternation on the face of the qualified applicant:


And here's the officious, dismissive administrator, denying him the position for manufactured medical reasons:


I'm not going to get into the whole story about how the protagonist, a reincarnated manifestation of the 12-Century English farmer and St. Vitus Dance enthusiast William Blake, finds peace and/or justice in the midst of a world gone haywire with prejudice, power, hatred, and disease, but I do want to focus on one particularly interesting scene.

In it, William Blake approaches a tent run by the New World Health Organization for the purposes of buying tobacco and ammunition.  He has been found guilty of murder at this point, and is on the run.  The trumped-up charge against him is that he is not only white (which is bad enough), but has also lost his blanket passport, and is therefore guilty of murder.  In the meantime, William Blake has befriended a BIPOC Indian named "Nobody," who has become his BFF, proving that he is not a racist.  Mostly, he's just happy he finally found someone in this sprawling, cultureless wilderness full of dead Soundcloud rappers and mainstream country music fans who appreciates his poetry.  After smoking weed and taking psychedelic drugs around a campfire together, William Blake and Nobody stake out a NWHO free blanket tent, making sure there are no blanket zombies around, before they come out from their hiding place and enter the dangerously-civilized death trap for the procurement of tobacco and ammunition.

Here they are, hanging out on the hill:


And here's Nobody, posing for a picture for William Blake, who has to please stop scrolling through his Instagram already, so we can get this over with:


Even though Nobody is obviously annoyed, this is still a totally classic moment from William's feed.  He had to use a tripod to take this next pic, though, which depicts the interracial besties approaching the death tent with precaution.


In this anachronistic daguerreotype, William Blake marvels at the introduction of color into the photographic process:


Jim Jarmusch decided not to include the scene in the final cut, but at this point William Blake regales Nobody with the details of daguerreotype production, which are as follows:

To make the image, a daguerreotypist polished a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish; treated it with fumes that made its surface light-sensitive; exposed it in a camera for as long as was judged to be necessary, which could be as little as a few seconds for brightly sunlit subjects or much longer with less intense lighting; made the resulting latent image on it visible by fuming it with mercury vapor; removed its sensitivity to light by liquid chemical treatment; rinsed and dried it; and then sealed the easily marred result behind glass in a protective enclosure.

In spite of an almost-total lack of interest in or comprehension of the tedious, boring subject, Nobody listens patiently, out of respect for his friend.  Like color daguerreotypes, Soyface hadn't been invented yet either, and it didn't occur to either of them to smile like a Muppet for this pic of William making a closer inspection of the anachronistic poster:


With all requisite social-media levity now behind them, so that everybody knows they have a life, William and Nobody finally enter the diseased establishment for ammunition and tobacco.  Unfortunately, the proprietor turns out to be another overzealous blanket zombie, and tries to force both William and Nobody to take a blanket at gunpoint:


I don't want to ruin the scene for you, but the proprietor fails spectacularly.  In fact, William and Nobody are forced to kill him, so that they may escape the temporary blanket center with their lives.

The Old West was a dangerous place.  I won't spoil the ending for you, suffice it to say, it's beautiful.  William and Nobody created the bloodsoaked, psychedelic template for interracial friendship.  Though he starts the film full of white hate, and insults the intelligence of his friend to his face, blaming this perceived ignorance on the lack of pigment in William's skin, in the end, Nobody lays down his life for him, and risks much to ensure his friend has a proper send-off.  And though William Blake is an archetypal normie in a clown suit at the beginning of the film, by the time it's all over he becomes a veritable knight in psychedelic face paint, and does much to further the cause of personal freedom.  Not because he wanted to, but because the blanket zombies wouldn't let him participate in their society in any other way.

It's a lesson we would all do well to reconsider today.

Thanks for listening.


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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket.


Replacing my blog at

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