It is as predictable as the annual September collapse of the Chicago Cubs. Every single holiday in which we seek to celebrate what is good and decent about this country and contemplate all that we should treasure and be thankful for, some lickspittle lefty feels an obligation to point out that we should take the ceremonial sword and open up our midsection to atone for all of the past sins committed by our ancestors.
The fact that our “liberal conscience” has the historical knowledge and cognitive abilities of a high school sophomore doesn’t seem to faze the mainstream media who always seem to find room on the editorial pages for their juvenile diatribes. It is just one more example of the disconnect demonstrated by the dissonant left and their childish need for attention.
The holiday of Thanksgiving seems to bring out the worst in these galoots. If we’re not reading about the inequities of capitalism which has ground millions of our fellow citizens under its jackboot, we’re doing the slow burn over some idiot’s interpretation of the historical baggage accrued to the cultural conflict between whites and Native Americans. Sometimes, like this year. we get a twofer.
One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.(HT: Michelle Malkin)
That the world’s great powers achieved “greatness” through criminal brutality on a grand scale is not news, of course. That those same societies are reluctant to highlight this history of barbarism also is predictable.
But in the United States, this reluctance to acknowledge our original sin—the genocide of indigenous people—is of special importance today. It’s now routine—even among conservative commentators—to describe the United States as an empire, so long as everyone understands we are an inherently benevolent one. Because all our history contradicts that claim, history must be twisted and tortured to serve the purposes of the powerful.
This excreable screed, penned by one Robert Jensen who purports to be a professor of journalism, should probably be dismissed as the ravings of an escapee from some lunatic asylum or perhaps the latest statement issued from the Democratic National Committee (some would argue the differences there are insignificant). Nevertheless, a cursory Technorati search revealed the fact that no one has taken the time or effort to contradict this moonbat’s flawed historical interpretation not to mention the outright falsehoods contained in his not-ready-for-high-school essay.
If it’s not too much to ask, can we please not have any more judgments from the left about “moral progress” or the lack thereof made by the United States over the past 200 years or so? The fact is that agitation for both fair and humane engagement of Native Americans as well as the abolitionist movement were both propelled by the most profound religious conservatism in our nation’s history. As historian James Brewer Stewart points out, it was the Second Great Awakening (the first occurring during the early colonial period) that was the catalyst for reformist movements of all stripes:
By stressing the moral imperative to end sinful practices and each person’s responsibility to uphold God’s will in society, preachers like Lyman Beecher, Nathaniel Taylor, and Charles G. Finney in what came to be called the Second Great Awakening led massive religious revivals in the 1820s that gave a major impetus to the later emergence of abolitionism as well as to such other reforming crusades as temperance, pacifism, and women’s rights. By the early 1830s, Theodore D. Weld, William Lloyd Garrison, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, and Elizur Wright, Jr., all spiritually nourished by revivalism, had taken up the cause of “immediate emancipation.”
This basic Christian belief in the value and dignity of every human being that to this day animates religious conservatives has suffered through a revisionism that would make Clio, the Muse of History, weep with anger. While it is true that some Southern preachers took it upon themselves to try and justify slavery via the bible – even to the point that it permanently split many Protestant denominations – the facts are that conservative revivalism played a dominant role in both the abolitionist movement and the efforts to reform government policies toward Native Americans.
Make no mistake. The United States government has much to answer for in its dealings with Native Americans. But a point not answered by Mr. Jensen or any other advocate for the historical revisionism that passes for a critique of the government’s Indian policy is the realization that every single time in the history of human civilization a society that possessed nastier germs, superior organizational skills, and more devastating weaponry came into contact with hunter gatherers, very bad things happened to the berry eaters.
In his controversial Pulitzter Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, author Jared Diamond asks the question why were the Europeans able to sail across the ocean and conquer (or subdue) Native American tribes in the Americas and not the other way around? The answer, according to Diamond was no inherent inferiority on the part of Native Americans but rather factors relating to the environment such as the flora and fauna that flourished on the Eurasian continent versus the Americas. That, plus the ease of idea diffusion that allowed innovations such as large scale agriculture to sweep across Eurasia with breathtaking speed (historically speaking) as opposed to the problems presented by the geography of the Americas that prevented agriculture from moving much beyond the Incans in South America and the Aztecs in North America until less than 500 years before Columbus’ voyage.
Diamond points out that the more than 3,000 year headstart Europeans had in organizing a civilization based on agriculture was more than enough time to develop superior technologies as well as allow for the mutation of some really nasty bugs so that the contact between indigenous peoples and Europeans was guaranteed to be a catastrophe.
This is true not only of recent history with Europeans subjugating North and South America, but also of the most ancient histories of which we are aware. The Celtic people who colonized much of Europe did not enounter pristine wilderness untouched by the hand of man. They overran much of continental Europe 500 years before the birth of Christ, enjoying the distinction of sacking both Rome and Delphi. And the remnants of their culture was eliminated over the years by a host of conquerers including the Romans and the Saxons.
I daresay there aren’t too many lefties agitating for the return of Ireland and England to the descendants of the Druids.
And while we’re at it, I might point out that recent archeological evidence has pointed to several migrations of peoples from Asia to North America with the last occurring approximately 8,000 years ago.
Anyone wanna guess what happened to those indigenous people before the people we refer to as indigenous actually became “indigenous?”
