Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Native Americans’ Category

WAS LINCOLN A MONSTER? THE DAKOTA WAR AND AMERICA’S LARGEST MASS HANGING.

with one comment

Today a trip down history lane, Lincoln and the largest mass hanging in US history. On 26 December 1862 38 Indians were hung by the US Army in Mankato, Minnesota. I’ve seen a number of memes and discussions on Facebook about this event, and frankly I’m usually horrified by how it’s portrayed and discussed. Mostly discussion involves just what a farce their trials were, and they weren’t even up to the standards of the day; plus throwing in Lincoln as the bad guy in all of this. Lately I’ve seen a number of memes etc. to the effect that Lincoln was some sort of racist monster. I hate black and white depictions of complex historical events and people, they usually leave a lot out.

In any event, The Dakota War, the event that led to this mass execution. Minnesota was a frontier state at the time, it had only been a state for four years. Yes, natives were treated badly by America pretty much from the get go, privately genocide was the often path taken by whites. Cultural genocide was the national policy. There’d been a lot of conflict as settlers moved onto land basically just stolen from the people living there. Thus a lot of resentment on the natives part. And one day a native hunting party massacred a settler family, and that instigated a general uprising.

Numerous bands and tribes began to kill settlers in a bid to convince Americans to flee the region. Between 500 and 800 settlers were killed, often in truly heinous ways. Several small towns were completely destroyed, all their inhabitants killed or taken prisoner. Initially there was little resistance because this was the height of the Civil War and there were no federal troops in Minnesota at all. It should be pointed out that not all the native bands and tribes in the region participated, a number of chiefs refused to participate, one even ordered his warriors to protect the American settlers living nearby.

Within months though a combination of hastily organized militias and federal troops fought and won a number of battles with the Dakota,  put down the uprising, and imprisoned hundreds of natives. The army tried over 300 of them for war crimes and sentenced them all to hang, 303 death sentences to be exact. And for the most part, Americans were just fine with this. The governor of Minnesota even warned that if they weren’t all hung, private citizens would enact their own retribution on whatever natives they could. We are talking about hundreds of settler families murdered, many memorials to those killed remain today.

And this is where Lincoln’s involvement comes in. He was, shall we say, kinda busy during this time. The Civil War was raging. He worked from before dawn to just before bed most days, his wife said she was lucky if she got 15 minutes of his company before he fell asleep at night. So he didn’t need to get involved at all, he could have just let the army hang all 303 prisoners, and that would have been that. That wasn’t Lincoln though, he personally reviewed every federal death sentence handed down during the Civil War, and he made no exception here. He had the trial transcripts, such as they were, sent to Washington, and over a month reviewed them all. And he commuted the death sentences of all but 39 of them, later commuting one more when a general wired him that new information cast doubt on one indian’s guilt.

And by every accounting, Lincoln was horrified by the corrupt and unjust way natives were treated, saying “If we get through this war, and I live, this Indian system shall be reformed.” He also said something to the effect that “You can’t hang an Indian just because he joined an uprising at his chief’s command.” Lincoln grew up on the frontier, and knew in fact how badly natives were treated. During the Blackhawk war he prevented his own men from murdering a native that wandered into their camp. Maybe if the Civil war hadn’t intervened he could have started reforms and maybe the whole damn uprising never would have happened.

So yeah, a shameful chapter in American history. As is almost all of America’s history with the natives, and it’s still not exactly something to be proud of today. When Reagan visited the Soviet Union and pressed them on their human rights record, the Russian premier brought up America’s treatment of its natives. Reagan said “Why, we treat them fine. I’ll meet with Indians any day to discuss their concerns!” When he got back to Washington, a delegation of native leaders was literally waiting in front of the White House to meet with him. He refused.

All that being said, I don’t see how Lincoln comes off as the bad guy in this. It seems popular these days to portray Lincoln as a racist, but the cherry picked quotes I have seen don’t support that. Yes, he did regard whites as the “superior” race, that was kind of the scientific view at the time. However, and it’s a huge however, Lincoln thought that meant it was more important than ever to treat them with the exact same dignity and justice as anyone else. This was a man who his whole life was concerned with justice and fairness. He wasn’t popular among his fellow lawyers for example because he charged people what they could afford, and wouldn’t take on unjust cases.

