A perplexing contradiction in the way Americans see history
Adopted from the web blog posting found here
Here is a theory of mine, it starts with a simple question:
Why does the majority of contemporary Americans see slavery and the annihilation of the Indians as a shameful part of our history and yet most Americans are either proud or completely ignorant of America’s invasions of Central America and the Pacific?
Americans look at slavery and the annihilation of the Indians with uncomfortable shame, but wars which occurred shortly after these two events are forgotten, or are justified in the exact same context as our current wars are.
In fact, Disney just released The Alamo, which showed a part of the war with Mexico, glamorizing Americans as heroes.
I just visited the Alamo last month.
It reminded me of churches in Rome, the only difference was the stone carvings at the Alamo were not as good.
Like Rome, it had its revered saints and its reverent plaques.
How can movies like Running with Wolves, which sees the Indians as victims and the white man as vicious be made just a few years before The Alamo? America has a wealth of literature about the brutality of the Indian Wars and the brutality of slavery yet has much less information on our foreign invasions. Why?
Keep in mind, the Mexico war occurred during slavery and the Indian wars.
Why would the annexation of large parts of Mexico still be glamorized today, but at the same time slavery and Indian wars seen as shameful parts of our history?
One possible answer
I believe a lot of the reason can be found in this statement I made above:
Old wars are “justified in the exact same context as our current wars are”
These wars are forgotten because America is still in the middle of our conquest of foreign lands. Those wars against other countries, such as the Mexican war, were the beginning of the American empire, which still continues today.
Today, slavery has been abolished and the Indian wars are finished, with us being the victors, so they are safe issues to talk about. But our conquest for empire still continues.
Slavery of course was debated strongly, and there were many detractors. But you would have never seen the majority of the American public reevaluating the Indian wars while they were being fought.
The same can be said with America today. If American history books and the media started to intently focus on our history of invasions of Central American countries and the Pacific, it would put dangerous thoughts in the minds of the public and connections to our wars past that those who have always profited from these wars, simply do not want the public to make.
How do Europeans see their histories as empires, now they are no longer empires?
Is their a pride or a kind of uncomfortable shame?
I remember talking with a Hungarian friend in Malta. He was so fiercely proud of how his country was once, long ago, an empire, or aspired to be one...At the time I was kind of sickened by this macho attitude and his indifference to the human toll of his empire.
As America’s Empire inevitably fades, will future Americans look at our wars of conquest and colonization with the same uncomfortable shame that Americans see slavery and the Indian wars today?
Will our descendants watch the remake of “Running with Wolves” with the victims being third world peasants, instead of American Indians? God, for the sake of mankind we can only hope….