Day 1 in my US History Class or More Crap we can thank the Christians for...

I started my U.S. History class today. I was a bit surprised to see that the first chapter has more of a focus on the Native American-African-European dynamic than I've come across before.

It also touches upon how religion was such a destructive force in Native-European relations. This quote particularly struck me "throughout Europe...freedom meant abandoning the life of sin to embrace the teachings of Christ. 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is,' declares the New Testament, 'there is liberty.' In this definition freedom and servitude were mutually reinforcing, not contradictory states..." One of the justifications for the atrocities committed against the Native inhabitants was that they were being liberated. By having Jesus forced on them.

Still, you've gotta love how much easier it was for them to claim that freedom is slavery, than to admit a fear of their wives liking some aspects of another culture. Matrilineal clans, property ownership, the ability to divorce, and pick who you fuck? No beggars??? I tell you, some days I don't really mind my own whiteness, but damn my European heritage is embarrassing.

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Comment by Creature on October 6, 2009 at 4:39pm
Allright, well thanks for clarifying Carver. :) Anyways, I think its time for this one to die.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on October 6, 2009 at 2:59pm
I don’t think I implied that because so many Native Americans died from European disease that it in any way justified or excused the European American’s treatment of the indigenous peoples. While they had no knowledge of germs or germ causes of disease, many saw the cause and effect between disease and its transmission to others. They also recognized the Native American’s susceptibility to disease, and there were those who used that understanding as a weapon and intentional practiced germ warfare.
My point was the European settlers had no understanding of the peoples that occupied this country before the European incursion and that ignorance, for the most part, has persisted until today.
Comment by Jo Jerome on October 5, 2009 at 2:32pm
I will say as a side note, Beck, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Dobbs ... while I don't feel ashamed to be White these guys get me pretty darn close.
Comment by Jason Spicer on October 5, 2009 at 12:15pm
The decimation of the native population of the Western Hemisphere by disease was pretty much inevitable, horrifying as it was. The only way it could have been avoided would have been for Europeans to not explore the West until after they had developed vaccines, especially for smallpox, and to jab everybody they met with a needle. That they didn't wait is regrettable. That they jabbed everybody they met with swords instead is despicable. That they jabbed everybody with swords because they thought their god compelled it was madness. It was a large scale application of "destroying the village in order to save it".

I didn't participate, so I'm not directly guilty. I certainly benefit indirectly from the European expansion at the expense of the locals, so it's hard to escape a twinge of guilt, but there's really not much I can do about it except to try to lead a decent life and not commit the same kinds of crimes my ancestors did.

Along those lines, the Europeans did eventually wake up and become more civilized, though that's a fits and starts effort, obviously. Still, when they had the technology and a bit more modern moral sense, they started doing things like the Balmis Expedition to eradicate smallpox in the Spanish colonies. The Wikipedia entry is fairly sparse, but I think of it as akin to the Apollo moon missions in vision, scope, and logistical difficulty, for its day. A medical triumph, supported by a Spanish king who gave a damn (not that he was perfect, by any stretch). If I recall, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel has a fuller account of the expedition, and is otherwise fascinating and well worth the read.
Comment by Jo Jerome on October 5, 2009 at 11:52am
I don't think there's any rule about expanding the thread (or in this case, letting the blog post about X lead to a conversation about Y). But I think I get what Creature is saying here.

Many of us got a very sugar-coated, whitewashed version of how the Europeans interacted with the Native peoples. History books focused on death by disease and natural disasters and internal tribal wars ... to divert our attention from the Anglo genocide.
Comment by Jo Jerome on October 5, 2009 at 10:52am
"Can any of you see how silly the "most of them got sick and died," thing sounds in context to my original post?"

*Raises hand* I can.

Yes, it's useful to point out that not all Native deaths were the result of Anglos committing genocide. Yes, Anglo diseases caused a massive amount of devastation which the Europeans couldn't have known about or done much about and didn't intend to bring over as a weapon.

But that doesn't change or even water down the fact that most (not all, but most) Europeans saw and treated the Native peoples as sub-human.

Including eventually using disease as a weapon. Back in grade school, our history books taught that a big reason the Europeans imported slaves from Africa rather than use the Native people here is the less-resistant-to-disease factor.

Christianity played a huge role - if not the biggest role - in that. When your religious doctrine condones slavery, speaks of you and yours as the chosen people destined to subdue and convert all others, combine that with the king-of-the-mountain, power-hungry, violence-thirsty mentality of the right people and the result is leaders who will commit the most horrendous of atrocities and a mob of followers willing to blindly play along.

It is something in our heritage to be ashamed of. Doesn't mean we have to be ashamed to be White/Euro/Anglo in general, but we certainly have the right to cringe at that bit of our nation's past.
Comment by Creature on October 4, 2009 at 5:54pm
Can any of you see how silly the "most of them got sick and died," thing sounds in context to my original post? The fact that any of them were enslaved, scalped for a bounty, massacred, relocated and their children taken to be indoctrinated is atrocious. It doesn't matter whether or not a majority died from illness.

But it's not really them that I was talking about. Whether or not they were peaceful or war like, rational or irrational has no bearing on how embarassing I find the freedom-equals-slavery-i'm-gonna-free-the-shit-out-of-you mind set people representing the west had.

Being embarassed by one aspect my my heritage does not mean that I am ashamed of or dislike the group as a whole. As I mentioned before, my facepalm reaction towards my parents talking about the apocalypse doesn't mean that I dislike them as people, or see nothing in them to be proud of.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on October 3, 2009 at 5:15pm
If you haven't read it pick up the book 1491 by Charles Mann. It is a well documented work, with an extensive bibliograpy. it paints an entirely different picture of Native America.
Comment by Creature on October 2, 2009 at 11:51pm
We have a copy of A People History sitting around, but I'll have to make sure to pick up the other book. Thanks dude. :)
Comment by Jo Jerome on October 2, 2009 at 4:53am
Interesting carver. Yet more fascinating (if horrifying) facts from modern medical science. It's also my understanding that genetically, most Native Americans have a higher propensity for alcoholism and less ability to metabolize alcohol. If you add that medical disadvantage to the social factors where alcohol follows oppression and depression ...

Really irks me when ignorant people go on about stereotyping 'drunk Indians.' Yes, a lot of people make their own alcoholism bed. But at the same time it's a disease - and one that has a lot to do with genetics.



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