Thursday, October 11, 2007

Heap Big Bias

In an exchange at Vox's blog, the subject of American Indians arose, followed by some very one-sided commentary. This from a poster named Deganawidah:

Slavery, land grabs, starvation, disease, outright slaughter, villages and towns burned to the ground. Whole entire populations of civilizations wiped out.

All for the good ( greed ) of Western Europeans.

The only reason the Indians are still around is due to the need for slaves, the resilience of those who managed to escape, evade and survive, those who where helped by Europeans who understood the atrocities being committed (Roger Williams, Helen Hunt Jackson, John Marshall.. to name but a few.) those who rose up where wiped out.

When there where not enough Indian slaves to fill the European/ American quotas, they where replaced with African and Haitian.

Calling this simplistic and unbalanced doesn't even begin to cover it. First, his initial paragraph mostly applies to the "noble" savages, as well, regarding their treatment of whites. They enslaved, stole land, violated treaties, raped, slaughtered with impunity, and wiped out--or attempted to destroy--entire settlements. Interesting that we hear nary a peep about this uncomfortable fact. Some Indians also practiced ritualistic cannibalism. I remember one lurid story I found in a book about the early colonization of America, in which two missionaries to the Indians (Iroquois) were rewarded for their efforts by being cooked in a giant kettle and eaten. I sure hope they used tenderizer.

As for the greed aspects of the White Devil's behavior, how would you react if someone murdered your wife and children, mutilated their bodies, burned your house to the ground, and stole your livestock? I dare say you wouldn't scamper to sign up for the "Hug an Injun" brigade. The point is that, all too often, greed played zero part in the equation. Sometimes it was simple survival, or revenge, to which all humans have the potential to succumb. Blanket condemnations of whites as greedy is as much a smear as denouncing all Indians as murdering subhumans.

The majority of Indians never lived under conditions of enslavement. I have no idea where the hogwash came from about replacing Indians with Africans when the Indian quotas weren't filled. Africans always served as the principle slaves in this country, having come here with their white masters in the very beginning of the continent's colonization.

This isn't a defense of white-perpetrated atrocities; it's an attempt at balancing the equation with facts. Neither side behaved like Mother Theresa. Both revealed goodness and villainy. Both alternated in comporting themselves with honor and underhanded wretchedness. The truth is nowhere near as stark and simple as some would have you believe.

Deganawidah continued:

This was not a couple of decades and a 90 percent disease wipe out, it was four hundred years of pillaging, raping, war, enslaving and Genocide by Europeans.

I think he's confused about the meaning of "genocide." Here's a definition from

the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.

I'm not aware of any widespread examples of this amongst Indians and whites in the U.S. There is nothing comparable to the Holocaust in American Indian-White Devil relations. Isolated events in which vile individuals introduced disease-ridden blankets into Indian populations were a sad fact; but that's a far cry from meeting the rigid definition above. The white settlers vastly outnumbered the Indian tribes after a certain point in American history. They also harbored much greater technology and a superior culture. Had complete eradication of the Indians been a real goal, vigorously pursued, the pioneers and American military would have accomplished it. Giving people large tracts of land (reservations), upon which they draft their own laws and elect their own rulers, is not an act of the genocidal.

I loathe political correctness and have no interest in denouncing whitey as the Great Satan of human history. I'm sick of it. It's neither true nor fair. I'll take the ugly, discombobulating truth over sugar-coated twaddle any day of the week.

Championing someone because he is an underdog is as morally myopic as "might-makes-right" arguments. Underdog status doesn't automatically confer moral superiority on an individual or group. It's an attitude from which we should distance ourselves. Extended to world politics, it partly explains why the shortsighted laud evil, death-loving cultures like that of the "Palestinians," while villifying much more humane entities--such as the state of Israel--in the loudest and harshest terms possible.

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