For a man will hardly die for the sake of the wicked, however, a man perhaps may dare to die for the sake of the good.
I can recall reading “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen and outright refusing to believe it. Why would our teacher’s so blatantly distort the character of Christopher Columbus, the Colonists, the Founding Fathers and our new US nation over a period of hundreds of years? Would it not be in our best interest to learn from our mistakes or sins, if we had acted with such evil? One fact of cognitive dissonance jumped to mind. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” You cannot enslave – own as property – someone who you hold as your equal. Were our founding fathers joking? What kind of person simultaneously holds the belief that their fellow man is their equal and that the same person is really no more than an animal?
I set out to prove this wrong, though, still not believing that for hundreds of years the US systematically, deliberately sought to wipe out from the face of the earth an entire population of people. What I first found was the writing of Columbus and the people who followed with him. My reactions reminded me of that feeling of walking out of the movie theater after watching “Schindler’s List.” It was an assault on my senses, my emotions while simultaneously knowing I must bear witness.
Forever, I would view the actions of the Native People of America who arrived long before Columbus in a new way.
How can anyone make a judgment on the actions of these people who saw the true intentions of the European invaders? Perhaps that has shaped America’s reaction to atrocities across the world. We fought the genocide of Hitler while genocide continued in America. And when Israel a nation that should recall the stern warning of the Torah about immigrants, they still commit genocide today and America defends them, even those who hate Jews defend Israel. To condemn the actions of a country is no logical way related to the people of that country. That’s just nonsense when they label you for condemning the actions of a country. I know best what is in my heart and in my actions.
In the words, in the letters and diaries of the armies that joined Columbus on return voyages, I thought I was reading a plot to “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “Nightmare on Elm Street.” In one story, from the diary of one who voyaged with Columbus, they used machetes to hack them to pieces, the native people. In another, after killing a family, a baby wanders away and two men take shots, like hunting a rabbit. As shocking as this was, it could be dismissed as isolated. Columbus didn’t know that he had a few psychopaths with him.
Again, I would be proven wrong. I saw the mass graves that bore witness to their method of death. The colonists did not unwittingly bring over diseases for which the native people had no immunity. The written word of those who committed these atrocities is undeniable. The words of witnesses from Europe, words written over the centuries, elaborate on the details. Later we had photos and videos. Mass graves… piles of skeletons lined up like rock walls.
Did our teachers fear that if we told the truth, our children would view themselves as bad? Would they create a sense of distrust of all of humankind, if they told the truth? Would they see within the heart of every human a heart of darkness and not a soul? Or can we find new meaning to the words from the gospels of the New Testament, that say how much easier it is to die for someone that is good, yet Christ died for us while we were still evil?