And I’m no fan of Lincoln. As I have said before “Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, he enslaved the rest of us.” Lincoln was the one that laid the groundwork for the enormously expanded bloated monstrosity the federal government is today. Maybe if he had lived to finish his work, the country might be a better place today. In any event, even allowing the “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart…’ I think that whatever the result, Lincoln was an honorable man trying to leave the world a better place than he found it. Something I would say of very few other presidents.

Tomorrow, more covid horror and Trump’s fantasy about winning the election gets ever weirder. Stay safe, warm, and sane everyone.  #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: “Attack on New Ulm” Oil on canvas, 1904, Anton Gag. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 2, 2021 at 6:41 pm

SPREAD THE PLAGUE FOR CHRIST!

leave a comment »

behavior

Well, we’re one big step further towards living in an Evangelical Christian Theocracy. The new SCOTUS struck down Covid-19 restrictions on religious gatherings. It’s claimed as a blow for religious freedom. It’s nothing of the kind. The Constitution protects one’s right to believe as one wants, the government can’t outlaw certain religions. It has nothing to do with people’s behaviour. One can’t act any way one wants, then claim it’s a religious practice. If that was the case sacrificing one’s neighbors to the Gods would be protected. And that’s pretty much what the SCOTUS just did, it said holding Covid-19 superspreader events in the midst of a pandemic was protected as a religious activity.

OK then. Many many people will die because of this ruling, it goes without saying. Sadly many of them won’t even be the people choosing to attend these “Spread the plague in the name of Christ!” events. People will get infected at these events and spread it among the community. All because an organized religion wants to control America. The Evangelicals are not shy about their desire to turn America into a “Christian Nation,” where their interpretation of the bible is the law of the land for all, Evangelical Christian or not. This isn’t religion, this is organized religion; organized religion has a history drenched in blood, and our nation’s founders very much wanted to prevent that here, a nation where government wasn’t in any way run by organized religion. They are spinning in their graves at SCOTUS rulings like this.

Speaking of spreading the plague, today is Thanksgiving in America! Wait, what does that have to do with plague? I’ll get there. I’ve had increasingly mixed feelings about Thanksgiving over the past few years. On the one hand, a fall gathering of loved ones to be thankful for the good fortunes of the summer, sure. People have been holding holidays like that forever. It’s the attachment to the Pilgrims that is problematic. The Pilgrims’ relationship with the natives was hardly as portrayed in the usual Thanksgiving narrative. Moreover the original Thanksgiving Holiday was explicitly celebrating a giant massacre of natives. Yikes. Only in the last century or so was the “feel good” version of Pilgrims and natives promulgated. Read about it all here.

So I’m not celebrating that. I am thankful for my good health, friends, and family. And skol to all celebrating with me in this regard. As for plague connections, two. First off, the arrival of Europeans unleashed terrible epidemics into the new world, tens of millions died, entire native nations were essentially wiped out. And while there is no evidence for Europeans deliberately spreading disease, nonetheless when one’s uninvited “guests” arrive with horrible contagious diseases, it’s nothing to celebrate.

And in contemporary America, where the Covid-19 pandemic is at its worst level ever, an American dying every 37 seconds now, over 2,000 a day … people getting together for Thanksgiving is going to just add gasoline to the fire. Way too many Americans still don’t understand how serious Covid-19 is, thanks to all the leaders and influencers spreading misinformation about it, so as I am typing this a nationwide superspreader event is underway. Jesus wept.

I’m still baffled daily about how we got here, a nation not divided by two ideologies, no, a nation where half of the nation has their own (imaginary) reality. Global warming is real, and caused by human activity. Covid-19 is real, and the worst new infectious disease to come along in a century, if not a millennia. And Donald Trump soundly lost the election. These aren’t debatablebateable, they are established facts. Yet Trump and his followers reject all three and insist their imagined reality is true, despite all evidence to the contrary. A mystery for the ages, here is an interesting take on it: The Rotting of the Republican Mind. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, but at its core, propaganda and advertising are sciences now, and daily more effective as a result.

