American Elephants

Save Our National Holidays! by The Elephant's Child

In this politically correct age, there are those who want to insist that Europeans conducted some kind of “genocide” on the Native Americans.  This is nonsense.  As are most of the stories we learned in grade school when we cut out feathers and pilgrim hats from construction paper.

The pilgrims wore bright colors according to what dyes they could obtain. The Native Americans had been decimated by disease long before the Pilgrims arrived.  The story about “smallpox blankets” is bogus.  And neither Native Americans nor Europeans had the slightest notion of carrying diseases.  If you remember some history, you would note that plagues and diseases were thought to be brought by God, or spread by witches, who also made cows miscarry and deformed babies to be born, and caused floods and storms as well.  It was a while yet before we discovered inoculation, and then we inoculated the Native Americans too.

Charles C. Mann’s book 1491 linked in the post below, is an excellent introduction to recent scholarship that has altered what we know, or thought we knew, about the history of the Americas. A new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques have come to previously unheard of conclusions.

Native Americans transformed their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already massively ‘landscaped’ by human beings.

The earliest cities in the Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great pyramids.

In 1401 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe.

There is a “Dances With Wolves” mindset that needs a good dose of serious corrective reading.  Back when that movie was fairly recent, there was a debate going on on talk radio about the propriety of a new beer labelled with the name of a famous Native American chief. There was the general problem of alcoholism on Indian Reservations, and the disrespect for the memory of the chief.  A woman called in and spoke knowledgably about the Sioux and the chief, and went on at some length. The host eventually inquired if she was a member of one of the Sioux tribes.  She replied, “Well, not in this life.”

I’m not sure what it is about contemporary society, but some people are anxious to spoil all our holidays.  There are the Christmas scrooges who detest the gift-buying, those who hate the merchandising and the grouches who didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas when they were kids. The Thanksgiving spoilers are animal-rights activists; vegetarians (some of whom settle for tofurkey) and the historical and religious ignoramuses.  They already spoiled Columbus Day, President’s Day and are working on the rest.  There’s no point in sitting in modern America, demanding that the past somehow be made more politically correct.  History is what actually happened.  It doesn’t change, only our understanding of it changes.

Pay them no mind.

A Day of Thanksgiving, Then and Now. by The Elephant's Child
November 26, 2008, 7:42 pm
Filed under: Education, History | Tags: , , ,

On March 22, 1621, an official Native American delegation walked through what is now southern New England to negotiate with a group of foreigners who had taken over a recently deserted Indian settlement.  At the head of the party was an uneasy triumvirate: Massasoit, the sachem (political-military leader) of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of southeastern Massachusetts; Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north; and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had reluctantly brought along as an interpreter.

Massasoit was an adroit politician, but the dilemma he faced would have tested Machiavelli.  About five years before, most of his subjects had fallen before a terrible calamity.  Whole villages had been depopulated—indeed, the foreigners ahead now occupied one of the empty sites.  It was all he could do to hold together the remnants of his people.  Adding to his problems, the disaster had not touched the Wampanoag’s longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west.  Soon, Massasoit feared, they would take advantage of the Wampanoag’s weakness and overrun them.

Desperate threats require desperate countermeasures.  In a gamble, Massasoit intended to abandon, even reverse, a long-standing policy.  Europeans had been visiting New England for at least a century.  Shorter than the natives, oddly dressed, and often unbearably dirty, the pallid foreigners had peculiar blue eyes that peeped out of the masks of bristly, animal-like hair that encased their faces.  They were irritatingly garrulous, prone to fits of chicanery, and often surprisingly incompetent at what seemed to Indians like basic tasks.  But they also made useful and beautiful goods—copper kettles, glittering colored glass, and steel knives and hatchets—unlike anything else in New England.  Moreover, they would exchange these valuable items for cheap furs of the sort used by Indians as blankets.  It was like happening upon a dingy kiosk that would swap fancy electronic goods for customers’ used socks—almost anyone would be willing to overlook the shopkeeper’s peculiarities.

