Monday, September 24, 2007
Reject the Lie of White Mass Murders ("Genocide") Against Native Americans
By Michael Medved
Few opinions I've expressed on air have produced a more indignant, outraged reaction than my repeated insistence that the word "genocide" in no way fits as a description of the treatment of Native Americans by British colonists or, later, American settlers.
I've never denied that the 400 year history of American contact with the Indians includes many examples of white cruelty and viciousness --- just as the Native Americans frequently (indeed, regularly) dealt with the European newcomers with monstrous brutality and, indeed, savagery. In fact, reading the history of the relationship between British settlers and Native Americans its obvious that the blood-thirsty excesses of one group provoked blood thirsty excesses from the other, in a cycle that listed with scant interruption for several hundred years
But none of the warfare (including an Indian attack in 1675 that succeeded in butchering a full one-fourth of the white population of Connecticut, and claimed additional thousands of casualties throughout New England) on either side amounted to genocide.
Colonial and, later, the American government, never endorsed or practiced a policy of Indian extermination; rather, the official leaders of white society tried to restrain some of their settlers and militias and paramilitary groups from unnecessary conflict and brutality.
Moreover, the real decimation of Indian populations had nothing to do with massacres or military actions, but rather stemmed from infectious diseases that white settlers brought with them at the time they first arrived in the New World.
UCLA professor Jared Diamond, author of the universally acclaimed bestseller "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies," writes:
"Throughout the Americas, diseases introduced with Europeans spread from tribe to tribe far in advance of the Europeans themselves, killing an estimated 95 percent of the pre-Columbian Native American population. The most populous and highly organized native societies of North America, the Mississippian chiefdoms, disappeared in that way between 1492 and the late 1600's, even before Europeans themselves made their first settlement on the Mississippi River
"The main killers were Old World germs to which Indians had never been exposed, and against which they therefore had neither immune nor genetic resistance. Smallpox, measles, influenza, and typhus rank top among the killers." .
"As for the most advanced native societies of North America, those of the U.S. Southeast and the Mississippi River system, their destruction was accomplished largely by germs alone, introduced by early European explorers and advancing ahead of them"
Obviously, the decimation of native population by European germs represents an enormous tragedy, but in no sense does it represent a crime. Stories of deliberate infection by passing along "small-pox blankets" are based exclusively on two letters from British soldiers in 1763, at the end of the bitter and bloody French and Indian War. By that time, Indian populations (including those in the area) had already been terribly impacted by smallpox, and there's no evidence of a particularly devastating outbreak as a result of British policy.
For the most part, Indians were infected by devastating diseases even before they made direct contact with Europeans: other Indians who had already been exposed to the germs, carried them with them to virtually every corner of North America and many British explorers and settlers found empty, abandoned villages (as did the Pilgrims) and greatly reduced populations when they first arrived.
Sympathy for Native Americans and admiration for their cultures in no way requires a belief in European or American genocide. As Jared Diamond's book (and countless others) makes clear, the mass migration of Europeans to the New World and the rapid displacement and replacement of Native populations is hardly a unique interchange in human history. On six continents, such shifting populations – with countless cruel invasions and occupations and social destructions and replacements - have been the rule rather than the exception.
The notion that unique viciousness to Native Americans represents our "original sin" fails to put European contact with these struggling Stone Age societies in any context whatever, and only serves the purposes of those who want to foster inappropriate guilt, uncertainty and shame in young Americans.
A nation ashamed of its past will fear its future.
One of the most urgent needs in culture and education for the United States of America is discarding the stupid, groundless and anti-American lies that characterize contemporary political correctness.
The right place to begin is to confront, resist and reject the all-too-common line that our rightly admired forebears involved themselves in genocide.
I added some piece of History to his column.
The early colonists and settlers can hardly qualify as perfect but describing them in Hitlerian, mass-murdering terms represents an act of brain-dead defamation.
Microbes had an impact on history in the Americas as well. The Caribbean island of Hispaniola had more than a million inhabitants when Christopher Columbus landed there in 1492. Within twenty years, more than a third of the population was dead. Some died at the hands of cruel Spanish masters, others starved to death, but the majority of native islanders died from an epidemic disease they had never seen before—smallpox.
Breathing in the invisible virus particles from an infected person's sneeze or cough spread the smallpox virus from person to person. A week after inhaling these particles, an infected person came down with a high fever, body aches, a headache, and chills. Soon the victim broke out in a flame-red rash that grew fiery, raised, and blistered. These sores or pustules gave the virus its name, variola, derived from the Latin word for spotted. A person who survived might have scars or be permanently blinded. More severe cases that attacked the internal organs resulted in death. This devastating disease spread quickly through a population that had no resistance.
The same thing happened when Hernán Cortés invaded the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, where he and his soldiers were soundly defeated by the Aztec army. But as the Spaniards fled, they unwittingly left behind a time bomb in the form of a dead Spanish soldier infected with smallpox. Within weeks, the entire capital was under siege by the smallpox virus, which killed one-fourth of the city's inhabitants. According to one Spanish priest, "In many places it happened that everyone in a house died and, as it was impossible to bury the great number of dead, they pulled down the houses over them so that their homes became their tombs."
The smallpox epidemic spread throughout Mexico and helped the Spaniards defeat the Inca Empire as well. Without the help of the deadly smallpox virus and other epidemics, the Europeans might not have so easily conquered the New World. Smallpox also traveled to Brazil with the Portuguese, killing tens of thousands of Indians there, and marched north to North America with the British, French, and Danish explorers, wiping out scores of Native American villages and entire tribes. The terror was universal. According to one French missionary stationed in Canada, "The contagion increased as autumn advanced; and when winter came … its ravages were appalling. The season of Huron festivity was turned to a season of mourning."
Other infectious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses may not have had such a profound effect on the world order as the bubonic plague and smallpox, but they also weakened armies, wiped out villages, attacked the poor, and cast blame on those who were different.
It is impossible for the human tongue to recount the awful truth… . The victims died almost immediately. They would swell beneath the armpits and in the groin and fall over while talking. Father abandoned child, wife husband, one brother another; for this illness seemed to strike through breath and sight… . In many places … great pits were dug and piled deep with the multitude of dead. And they died by the hundreds, both day and night