Friday, July 2, 2010

Shame: Germany America and Genocide

            Blogblather responded to the German I mentioned in  Blogblather clearly hadn't read my note when he posted his own.  My comments will follow his.
:  "To begin: 'Civilization' is a meaningless word .  Let's use the word 'culture' instead -- significantly less meaningless.  In the U. S. there are innumerable cultures -- my guess is, more so than in any of the European countries, but I don't know that.  European countries strike me as being much more homogeneous than the US.  And, as I write this, America is becoming more and more Hispanicized day by day.  I celebrate that.  Hispanics seem to have a hell of lot better grip on reality than the Northern European stock here who've grown fat,  proud and complacent,  and supremely confident of their superiority.  I can't speak to Cheever's disillusionment with America.  I grew up in Memphis, raised by very liberal parents,  I've been aware almost from the very beginning how racist and ultra-right the South is.  I  learned from my parents and from a few subversive teachers that the Southern culture is not only retrogressive, it is morally deficient -- to put it politely.  I don't think of America as an entity, or as a culture.  It's too diffuse.  And that's a wonderful thing.  There are many things about America that I hate, primarily its militarism. But this is all I know.  I have a brother who has lived in Denmark for the last 47 years and loves it totally.  I myself came within a week of emigrating to Canada rather than going to Vietnam, a war I believed was indefensible on moral grounds.  A teaching job came through at the very end -- sweet deferment.  I've lived one year in San Francisco -- god what a paradise -- and  six years in Seattle -- a place better called "Heaven".  Everything about both those cities were right down my perspective alley, but weirdly I never really connected with anyone in either city -- maybe it was my Southern accent  : )   When my kids started having kids I came back to Memphis.  I was struck at how quickly all the old relationships fell back into place.  I was home again, and loving it.  And hating it.
            "I've not sure what Cheever expected.  What was he needing America to be?   It's just another country, but one that's a hodgepodge  of cultures, a country founded in genocide, supported through slavery and slave wages for three hundred years. A country that presents itself as the noblest of the noble.  But America is not the shining light on the hill, that I was taught it to be by my educators -- men (almost exclusively -- most of whom I now know knew less about life and human nature than I did at ten years old all praise and  thanks to my wondrously anomalous parents.)  America is just another grouping of people trying to bring things together without too much pain to themselves.  What people aren't?  
           LAWRENCE'S RESPONSE:  Blogblather can't resist trotting out some of his Chomskyesque saws, e.g., America founded in genocide, supported through slavery . . . .  The fact that he is berating Americans for their "genocide" to a German struck me, but probably not Blogblather, as Ironic.  If we can be blamed in some way for something our ancestors did when they colonized North America (genocide against the North American Indians), surely the German he is writing his note to can be blamed for the act that caused the word genocide to enter common parlance.  German genocide ended at least by 1945.  I'm sure Blogblather didn't intend to insult this German.  The German is too young to have had anything to do with Nazi Genocide.  And Blogblather obviously doesn't spend much time revisiting his clichés or he would do something with the fact that no American is old enough to have fought the Indian -- the ones the colonists fought during the founding of the various colonies (not yet the "United States").

            Without getting into too much of a comparison between the colonists fighting Indians and the Nazis putting Jews in ovens, I'd like to consider extent to which we can be blamed or held accountable for the acts of our ancestors.  Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill and Billy Blogblather will not forgive "America" for displacing Indians during colonization or holding slaves in the Southern States.  That any American can be held directly responsible is absurd.  It would be equally absurd to blame our German -- or any German of his age -- for acts done by the Nazis during World War II.  If a German was born, say in 1946, there is no need for him to say "I was just following orders."  He was born too late to follow Nazi orders.  And though I probably have ancestors that fought Indians during the colonial period, I don't know who they are or what they did; so to what extent can I be blamed? 

            In the Old Testament we find that God would blame the children unto the third and fourth generation for the sins of their fathers.  There is a psychological reality to that judgment.  In earlier times parents trained their children.  So what a father believed was literally passed on to his children.  In primitive societies children of the third and fourth generation would believe the same things their ancestor did.  But that doesn't seem true in these modern times.   Conservative parents complain that Liberal schooling is corrupting their children; so they take them out and home-school them, but even home schooling cannot instill in a child the sort of uniformity being referred to in Exodus and Deuteronomy.   In no Western State is it possible to educate children in the way that Hebrew Children were educated in the time of the Exodus.  In some places in the world something like that approach is still taken, but in the West we have too many information sources.  Even before the Internet we had books and newspapers and once we learned to read we had access to them. 

            So Blogblather's condemnation of America for its early days of Indian fighting and slave-holding, and one can infer, Germany for its killing of the Jews is nothing that would hold up in court.  I cannot be shown to be guilty of killing any Indians or holding any slaves.  Take me to court, Blogblather.  You cannot prove me guilty.  No more can you prove the German being referred to guilty of killing any Jews during the Genocide.  While we are not "directly" responsible for the acts of our ancestors, but there are effects, ramifications that are still present in our world, from those past acts?

