Bludgeon wrote:You've got a fundamental misunderstanding about the experience of history. That's the problem with the progressive view of the country - it only understands its existence in the context of these bad things. You don't see all the Natives and Europeans who got along and lived and died and shared their lives together... Do you not realize the harm you do your own understanding of the world when you choose to view history only in terms of what amounts to a politically sanctioned and approved ethnic slur against historic European culture in America?
I was with you until that last sentence. But let's start at the top. (I shortened the quote for readability but I am referring to all of it.)
Once we had the white-guys version of American history: Columbus found America, the settlers beat back the savage Indians and brought civilization to the frontier, etc.
Then we got the revised version, which I tried to represent in my first post in our dialogue.
It's not unreasonable to expect the next version to settle somewhere between the two. I'm willing to grant that while many of Europeans' contacts with the native people were warlike and took the form of invasion, at times we also had mutually beneficial contacts which included trade, some intermarriage, and occasions where the native people taught or helped the settlers. The record shows these things occurred.
The native tribes' version of the same history mostly describes invasion, relocation, the taking of children to "Indian schools" where they were separated from their culture and forbidden to speak their own languages, the loss of land, and treaties that were only intermittently honored. Their version is equal in value -- not superior, not inferior -- to the European version.
Similarly, from other parts of your comments: yes, we have had a complicated relationship with Mexico that includes land being claimed by both sides in turn and includes war. Europeans in Mexico and native people in that area had relationships as complex as in our part of the continent, and the Mexican experience overflowed in to the SE part of today's US and is still part of our lives.
We should acknowledge all the historical realities, the positive and the ugly. I am freely willing to acknowledge the positive, but I can't sit here and allow the negative to be brushed aside. Don't forget history is written by the victors. Efforts to rebalance that history are long overdue.
The following was the most interesting part of your remarks, to me:
The place and the pride of gun culture in America is the range and the voyage west, and the sacrifice they made to do it, essentially venturing out into a land with no government, no law, no protection, but the firearm on the road made every mortal equal.
(see the original for the entire comment]
OK, now I get that your view of gun culture comes from frontier times.
I'm going to leave the part about slavery to another post, since it's got its own set of complications far beyond what we might say about the frontier.
Similarly, every mortal being equal seems to have applied mostly to whites, since you are not showing much interest in defending the right of the native people to be equal with the frontiersmen. Why not? We know about the Europeans' courage and suffering but less about the native people's, and they are of equal importance because they are both human.
In the interests of trying not to make this too long, I'll move on to your view that possession of a gun made each frontiersman equal with the next. This refers to equalization of power.
I think this mostly comes from cowboy movies, but if it's the mythology then we have to deal with it.
Please remember, though, that the great frontier legends about Dodge City, about bringing justice, and all the rest were about controlling the guns, not glorifying their unfettered use. We had sheriffs, we had justices, we had courts, we had jails. We were seeking to tame the land (or the society being transplanted onto the land), not let the rule of the gun remain paramount. That's what frontier stories are about, not about how glorious it was when all we had to do was shoot each other and take what we wanted. People who did that were outlaws, and the story of the west was about bringing them to justice, not just seeing which side could dominate the other without any rules beyond whoever shoots the other first, wins.
The idea wasn't that guns made everybody equal, but that the power of the gun was so dangerous it had to be controlled and kept in its place as towns and frontier justice were established.
I don't mean to dishonor those who did that. It took skill, organizational talent, courage, and dedication. It took the military, it took individual action, and it took all the talents humans have at their disposal. But to promote the myth guns were what made everyone equal and the era when guns ruled was some kind of high point isn't true to what happened. Guns were one of the tools the frontiersmen used, along with horses and oxen, the plow, the axe, and finally the railroad. I think if anything made people equal, it was the risks they were all taking: weather, animals, attacks from other humans, starvation, fire, disease, accidents. Anything could happen out there.
If you want to know what I think made settling the frontier possible, I'd focus more on metallurgy (tools) and the horse, neither of which was available to the native people before European arrival. Both those changed the frontier hugely. If Europeans had brought horses and tools but had used atalatls and arrows instead of guns, I think the changes they brought would have been just at dramatic and their deeds just as historic.
I've got no problem with glorifying the frontier era, but glorifying it on account of the power of the gun is pretty limited thinking.
You know, this is a big continent - white people were not the only people to go travelling over boarders. Why is the wandering band of what were called American Indians meant to be forgotten, and all we see is this caricature of these greedy, stereotypical 'crackers' carpet bagging the whole continent? That idea is simply ignorant.
I have no interest in denigrating the frontiersmen, nor in forgetting what American Indians did (which included making war on one another and traveling across the land). We need all the facts, not just some of them.
It would be easier to see progressives as more than just hopeless if their entire concept of American history amounted to more than just a bigoted cultural slur. Too often, progressives' idea of history warps down to what amounts to be essentially just an offhand list you might find in a pamphlet called, 'Bad things white people did'...
OK, I can accept that you don't like to hear about bad things white people did in the absence of a parallel list of good things white people did. That's fair enough, and I can even go so far as to agree it's a revision that has been rolled out (over the past many decades) in a manner inconsiderate of how it was received by those who preferred the old version. It probably seemed more confrontational than a simple clarification. There are reasons for this, but they are part of another discussion. It really had to happen, though. The "old" history was only part of the story and as we gain distance (time, that is) we get a wider vista.
When it comes to good things white people did and brought, I also like to think of engineering marvels: railroads, bridges, buildings, the telegraph, and the like. I'd secondarily focus on writing and on books. These things caused their own set of problems, but nobody can say European culture didn't bring some big changes to the Americas.
...and from my frequent conversations with them I can tell you as you likely know, a lot of people don't mind just adlibbing the rest. I mean, we're talking about the entire lives of millions of people from start to finish, for ten, even twenty generations. Why for the sake of any ideology would any person want to impair their view of history with this repeating theme of anti-Europeanism? What purpose does that serve?
I see this process as one of bringing balance to a couple centuries of history-writing that focused on all the positives of Europeanism while discounting the positives of other cultures and the losses they sustained. If the process of bringing that balance offends some of your ideals, I can respect how difficult that is but we can agree it's not going to stop or disappear or go back into its bottle. And I do see the value in highlighting instances of cooperation and positive good. In addition, I very much admire the intent to remember all the everyday lives that passed during this period of history, lives made of hard work, learning, cooperation, and what we might call normalcy.
But all that doesn't mean frontier times and guns on the frontier ought to be the model for settling the gun disagreements and problems we face in 2013. That, I don't get. We want to rise above justice-at-the-point-of-a-gun, not treat it as an ideal. The price is too high, as Kurt's graphic showed. Something is missing if we're using 1848's lifeways as the standards for 2013.
Still, I got a lot out of reading your post and I do feel I understand some of the underlying mythology of the American gun culture a little better. I had no idea frontier times had such a formative influence on the thinking of some 21st century Americans.