Science, the thing mostly responsible for all the marvels of the modern world, is powering forces that may well destroy it. It’s one of the lines of argument that makes me wonder if ultimately intelligence such as ours is an evolutionary dead end. I always like ending on a bleak note. Stay safe everyone, comments, likes, shares appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Found on Facebook, attribution in image, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

November 26, 2020 at 9:19 pm

NO THANKSGIVING TURKEY FOR ME, POST ELECTION CRAZINESS CONTINUES, AND THE IMPERIAL DISEASE

leave a comment »

Here I was looking forward to Thanksgiving, and then I read this: Op-Ed: Thanksgiving is a tradition. It’s also a lie. I find the logic pretty persuasive. I wouldn’t participate in a Confederate flag waving parade or hanging black people in effigy no matter how traditional they were. Sigh. Growing up never ends. One would hope at least.

Let’s see, after meeting with Trump the Michigan lawmakers decided to stick with the law. Michigan goes to Biden by a comfortable margin. Georgia just certified Biden. Trump’s thin chances of overturning the election results in his favor just went from slim to microscopic. Trump continues to insist he was cheated out of winning, and his administration continues to refuse to coordinate with the incoming Biden administration. Unprecedented in American history.

Trump is also making all sorts of last minute global maneuvers to either box Biden in, or leave him with problems. An understated little side play in the war, while America is consumed with Trump’s election denial antics and an exploding pandemic that is killing thousands a day now. One person out of every 1,000 in North Dakota has died of Covid-19 now. If this was happening on Obama’s watch, the outraged screams from Trump supporters would echo across the Universe. Instead, they’re upset that California’s governor flouted his own virus guidelines. I digress.

The war, the one war. Started in the mid eighth century BC when Rome conquered its neighboring town, Caenina. That’s when the war started, the one the US is still waging today. Wait, what? That’s my theory on when what I call “The Imperial Disease” started. There were plenty of wars before and after that, but based on variations of “Kill them and take their land.” The Imperial Disease is the idea that you march in and say “You’re all Romans now!” Rome conquered most of Europe and environs, broke apart, but its parts continued to express the disease, finally cooperating to conquer the entire world in the so-called “age of discovery.” Where they discovered there was a whole world waiting to be claimed in the name of Rome!

Jesus, Rome, same difference. One of the symptoms of the disease is that people so afflicted think it’s normal and proper for their armies to run other countries. That’s why the US has been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years with nary a domestic peep. Spending staggering sums of money, not insignificant amounts of American lives and blood, to prop up a quisling government that will evaporate when we leave. But, you know, freedom and democracy flow from our cruise missiles!

Sigh. One of Trump’s few good points was his questioning America’s enormously expensive overseas empire. Granted he pretty much didn’t do crap to downsize it, but maybe if he pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan now like he is threatening, we’ll learn something. We’ll learn that us pulling out of there was like pulling one’s hand from a bucket of water, the water stays right there unchanged. Gee, maybe we didn’t need to stick our hand in there in the first place?

Yeah, I’m reaching. I still think we’re screwed. See above image. In local news, I continue to recover from cancer surgery. And I got a new patron! Woohoo! Thanks! Stay safe everyone. Comments, suggestions, shares appreciated.#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Anonymous meme found on Facebook, used without permission, attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

November 20, 2020 at 7:37 pm

BURIED TREASURE FOUND, AND THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN SHOW CONTINUES

leave a comment »

In local news, this is what I found while treasure hunting (metal detecting) yesterday. A US penny, 1853. About the size of a modern quarter, pure copper. 1853, whole different world. My state, Iowa, had only been formed seven years earlier, the county I live in only two years earlier. No planes or cars then of course, if one went anywhere, one walked or rode a horse. Though train and steamboat travel was getting popular. Photographs had been around for about a decade, so was the telegraph, the first long distance electronic communication system. The country had become a much smaller place, news could travel across the nation instantly, when previously it would take weeks. And plans were afloat to lay the first transAtlantic telegraph cable. The stirrings of the modern world were starting.