            I knew an Engineer at McDonnell Douglas who was born in Russia but taken with his family into China during the days when the Communists were taking the country over.  He was in China during the days of Japanese occupation and his hatred of the Japanese was very strong, even though he was old when I knew him and what happened in China happened during his childhood and adolescence.  He once criticized me for buying a Japanese car.  It wasn't a matter of hating the actual Japanese who mistreated him.  He hated all Japanese.  Interestingly his wife's family also fled Russia at about the same time only they ended up in Lebanon.  And while I never met her, her husband told me that she hated the Jews as much as he hated the Japanese.  What should we think about these haters?  What should we think of Blogblather who hates his forefathers who founded the colonies and owned the slaves?

            Most of us "move on."  We don't hang onto matters we can do nothing about.  Did our American forefathers engage in acts that in modern times are viewed as reprehensible?  Anyone who has studied American history knows that they did.  But let's put them into perspective.  Did they behave the same way that others in similar circumstances behaved?  Again we know that they did. 

            As to slavery, did they defy non-slave trading Europe and acquire slaves from Africa by kidnapping them?  No, when Southerners acquired slaves, slave-trading was legal.  Here is a Wikipedia quote on the subject:

            "Slavery was practiced in Africa before the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade.  Slavery and the slave trade were an integral part of African societies and states which supplied the Arab world with enslaved people for centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.[13] The African slave trade provided a large number of slaves to Europeans and their African agents.

            "The Atlantic slave trade is customarily divided into two eras, known as the First and Second Atlantic Systems.

            "The First Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans to, primarily, South American colonies of the Portuguese and Spanish empires; it accounted for only slightly more than 3% of all Atlantic slave trade. It started (on a significant scale) in about 1502 and lasted until 1580, when Portugal was temporarily united with Spain. While the Portuguese traded enslaved people themselves, the Spanish empire relied on the asiento system, awarding merchants (mostly from other countries) the license to trade enslaved people to their colonies. During the first Atlantic system most of these traders were Portuguese, giving them a near-monopoly during the era, although some Dutch, English, Spanish and French traders also participated in the slave trade. After the union, Portugal was weakened, with its colonial empire being attacked by the Dutch and British.       

            "The Second Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans by mostly British, Portuguese-Brazilian, French and Dutch traders. The main destinations of this phase were the Caribbean colonies, Brazil, and North America, as a number of European countries built up economically slave-dependent colonies in the New World. Amongst the proponents of this system were Francis Drake and John Hawkins.

            "Only slightly more than 3% of the enslaved people exported were traded between 1450 and 1600, 16% in the 17th century. More than half of them were exported in the 18th century, the remaining 28.5% in the 19th century."

            I don't recall any modern "Dutch, English, Spanish, and French" berating us for having slaves the way that our local Memphisite does.  There was a system in place in Europe that saw to the providing of slaves to the colonists and fledgling states of America.  None of my ancestors were slaves but some of them may well have been "indentured servants."  That was another European system in place in the new world.

            Another way to look at the objects of Blogblather's condemnation would be to see them as European ways that had not yet been sloughed off by Americans dedicated to free enterprise and human rights.   Were our forefathers hypocrites when they declared all men equal, or were they describing a commitment that had not yet been completely fulfilled?  And if the latter; which most I've read believe to be the case, to what extent shall we continue to blame ourselves for the early European influence during the days before this commitment had been fulfilled? 

            Unfortunately most of us do blame ourselves for past acts, childish and adolescent acts that we shudder at in our adulthood.  Why do we do that?  We said and did a lot of dumb things that we are now ashamed of?  But why when we are old are we still ashamed?  We are no longer adolescents.  We would no longer say or do those things.  We should strive to let go.

            I am speaking here of what I consider to be a normal person.  A sociopath or one given to rationalization will not feel this shame.  Also, I am speaking only of Westerners.  The Islamist who hates the Jews and believes the Protocols of Zion are authentic documents is guilty of the same anti-Semitism that the Nazis were.  Which would take us to a tangent, one we've taken before, if we want to go there.  There is no absolute standard regarding the sins Blogblather mentioned.  We in the west are opposed to genocide and slavery, but in Islamism that isn't the case.  They believe in putting infidels to the sword, and if they totally capture a nation the citizens will be given the choice of the sword or slavery (dhimmitude). 

            Interestingly, Blogblather, a member of the inchoate Left supports the Islamists in their desire to engage in genocide against the Jews.  He wouldn't use those words, but he supports Hamas who has as one of their official goals turning the region containing Israel into a thoroughgoing Arab nation.  Arabs not worried about the niceties of the official language refer to their goal as "driving the Jews into the sea."  Others believe it can't happen without slaughter but don't balk at it the way Blogblather would if America wanted to do it.  Those Arab Islamists hope Iran will drop some atomic bombs on Israel.   Blogblather in the meantime still hasn't forgiven America for dropping atomic bombs on Japan in 1945.

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