This is how author Charles C. Mann describes the first contact between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, in his fascinating book 1491, which alters our view of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492.  He goes on to say: “British fishing vessels may have reached Newfoundland as early as the 1480s and areas to the south soon after.  In 1501, just nine years after Columbus’s first voyage, the Portugese adventurer Gaspar Corte-Real abducted fifty-odd Indians from Maine.  Examining the captives, Corte-Real found to his astonishment that two were wearing items from Venice: a broken sword and two silver rings.”

As for the Indians, evidence suggests that they tended to view Europeans with disdain as soon as they got to know them.  The Huron in Ontario, a chagrined missionary reported, thought the French possessed “little intelligence in comparison to themselves.”  Europeans, Indians told other Indians, were physically weak, sexually untrustworthy, atrociously ugly, and just plain smelly. (the British and French, many of whom had not taken a bath in their entire lives, were amazed by the Indian interest in personal cleanliness.)…The Micmac in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia scoffed at the notion of European superiority.  If Christian civilization was so wonderful, why were its inhabitants all trying to settle somewhere else?

The Wall Street Journal has two editorials that it has been publishing on this day ever since 1961 : “The Desolate Wilderness”, and And the Fair Land.” This year they have another piece by Ira Stoll on the first national Thanksgiving holiday, “A Day of Thanksgiving”, on Thursday, Dec. 18, 1777.  You will want to read all three.

We wish you and yours a most Happy Thanksgiving.  We all have much to be thankful for.

President Bush Pardons Two Turkeys by American Elephant
November 26, 2008, 12:18 pm
Filed under: News, Politics

Pumpkin and Pecan, not Obama or Biden. Unfortunately, there were no poults being beheaded in the background.

I know it’s dorky, but I love these little traditions. I have to wonder though; had Benjamin Franklin had his way, and the turkey were our national bird, would we all be eating bald eagle tomorrow?

Get Well Soon, Mrs Bush by American Elephant
November 26, 2008, 11:43 am
Filed under: News, Politics | Tags:

One of my favorite First-Ladies, Barbara Bush is resting comfortably after ulcer surgery this morning. Here’s hoping she has a speedy recovery.

The “Office of the President Elect” — Phony Placards and Red Flags by American Elephant
November 26, 2008, 10:50 am
Filed under: News the Media Doesn't Want You to Hear, Politics, The Constitution

I’m so glad FOX News ran this story; Lord knows, nobody else will.

Ever since the first placard popped up at Obama’s first post-election press conference (actually, his first press conference in months), my brow knits and nostrils flare at the very mention of the phrase, “Office of the President-Elect.” Not because I dislike and distrust Obama, I do, but because, you see, there is no such thing. It doesn’t exist.

Obama isn’t even the President-Elect, it is a title given out of courtesy. He does not become the President-Elect until he is elected, and that doesn’t occur until the electoral college meets next month, casts its votes, and the results are certified by the Vice President. But I quibble. The point is, even if he were the President-Elect, given that he has resigned his senate seat, he holds NO office until January 20th at precisely 12:00:01.

Now, I have no problem calling him president-elect, I’m only illustrating a point, but what does bother me a great deal is the man’s pathological need to assume the airs of power and authority that do not belong to him. The same neurosis undoubtedly responsible for his pattern of seeking higher office before he has even warmed the seat of the one he occupies.

Everyone knows that this isn’t his first phony presidential placard — Obama finally went too far and earned national ridicule for his self-styled “presidential seal.” Before that, there was “O-Force One”, candidate Obama’s campaign plane, complete with executive chair emblazoned with the words, “The President”. There was his speech in Germany which was bad enough as it was, made that much worse by how very badly he wanted to speak from the Brandenberg Gates. There were his Corinthian columns. Long before any of which, he was already speaking from behind presidential placards in rooms rented for their resemblance to the East Room of the White House.

These are the signs of a man very hungry for power. These are the signs of impatience. These are red flags.

Obama Plays Make Believe

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