And America was in the death spiral leading to the Civil War seven years later. Since before 1820 there were slave states and free states, and by 1853 it was really starting to heat up. Especially in Kansas as free state and slave state vigilantes wreaked violence, around 200 people would die in “Bleeding Kansas,” as this prelude to the Civil War would be called. Here, Clear Lake Iowa was literally just being founded, the first settlers arriving two years before. So if my coin was dropped in 1853, it was dropped by one of the very first settlers. Though it’s also possible it was lost by a Winnebego Indian, Clear Lake was a popular summer home for them.

And here’s a positive local story about same. One of the very earliest settlers was some fellow who claimed he was a notorious Indian fighter. Well, one night some local Winnebagos had a little too much to drink, and a party of them set out to pay him a visit and see this guy for themselves. Well, word got to him before they arrived … and he fled with the clothes on his back, never to return. Be careful what one brags about I would say.

So it was a good way to end the treasure hunting season. Will inspire me to do more next year. Alas the US has no treasure trove laws, so I have to be careful to only search private property with an agreement with the landowner. Europe would be so much better, far more treasure to be found, and treasure trove laws mean if you find real treasure, the government will pay you a fair market price for it. Everyone wins, treasure hunters get the reward for their finds, priceless historical artifacts become public property for science and show. Here in the US, no treasure trove laws, so looting is the order of the day. Another aspect of “modern” America that doesn’t reflect us in a good light.

Like, say, the current election. Both sides are frantically slinging mud and hoping it sticks to the wall. Far more so than in any previous election I recall, I mean really, life was boring before 2020. I can’t keep up with them all. There was something about Hunter Biden’s emails, that Trump claimed was the political crime of the century. Is there a word for when one’s hyperbole has been hyperbolized? Then Trump claimed the media was deliberately ignoring the Hunter Biden story to make him look bad. No Mr Trump and Trump followers, they ignored it because the Hunter Biden story stank. And at this point appears to be a whole lot of nothing.

By the same token the FBI came out with some stuff about Russia, Iran, and the election, which has also been immediately blown out of anything resembling proportion. FBI director Ratcliffe said Russia and Iran had obtained US voter information, no hacking involved. And why would there be, it’s publicly available information for the most part? And apparently some Iranian servers have used this information to stir up trouble, but  Ratcliffe was again specific, the Russians haven’t done so. In other words, Russia obtained some public information about US voters … and this is being breathlessly touted as “Proof of Russian election interference!” and “Why is Trump not doing anything about it!” Give me a break.

And frankly the idea that some foreign power is causing dissent in the US now is like saying a guy running around in a hurricane with a squirtgun is a public menace. We’re doing just fine on our own with an out of control pandemic and an out of control POTUS. This was a good one: Trump’s campaign is laser-focused on appealing to Donald Trump. After 2016 no one wants to predict the election result, but Jesus, is Trump’s campaign run by squirrels wearing a human suit? There’s this, Tiffany Trump tried to hold an LGBTQ pride campaign event, it didn’t go well: Tiffany Trump burned over disastrous LGBTQ pride campaign event: ‘Beyond pathetic’. Or this mind numbing image:

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to point out that this says far more about whoever created, vetted, and approved this image than anything about Biden. And yes, it’s real. And once again with feeling, screw the people that mainstreamed name-calling as acceptable political discourse. It’s like living in a country run by preschoolers.

Tomorrow, the last Biden/Trump debate! My only prediction … it won’t turn out the way anyone predicted. Might well be a shitshow like the last debate, but doesn’t take a crystal ball to “predict” that. Maybe something really fun will happen, Biden’s human mask falls off and reveals a reptoid. Trump pulls out handcuffs and tries to citizen’s arrest Biden. It’s 2020 right? As my ancient nemesis Missy would say “Not bored yet.” #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Coin photo: Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved. Billboard image: Pittsburgh City Paper. Used without permission, but claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I’m promoting and linking to their article.)