Mr. Jensen then makes the usual mistake of assuming that since very few choose to feel the kind of personal guilt that he is able to absolve himself of thanks to his humble mea culpa, that the reason must be something sinister; that American history is hidden away in a closet guarded by CIA agents 24 hours a day:
One vehicle for taming history is various patriotic holidays, with Thanksgiving at the heart of U.S. myth-building. From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.
Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it’s also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.
Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.
For every pronouncement made by a politician or government official calling for the elimination of Native Americans, I could point to sentiments expressing exactly the oppoiste viewpoint made by others or even that same individual. There is nothing in American life that brought out more schizophrenia – with the possible exception of slavery – than our relations to and feelings about Native Americans. Every American President from Washington to Theodore Roosevelt called for fair and humane treatment of Indians. The fact that they usually fell far short in putting that rhetoric into practice was due to a variety of factors not the least of which the nasty habit Native Americans had of massacring settlers (women and children included) and torturing captives in the most barbarous ways imaginable (even some ways beyond imagining).
If it were a simple matter of “pushing back” against white encroachment, such behavior could be understood if not excused. However, many Native American tribes eagerly insinuated themselves into the politics of empire being played out on the North American continent not by attacking armies but by killing innocents – a tactic guaranteed to bring down reprisals by governments and even individual settlers. Did they believe that their taking sides would grant them immunity from the anger and revenge of whites?
If Jensen wants to blame the entire white race for the tragedy that occurred during the clash of cultures with Native Americans, then I would simply quote that great line from the movie Gettysburg in which crusty Seargant Buster Killrean says “Any man who judges by the group is a peawit.” The kind of deterministic interpretation of history that allows for condemning an entire race of people for the actions of their ancestors – especially when that interpretation leaves out inconvenient facts and analysis – should be relegated with the rest of Marxian and Hegelian claptrap to the ash heap where it belongs.
And the idea that “between 95 and 99 percent” of Native Americans were the victims of genocide is laughable. Unless one wants to posit the notion that the smallpox virus should be hauled into the World Court and charged with crimes against humanity, Jensen’s idiotic statement should be revealed as either a bald faced lie or a comical lack of historical knowledge not to mention a breathtaking minimization of what genocide really is.
The overwhelming majority of Native American deaths following the landing of Columbus – perhaps as some have said in the 75-90% range – were the result of contracting some of the nastiest diseases on the planet for which the tribes had absolutely no immunity. Guenter Lewey:
About all this there is no essential disagreement. The most hideous enemy of native Americans was not the white man and his weaponry, concludes Alfred Crosby, “but the invisible killers which those men brought in their blood and breath.” It is thought that between 75 to 90 percent of all Indian deaths resulted from these killers.
And most of those deaths did not occur as a direct result of contact with whites but rather because of the remarkable trade network operating on the North American continent long before Columbus’ trip was even imagined.
Some tribes were trading empires whose geographic breadth put to shame just about anything Europe could offer. At the time that Marco Polo was writing about the marvels in far away China, Native American tribes in Michigan and Minnesota were trading copper for sea shells from both coasts. It was this far flung trading network that caused diseases like small pox, measles, influenza, whooping cough, diphtheria, typhus, bubonic plague, cholera, and scarlet fever to spread like wild fire among Indian populations, wiping out entire cultures that had existed for thousands of years in a matter of months.
By using the term “genocide” to describe what can only be termed a tragedy of history brands Jensen and his ilk as deliberate falsifiers. In order to make a political point, they are willing to eschew reason, logic, and history itself. And by applying the incendiary sin of “genocide” to Europeans who had no clue as to how disease was spread or even what a virus or a germ was – cheapens the actual genocide practiced against Jews, Armenians, and others whose deliberate murder was carried out for the expressed purpose of eliminating their seed from the planet.
After saying all of this, it is a legitimate question to ask just what the US government is guilty of when talking about the clash of cultures which resulted in so many needless deaths on both sides? Certainly the sins of ommission far outweigh those of commission. It was never officially United States policy to exterminate all Indians everywhere. There was throughout American history a belief that Indians would be better off if they acted like whites. In that sense, the worst one can say is that the US government wished to wipe traditional Native American culture off the map. Trying to turn hunter-gathering nomads into farmers was pure folly but it hardly qualifies as genocide.
Of course, the history of treaty violations by the government is rife with both perfidity on the part of government and a tragic misunderstanding of Native American tribal structure. There were numerous instances of the government signing a treaty with some tribal elements who would agree to cede land while other chiefs refused the terms of such treaties. The predictable outcome of such misunderstandings led to predations on both sides.
Yes, there is blood on the hands of the US government when it comes to their dealings with Native American tribes throughout our history. But is Moonbat Jensen correct? Is this reason enough to turn Thansgiving into some kind of New Age Tantric fast ritual where we drink guana juice and walk across hot coals to atone for our sins?
Mr. Jensen is free to do whatever he wants on Thanksgiving. But the idea of collective guilt is both morally and intellectually corrupt. It reveals a mind that substitutes platitudes for serious thinking and a jaw dropping ignorance of the facts. For this, the good professor should delve into a little atonement politics himself. To do so, however, one would need the ability for introspection, something that the professor and his ilk have proven that they have neither the temperment or the depth of intellect to practice.