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Thursday, November 28, 2013

More Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

May this be the time when we begin to "rebunk" all those views of the European settlement of the Americas. 


It's the opposite of "debunk".  My lessons in debunking began when I was taught that the Puritans came here and

Fell on their knees,
Then on the Indigenes.

Alright, there was a conquest.  However, it was of a devastated land depopulated by the smallpox that struck the American Mainland in 1520, when an African slave in the entourage of Hernan Cortes fell ill during the siege of Tenochtitlan, and within months, a third of the population in the Valley of Mexico perished.  From there it spread in both directions, until by the time of the Pilgrim Fathers, it had already devastated the land that would become New England. So, do we blame those who speak Spanish and those of African descent for the tragedy that happened to the American Indigenes?

Let's get real.  We are all the descendants of migrants--even if we aren't white Americans (or black, for that matter).  My father's Jewish ancestors carried that memory of migration with a thousand toasts to "next year in Jerusalem".  My wife's Hakka Chinese people, despite settlement in southern China (Fujian, Guangdong, and Taiwan) for over a millennium, continue to call themselves Zhong Yuan Ngin (中原人), or People of the Central Plain (that of northern China, that is). Even the Bantu-speaking African in places like Katanga or Malawi descends from migrants who came out the lands which are now the border regions of Nigeria and Cameroon.  Perhaps the only peoples inhabiting and carrying on cultures founded by ancestors living on the same lands at the time of the Neolithic revolution are the !Kung of the Kalahari Desert, the Bambuti of the Congo forests, perhaps the Tamil, perhaps the Khmer. The rest of us have moved around in our histories, and even the Navajo and Apache down in Arizona refer to those they call the Anasazi--those who were there before them.

When I taught government, and covered founding documents, I had to teach the Mayflower Compact, in which the founders of the Massachusetts Bay began the American heritage of self-government.  They were only transmitting a feature of congregational life in the Calvinist portions of Europe; not learning from the Iroquois (whom they hadn't yet encountered while cooped up on board their ship).

And, who knit the world together, so that persons of different colors and traditions are no longer thought to be ghosts or some strange species?  It was European exploration and settlement.  It may have brought slavery, but it also early brought out the misgivings about that institution expressed by Samuel Sewall, one of the judges at the Salem witch trials.  American High Schoolers are taught to view Jonathan Edwards and his Puritan culture as fire-and-brimstone fanatics, yet not taught that the same divine, despite his slave-holding, believed that the eventual destiny of "Negroes and Indians" was to be the peers of the Christian whites in an American Christian millennium (maybe this and his slave-holding weren't so contradictory: a lot of Christian white people lived under indenture in those days, too).

Back in the Clinton years, Donna Shala complained she couldn't identify with the Pilgrim fathers.  Well, good for her Lebanese and Syrian Christian ancestors that they got along all hunky-dory with their Ottoman Turkish Muslim overlords and found Dhimmi status and the extra taxes imposed by Islamic law as granting them dignity (to say nothing of giving up sons to become Muslim janissaries and accept the abduction of an occasional daughter).  The implication is that those of us who aren't WASP shouldn't care much for the holiday, either. I say that such a sentiment is hokum-bunkum.  We're all migrants, so let's celebrate it.  We all benefit from ideals of limited government and fair play of a Christian European provenance.  Let's celebrate it.  We're all part of an interconnected world, so lat's celebrate it.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.  Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.  (PSalm 100:1-2)

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