Written by unitedcats

October 21, 2020 at 7:22 pm

ANOTHER MESSAGE FOR TRUMP SUPPORTERS?

leave a comment »

It gets more ridiculous every day. And that’s quite a feat considering how far down the crazy rathole the 2020 election has gone so far. At this point Trump is simply spewing endless lies about Biden, his own accomplishments, and reality itself. And then there’s the promises like the one above. OK, where is this proposal? It doesn’t actually exist. His administration has had three years to propose legislation to accomplish the above, nada. All Trump has done is try and get Obamacare cancelled.

Frankly, I do understand that Trump’s followers give him a lot of credence, it’s the secret to his success. Trump says it, it’s true. Woohoo, who wouldn’t want to make America great again? But guys, c’mon guys. Guys and gals, Trump supporters, Trump promised to do this in his first election campaign, and didn’t even attempt to follow through. Um, and this time you believe him? What’s the old axiom, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” This is one of those situations, Trump already broke this promise, why the hell would anyone believe him again?

And gotta love the “You’re welcome!” Trump hasn’t done anything about health care, why the hell should an empty broken promise get him thanks? Thanks for nothing dude, I’m one of the independent voters who defended Trump after he got elected. I never suffered from TDS, I gave him a chance, he made a number of positive promises, like the above. Yet Trump broke all of his specific promises to help Americans, I’m supposed to be impressed by repeating the promises? Reelect me so I can do the stuff I promised to do in my first term? Give me a freaking break. I can understand not voting for Biden, but Trump hasn’t earned a second term, voting for him is crazy.

Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court had a hearing today. So freaking what, unless she morphed into a lizard creature during the hearing and ate the Republican senators alive on national TV while simultaneously defecating on a Trump flag, the Republicans are going to confirm her.  So this is just political theater. Moving right along, I had a nice link about the lies Trump is telling about Biden’s abortion stance, but Trumpers won’t read it or believe it. Just for those interested though: Trump Made False Claims About ‘Late-Term Abortion.’ Here Are the Facts.

So yeah, Covid-19 rages on in the US while Trump does nothing but make promises. OK then. Covid-19 is in the top five mass death events in US history now, only the Civil War, World War Two, and the 1918 flu pandemic being worse. And Covid-19 is rising fast, it will indeed surpass World War Two soon enough if unaddressed. And the death toll is almost certainly worse than the official numbers: US sees 20% more deaths than expected this year, most due to Covid-19, research finds.

And then there’s this: Covid reinfection: Man gets Covid twice and second hit ‘more severe’. It’s rare still, but not a good thing. There’s going to be limits to how much a vaccine will help if protection only lasts so long. Basically, the human race is at a choice. We can get our collective shit together, do what needs to be done to eradicate Covid-19, or suffer permanently from the “Cold from Hell.” It really is a decision point in human history. Even if we “adapt” to Covid-19, and let it take its blood toll, sooner or later something even worse will show up.

I’m not a big God guy, but if a supreme being sent us Covid-19, their message is “Snap out of your shit and take care of each other.” Kinda what I think Our Saviour’s message amounted to. Not seeing that. Trump could have been the world’s saviour, and instead has gone down the “not my problem” path. Biggest failure in American history, biggest lost opportunity in American history. Trump could have been a hero, he chose to be a Trump.

Stay safe and sane everyone. Sane = ‘Do whatever you possibly can to avoid catching/spreading Covid-19.’ Oh, yeah, today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day:

#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Top Image: Public domain under US copyright law. Bottom image: Found on Facebook, attribution unknown, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

October 12, 2020 at 8:03 pm

LONDON BURNING, GERONIMO, BERNIE AND NUCLEAR POWER, AND FLICC

leave a comment »

Geronimo_and_his_warriors

Some dates in history, nothing happened. Most though there are a number of things to choose from. In the first week of September in 1666 the Great Fire of London was raging. It’s a story with some interesting tidbits. I think I will write a dedicated post to it on Friday. Or not, one can never tell with these things. Maybe there will be some new shocking current event to write about. Or I could just make one up. “Nun Machine Guns Choir in Dispute Over How to Spell Arpeggio.” We’ll find out Friday I suppose.

