There are few countries so eager to acknowledge their faults as this one.
Think about it. America not only acknowledges its drawbacks, it often dwells on them. College classes, even entire departments in universities across the country disseminate the downside of America’s history. Sometimes the criticism is warranted. Occasionally it’s exaggerated or worse and is unintentionally carried into the popular culture through the news media.
An example of this appeared in the Redmond Reporter’s Thanksgiving editorial last month. Its very first paragraph accused Americans of “ignoring the sins of the past.” Which sins?
“Genocide,” specifically the “death and destruction of the Native Americans.”
“You can bet,” the editorial intoned, “they were never thankful for the famine, war, death and plagues brought on by the Europeans.”
The editorial reminds us that the natives were “happily settled” before their country was seized from them, then built “on the backs of slaves, and made powerful through numerous wars.”
Coincidentally, this week’s column is about a new bestseller that would make a great Christmas gift: Michael Medved’s “The 10 Big Lies About America” (Crown Forum publishers). It is the perfect antidote to the gratuitous America bashing that goes on in the name of “confronting America’s past.” Medved both corrects the record and convincingly nails fraudulent scholars who misrepresent the past for political purposes.
And the first Big Lie Medved uncovers? “America was founded on genocide against Native Americans.”
First of all, Native Americans were not “happily settled” before Europeans arrived. Early death, famine, war, slavery and disease were a reality long before Columbus, Jamestown settlers or Pilgrims landed here.
Medved does not dispute the many injustices endured by Native Americans over the centuries. But genocide? Let’s be clear about terminology. “Genocide,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is “the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political or ethnic group.” Hitler’s Final Solution of “the Jewish Problem” is often cited as an example.
The Native American population declined rapidly with the onset of European settlement, but Medved points out that much of it came from infectious diseases that decimated tribal populations with Old World diseases long before people knew how these illnesses were spread. In many cases, the germs were carried by explorers and coastal traders and far outpaced the settlers. When the Pilgrims arrived, they found corn and land that had been cleared, but saw nary an Indian for months.
Was there brutality? Certainly – on both sides, as Medved documents – but unwarranted attacks on Indians, such as the Sand Creek Massacre, were condemned, not commended by the U.S. government.
Medved, a Mercer Island resident and author who hosts one of America’s most popular radio programs, points out another overlooked reason for the reduction of tribal populations: the mixed marriages of natives to settlers, pioneers and freed slaves. Tens of millions of Americans today carry Indian blood in their veins from ancestors who abandoned old tribal ways and embraced the progress unfolding around them.
Among the other Big Lies Medved tackles: “The U.S. is uniquely guilty for the crime of slavery and based its wealth on stolen African labor (Big lie No. 2); “America is an imperialist nation and a constant threat to world peace” (Big Lie No. 7) and “America is in the midst of an irreversible moral decline (Big Lie No. 10).
Medved’s book reassures the reader that much of the criticism you hear about America’s past is exaggerated and occasionally just plain wrong. Buy it for yourself, a friend, a family member or your favorite journalist.