American Elephants

All About Cultural Appropriation by The Elephant's Child
August 1, 2018, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Education, Freedom, History | Tags: , ,

When did “Cultural Appropriation” become an expletive and a cause for condemnation? I heard about it now and then, but I particularly remember a case in Portland, when two young women visited Puerto Nuevo, Mexico and fell in love with a particular kind of burrito on sale there. They talked to cooks and peered into the windows of kitchens and took what they had learned back home and put their newfound knowledge to work in a taco truck. It was so popular that a local weekly newspaper wrote up a profile of the two entrepreneurs. Two white women, burritos and a taco truck. Cries of “Cultural Appropriation. ” They were accused of stealing and of preying on Mexican women.

The uproar was extensive and the shop closed. If burritos are sold in a Mexican restaurant, it’s fine, and there’s a taco truck that has been operating successfully a few blocks up the street in a gas station lot for months, apparently popular, but not run by two white women. Still you hear of another outcry of “cultural appropriation” every now and then, about all sorts of things—even Halloween costumes

The Columbian Exchange is another of those things that you should have learned about in history class. Beginning with Christopher Columbus, all sorts of things were exchanged between the new world and the old world. Always have been exchanges between peoples. The New World, the Americas, got cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses.  Onions, olives, turnips, coffee beans, peaches and pears, wheat, rice, barley and oats. Also smallpox, influenza, typhus measles, diphtheria, and whooping cough.

The New World sent back corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, turkeys, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, tobacco, pineapples, beans, vanilla and Cacao, and Syphilis. This is not a complete list.

We have kept on exchanging goods and ideas ever since. Have you seen many films from other countries around the world when nobody is wearing blue jeans?  Cultural Appropriation indeed!

A fascinating book that I recommend highly is 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann.  He followed up with 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Great books.

When Did We Become Americans? by The Elephant's Child

This is a post dredged out of the archives from 2013. Somehow the appearance of Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez on the scene as a candidate for Congress has turned the national conversation to the wonders of socialism, which should be impossible were it not that our educational system seems to be totally failing in the teaching of history.


The word “American” was first used to denote a person of European descent living in British North America only in 1765, but became common after that. Previously people had been citizens of various British colonies.

There was no “United States” at that time. There was a Continental Congress and a Continental Army and Navy. The states had agreed to a basic framework of government in 1781— the Articles of Confederation — to replace the administration of the Second Continental Congress. The power was invested in Congress, members were appointed by state governments  and served at their pleasure. It had no power to tax. Foreign nations noticed that America was essentially powerless and they took advantage of that fact.

John Steele Gordon notes that “it was by no means the least of the lucky breaks that the United States has had in its history was the time at which it came into existence and established its fundamental laws:”

In one of history’s great coincidences, Adam Smith published
The Wealth of Nations in 1776. It destroyed the intellectual underpinnings of the mercantilism on which the economic policies of Western nations had been based for two hundred years.

It showed in example after example, each more powerfully argued than the next, that unfettered trade, both within and without the country, and a government that did not take sides as individuals competed in the marketplace resulted in greater prosperity for all and thus greater power for the country as a whole. Many of the Founding Fathers had read Smith, and all knew the thrust of his arguments.

The United States was new and didn’t have all sorts of long-established monopolies and systems to be dismantled. No entrenched aristocracy, and being new, was open to new ideas. It was easier to adopt the ideas of Adam Smith into its politics and economic system than it was for other Western nations. Just one of the lucky breaks we got at the establishment of the Nation.

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