More recently, on September 4 1886, Geronimo and his band of warriors finally surrendered to the US army. Him and his men had been more or less continuously fighting Mexico and the US for decades. All pretty ugly, especially the war between the Mexicans and the Apache. A lot of massacres on both sides. Against the Americans, he was mostly wanted for cattle rustling and “escaping” from the reservation. At one point near the end about a third of the US Army was hunting for him, 20,000 guys looking for a few dozen Indians. Whose big crime at that point was cattle rustling and leaving their reservation? Overreactions to minor threats on the frontier is a hallmark of imperialism. Just saying.

Once Geronimo and his men  surrendered, they were treated as prisoners of war. They were never allowed to return to Arizona. They were however taken out and about, IE the US government paraded Geronimo around at various events to show off the US. A tradition going back to at least the Romans. In his case, he got to make some nice pocket money. He’d sell pictures of himself, bows and arrows. Even his hat. Geronimo wrote an autobiography, which I am now putting at the top of my reading list. An interesting life indeed, the changes he saw. On his deathbed it’s reported that he regretted surrendering, who knows.

So he’s in the picture above. One of my favourite photographs of all time. Taken in the spring of 1886, it’s Geronimo and his men. I’ve probably posted and talked about it before. Cest la vie. It’s the only known photograph of a Native American military force operating in the field against the United States. These guys were at war with the US. Fun times.

Back to the here and now, I found out that Bernie Sanders wants to phase out nuclear power plants. I must admit I find that dismaying. There’s a huge problem with phasing out nuclear power plants, since they provide about 20% of the nation’s electricity, what do they get replaced by? Solar and wind can’t really take up the slack, since they can’t vary their power output on demand. Instead, exactly as is happening in Germany and Japan, they will get replaced with coal burning plants. The exact opposite of what we need to do. Nuclear power has its issues, but it is much safer and greener than burning oil and coal. And it has negligible carbon emissions, which is kind of an emergency species goal right now.

So I wonder if Mr Sander’s opposition is sincere, or his he only pandering to his base. The good Doctor Novella goes into the politics of nuclear power in his last post. Not surprisingly, Republicans are far more pro-nuclear than Democrats. I’m not sure what to think about it all. I guess I need to do more research. I’ve changed my mind before, it’s painful but the alternative is worse.

Lastly, FLICC. A new concept to me, or at least stuff I already knew in pieces, put together in a coherent package. Fairly new algorithm, 21st century. It’s a list of the big things to use to flag science denial. F is fake experts. L is logical fallacies. I is impossible expectations. IE, science can never be 100% sure of anything, and nothing is 100% safe, so one can point to the exceptions and claim they invalidate the science. C is cherry picking. And the last C is conspiracy theories. The more of these that show up in an article, the more likely it is science denying garbage. Not surprising, when both science and logic refute your position, stuff like this is all that’s left. Alas tens of millions of people listen to CNN and Rush Limbaugh, and fall for it every time. The FLICC article here.

Hope everyone had a good Labor Day holiday. There ended up being a party here. An introvert’s nightmare, a house full of friendly strangers. After enough beer I finally ventured forth and joined in the festivities . Parties here always involve the cat escaping and leading a merry chase through the neighborhood. They got the cat back, then locked me outside by mistake. All’s well that ends well though, they let me back inside, and I had a good time.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Photo by C. S. Fly of Geronimo and his warriors, taken before the surrender to Gen. Crook, March 27, 1886, in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. Fly’s photographs are the only known images of Indian combatants still in the field who had not yet surrendered to the United States. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 4, 2019 at 3:40 am

SAD DAYS IN HISTORY: THE FALL OF TENOCHTITLÁN, AND SYMBOLICALLY DEFACING THE STATUE OF LIBERTY

leave a comment »

Tenochtitlán

Yesterday was the 498th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlán to Spanish barbarians. Tenochtitlán was the capital of the Aztec Empire, a marvel of engineering being built on a lake, and the largest city in North America. The European conquest of the world, euphemistically called “The Age of Discovery,” was the greatest crime in world history, and the destruction of civilizations in the New World was possibly its ugliest chapter. The natives weren’t Christians though, so it was all OK. Snort. Pretty sure Christ would have disagreed, the only good thing is that at least some of the Christians of the day were horror struck and did their best to stop the genocide and horror.

