The following notes were
made after viewing a TV special entitled “THE WEST”.
It was excellent and very informative.
The presentation was a panorama of history extending from the arrival of North America’s first settlers, presumably the Indians based upon current research, and depicting the humanity - and inhumanity - of them and of all the later arrivals through the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Eastern colonists and the European immigrants.
Indeed, the inhumanity perpetrated by each succeeding group on their predecessors rose at times to a level of genocide no less heinous than the most recent examples in Hitler’s Germany and in “modern”Africa.
As the plight and fate of the American Indians unfolded before the irresistible force of Western expansion, this viewer wondered whether there was any glory left to the story of the West after the exploits of Lewis and Clark. The story - as told mainly from the viewpoint of the Indian - is tragic, depressing and shameful. It appears that events were played out in the absence of active direction or even passive acquiescence from Washington. The country’s leadership seemed itself to be an impotent spectator.
Toward the end of the twelve hour series, and before reaching for the Prozak, I found myself wondering whether it had to have been that way. Did the American Indians have to be nearly annihilated for this country to achieve its Manifest Destiny? Could they have seen the inevitable sooner and thereby adopted and integrated into the most recent new dominant culture, as some of their successful ancestors had done and as did all the successful immigrants to this melting pot? The U.S. Government did attempt to promote that through an Indian version of the Homestead Act. And Christian missionaries, although autocratic, cruel and rigid, did try to provide Indian children with the upbringing, educational and spiritual tools needed to enter the White Man’s society. But probably the attempt was made too late, after a long series of damnable broken promises had shattered all basis for trust on the part of the Indians toward the White Man. What a shame. What a waste of a noble People.
Is there a lesson here for present-day America? If so, it is not to be found in the demonization of Christopher Columbus, or in the clamor for “reparations” for slavery - reparations paid in the Civil War. Rather, I suggest that those groups within the larger African-American and Hispanic minorities who have been resisting the honest desire and efforts of the “White Man” to absorb and integrate them into mainstream society - as continues to take place successfully with most immigrants and ethnic groups, may pause thoughtfully before the history of the West. Marginalization and permanent second-class status would be just as tragic, and totally avoidable.
Especially after the events
of September 11, let’s stop with the “hyphenated Americans”. We’re
all Americans, some of us lucky to be able to draw also upon another heritage
as well for identity and strength. The enemy is not within, but out
there. And we are no longer victims, by-standers, hostages...we are
Let’s do our duty, each in our own personal way.
Villain, Human Being Extraordinaire
SOURCE: Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1968 Ed.
Thus, Christopher Columbus was a great seaman, a great navigator, a great Admiral, a fine organizer and businessman, a poor administrator, a faulted man of his age. He did what he did - and did it first - by virtue of extensive readings, broad professional experience on the seas from the age of 14, keen observation and deduction, (including regarding the flotsam he noted on the waters around the Madeira Islands, where he lived for a time with his family). His was a discovery about to be made by any other good seaman with his ability and drive - it was inevitable. And it led directly to what we call “the modern world”, with all its good and evil.
On balance, he is and should be one of the giants of history, much more for good than bad. That the “Native Americans” (besides us, children of immigrants born in America) should consider their “discovery” one of the low points of their history is understandable. But that history began with Adam and Eve and is still unfolding. It is not history that is good or bad - history merely is. it is human nature that is good and bad; and we are all a part of that. let’s celebrate it whenever we can, each in our own ways