Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Historical Perspective - The Birth of America vs Death of a Civilization

My bucket list includes reading at least one book about every U.S. President.  I now am reading a book covering President James Monroe. 

My initial reading of the first four Presidents, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison came away with consistent thoughts regarding that period of time in these United States of America.  These Presidents were all leaders of a “country” that systematically over ran those who were already settled in this country, that being Native Americans.  All of these Presidents were aware of the nature of the “settlement” in America.  The settlers would gain, and those who already were here would lose.  Through conflict and death there would be gainers and losers.  Those who came to America from Europe were not going to return to whence they came.  They were going to attempt to settle here regardless of who was already here.  Native Americans became just an obstacle for them to overcome.

There does not seem much Christian thought to the impact settlers were having on a civilization that had already been here.  Whether or not that civilization was thought as being not as “advanced” as the European settlers should not have been justification to systematically destroy an entire civilization.  If you come to a place and find someone already there, does that entitle you (because you believe you are superior) to take over their land?  The background to the development of the United States of America is certainly filled with paradoxes.  Annihilation of the Native American civilization and the enslaving of African Americans in the new world to help build the new country being taken from Native Americans!  We stand and sing the national anthem not thinking of the suffering of the original people in this country and those forcefully brought to this country.  Simple acknowledgement of what happened seems overdue.  It would not be an admission of injustices.  But instead just an acknowledgement that this country was not developed under all honorable conditions.  There is nothing wrong with being imperfect.  It is the human condition.  Being able to acknowledge that imperfection shows a greater depth of a nation’s conscious.  Admitting for all to know that our origin did come from some mistakes, but we have overcome the mistakes of the past.  Or have we?

Has the government of the United States ever apologized to the descendants of Native Americans for the behavior that disrespected the Native American population when settlers came to this land? 

In the books on the Presidents, I’ve come across chapters discussing the western land holdings of Presidents Washington and Monroe.  It made me think, who gave settlers the right to claim possession of and own land that was already inhabited by Native Americans?  There is some element of arrogance in “settlers” taking ownership of land that was already inhabited by someone else.  It appears to be an element of early arrogance and an assumed entitlement that continues today.

Maybe if you don’t think about the origins of this country the guilt isn’t felt.  But when you truly pause to think about how the United States originated, there doesn’t seem to be a true essence of it being an honorable development.  Now in today’s United States environment, immigration reform is a major item.  Many people are worried about immigration policies.  Maybe some people truly understand the lessons learned from the immigration of Europeans to America many years ago.

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