It’s interesting to speculate what the world would be like if any of the Native American states had been able to resist conquest, but there really wasn’t much chance of that. Within two generations of the Spanish arrival, the Aztec population crashed from about 20 million to less than a million. Smallpox being the primary culprit. No nation can resist conquest with that kind of population loss.

I wasn’t even going to write about the fall of Tenochtitlán, because, well, my capacity for horror and sad is being tested these days. Then the same day I met a nice person who had posted about the founding of Tenochtitlán on her Facebook page. So I thought, well, if people are still celebrating the founding of Tenochtitlán, I can honor the memory of all those who died defending their homes and in the horrors that followed the city’s fall. I used to wonder why we have so many movies about aliens invading Earth for purely malicious reasons. Once one studies some world history, it becomes painfully obvious why the senseless invasion by barbarian aliens is such a well worn trope. It’s what humans have been doing to each other since we invented “civilisation,” and probably before.

The thing that temporarily overloaded my empathy and compassion yesterday was the Trump administration symbolically changing the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Most have heard it before:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

While announcing changes to immigration policy a Trump official was asked if the quote still applies. Instead of responding “of course” or “no comment,” he said a line should be added that basically says “but no freeloaders.” This is wrong for a number of reasons. And its racist as hell, though racism deniers, and there are a lot of those in America, will sputter and spit and claim they are just speaking the truth. The ugliest lies often hide under the rubric of truth.

It’s wrong because it’s reinforcing the whole racist anti-immigrant trope that the Trump administration has been fomenting. The idea that immigrants are flooding into the country to get on welfare and vote for Democrats. And the idea that only white people are “real” Americans. This sort of horrid crap led to the El Paso shooting, where the shooter claimed he was deliberately shooting Mexicans. Which of course is ridiculous, he was targeting Latinos because he assumed Latino=Mexican. In reality he mostly killed Americans.

In real life, the vast majority of immigrants from south of the border are poor people seeking a better life. Many of them fleeing poverty and violence that most Americans can’t even imagine. Even worse, a lot of that poverty and violence is a direct result of Washington’s foreign policy in the region. And by and large immigrants are more law abiding than the average American citizen, and they contribute more to society than they cost.

In modern America though, fiction replaced fact in public discourse long ago. And the people at the top who have been robbing the poor and working class for decades work very hard to convince people that people on welfare and immigrants are the problem. (The unspoken assumption being these are mostly non-white people.) And Trump is the apogee of that type of thinking, we now have a president who not only reinforces racist and destructive tropes, he actually believes them. Jesus wept.

And regarding yesterday’s tweet, turns out I did have the words.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Fall of Tenochtitlán, late 17th century. Credit: unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 14, 2019 at 8:27 am

THE BATTLE OF WOODY POINT

leave a comment »

Tonquin_(1807)

I came across a horrific story while looking up what happened on June 16 in history. June 16 1811, Vancouver Island in what is now Canada. A US trading ship, the Tonquin, was deliberately blown up, killing scores of Tla-o-qui-aht natives and one US crewman. How the hell did this happen? Well, not a happy story, but one that is interesting from a number of perspectives. Sources though, only one, Wikipedia. Every link I could find was just a clone of the information in Wikipedia. Still, there was one western survivor, so we have contemporary written source material. The basic facts seem pretty straightforward.

OK, the Tonquin, a fur trading ship. A bark to be precise. What’s a bark, or barque, or barc? Children of the early 19th century could answer easily, me, not so much. Let’s just say a small sailing ship with three or more masts. The Tonquin was a smaller example of same, with 11 cannons and a crew of 23 at the time of the unpleasantness. It was tasked with setting up trading posts on the west coast of America, buying furs, then sailing to China and selling them for a tidy profit. It founded Fort Astoria on the mouth of the Columbia River, the first American settlement on the West Coast. Then the ship sailed on to Vancouver Island and its date with destiny.

Ship arrives off Vancouver Island. Tla-o-qui-aht natives come aboard to trade. The captain of the Tonquin, one Lieutenant Jonathan Thorn, doesn’t like the price of an otter pelt. He either waves it around in anger, or throws it at a native elder. Who is insulted. That night a native women warns the captain that an attack is planned. He dismisses her concerns. The next morning, 15 June 1811, a lot of native fighters are on the beach. Captain Thorn is unconcerned, the Tla-o-qui-aht are peaceful, right? Two canoes of 20 Tla-o-qui-aht each ask to come aboard and sell otter pelts. Against standing orders about allowing so many natives aboard, Thorn lets them board. The astute reader can guess where this is going.

At first Thorn is thrilled, the natives are selling pelts at great prices. Finally Thorn realizes it’s too good to be true, and orders the ship to set sail. Too late, the elder gives the signal, and the 40 warriors pull out concealed clubs and knives. (By some accounts they used knives they had just received in trade for pelts.) Thorn and most of the crew are unarmed, and are quickly slain. Five guys below decks get to the ship’s guns and are able to hold out, but one is badly wounded. The natives leave for the night. The five guys confer, they realize they are too few to sail the ship. Four of them take the ship’s skiff and head for Fort Astoria. The wounded guy, well, God only knows what was going through his mind.

The next morning hundreds of Tla-o-qui-aht show up to claim the ship. The wounded fellow, possibly the ship’s armourer named Weeks, surrenders. As natives are swarming the ship, he set off the ship’s powder store. The ensuing explosion destroys the ship and kills 60 to 200+ natives. The four guys who escaped, their skiff was blown ashore and they were captured by the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe. Another Vancouver island tribe, on good terms with the Tla-o-qui-aht tribe. It ended badly for them, out of the frying pan into the fire. Patrick Swayze would have been perfect as the leader of the four.

I digress, though this would make a great movie if well done. Attn: Kevin Kostner. So, that’s the basics of what transpired. Wait, how do we know this? Well, the Tonquin had taken on a half native guide and interpreter,  Joseachal. And when the massacre began, he had the presence of mind to implore a native woman to take him as a slave. She agreed, and some years later French Canadian explorer Gabriel Franchère bought his freedom.

OK, lessons I see in this story. First pass, yeah, 200 plus people killed over a disputed otter pelt. Prequel to John Wick. Sadly human mass deaths over stupid stuff are all too common, another reason the aliens don’t want to buy our otter pelts. Second and self evident lesson, anyone can commit an atrocity. Yes, the European conquest of the Americas was a terrible genocide, but native Americans sometimes did bad things too. We’re all human, and all subject to fail states.

The decisions of Captain Thorn are certainly in retrospect suspect. Sounds like he had a low opinion on native Americans all around. He overestimated his own position, and underestimated the natives. It’s hard not to conclude that racism and a sense of superiority clouded his judgement. The insulted elder’s decisions are also questionable. I mean really, you’re gonna have a few dozen people killed over a public insult? Wasn’t there another way to resolve the issue without resorting to mass murder?

Which leads us to what to me is a most curious perspective. At least some natives were like, really, isn’t this a bit extreme? I’m assuming that from what we know at least. A native woman warned Captain Thorn. And another woman was actually at the massacre in order to take the one prisoner. Impressive on both counts. Though I am curious what native oral history says about this event. I’m guessing the elder was a hothead and he had enough young male hotheads to do the deed. I’ve read about enough massacres to know that it’s not unusual for one hothead to set them off.

All told a typically human event. The fact that huge numbers of natives descended on the ship to loot it reminds me of the terrible third world disasters where crowds of people gathering gasoline from a punctured pipeline or truck are incinerated when someone accidentally creates a spark. Most people have no problem looting when the opportunity presents itself. Sad all around, all the dead had family and friends who mourned (mourn?) their loss no doubt. God rest their souls.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Tonquin under attack. Credit: Edmund Fanning – Voyages to the South Seas, Indian and Pacific Oceans, China Sea, North-West Coast, 1837. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 10, 2019 at 4:03 am