Thursday, September 16, 2010

Heroes Are Not Always Politically Correct

(Note: This blog post is obviously just an opinion, and you are Free to disagree. Isn't it wonderful we have that Freedom?.- Dave A.)

Sometimes I have to shake my head and wonder at what point our American history became such a divisive issue that it creates villains out of heroes for the sake of political correctness. Kathy started Legends Of America back in 2003, and over the years she has learned all too well how some stories can cause a ruckus. Whether it be Billy the Kid or a fanciful ghost story, there are many passionate voices out there that can get their feathers ruffled in a hurry. A good example of this can be found on our Facebook page, especially when we feature a story on an American President.

We post daily stories on Facebook, ranging from early America, the Old West to Route 66. And each week we feature a "Good Guy". This week I posted Kathy's updated article from Hartwell James' 1899 book "Military Heroes of the United States" on President Zachary Taylor. I was intrigued to see the comments that soon came, and it was a particular statement that caught my eye and weighed on my mind enough to blog about it. The statement was, in part, "Taylor won fame as an Indian fighter.....Let's get real about our former Presidents. Many of them were racist and most of them were bigots."

Now, I realize that not everyone will consider Zach a good guy. Yes, he owned slaves. Yes, he fought Native Americans. He also fought with honor against Mexico and played a key role in the eventual statehood of California. So why was it so bad for us to do a "Good Guy" post on a former American President, someone who helped shape the Great Nation we live in, and recognize him for his accomplishments?

That led me to my ultimate question. How far do we go for the sake of Political Correctness? Let's say for instance you are an American Citizen of Hispanic decent. Does the fact that the United States fought and won territories from Mexico mean that we should give California back? What if you are of Native American decent? Yes, I agree, the United States did many bad things to people that deserved better. Do you honestly believe United States citizens, back in the 1800's, should have given up and turned the country back over to the various Native American tribes? Would you still have the freedom you have today? Would you even be here?

I don't mean to pick on this particular comment, as we have had similar comments on other posts dealing with our Founding Fathers. Whether you agree or disagree on a specific President's policies doesn't change the fact that each and every President of these United States have been heroic in some way that helped make us into what we are; the leader of the Free World.
And despite being "politically incorrect", in the end they did what's right...kept freedom at the core of our Nations foundation. Hell, we even fought with ourselves for that belief in freedom during the Civil War. And yes, President Zachary Taylor, a slave owner, had a hand in turning America away from Slavery "before" the Civil War.

I would go as far to say that if it weren't for Good Guys being politically "incorrect" at times, we would not have grown as a nation, nor have the level of civility throughout the world we have today. The feisty spirit in us that declared our Independence from the British, fought the Native Americans and Mexicans to expand our territories, defended freedom in two World Wars..all of the history, good and bad, resulting in the growth of a Nation that others around the World look up to.

My point is this... It depends which side of history you're on as to which Heroes you celebrate, and thankfully they are not always politically correct.
For a Hero is simply someone who furthered their cause with strong conviction and extraordinary measures. I, for one, am an American. I celebrate American Heroes. Including the politically incorrect President and Distinguished General, Zachary Taylor.


Anonymous said...

Dave, I completely agree. Thank you for pointing out that 'political correctness' impedes true conversation when it is the primary concern of the speaker. Thanks again!

Ron Scheer said...

I have been reading western writers from 100 years ago, and you can find unquestioned racism there, as well. I would argue that it's important to be reminded that many of our forebears had these attitudes - neither to condemn nor excuse them, but to understand and remember where we came from.

Bobbi said...

Good guys?
George Washington...
In 1779, George Washington instructed Major General John Sullivan to attack Iroquois people. Washington stated, "lay waste all the settlements around...that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed". In the course of the carnage and annihilation of Indian people, Washington also instructed his general not "listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected". (Stannard, David E. AMERICAN HOLOCAUST. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. pp. 118-121.)

Bobbi said...

In 1783, Washington's anti-Indian sentiments were apparent in his comparisons of Indians with wolves: "Both being beast of prey, tho' they differ in shape", he said. George Washington's policies of extermination were realized in his troops behaviors following a defeat. Troops would skin the bodies of Iroquois "from the hips downward to make boot tops or leggings". Indians who survived the attacks later re-named the nation's first president as "Town Destroyer". Approximately 28 of 30 Seneca towns had been destroyed within a five year period. (Stannard, David E. AMERICAN HOLOCAUST. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. pp. 118-121.)

Bobbi said...

And, here is a bit of something from The Great Emancipator.

Abraham Lincoln...

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution, by hanging, of 38 Dakota Sioux prisoners in Mankato, Minnesota. Most of those executed were holy men or political leaders of their camps. None of them were responsible for committing the crimes they were accused of. Coined as the Largest Mass Execution in U.S. History. (Brown, Dee. BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1970. pp. 59-61)

Bobbi said...

And, from the man who said, "Talk softly and carry a big stick."

Theodore Roosevelt...
The fourth face you see on that "Stony Mountain" is America's first twentieth century president, alleged American hero, and Nobel peace prize recipient, Theodore Roosevelt. This Indian fighter firmly grasped the notion of Manifest Destiny saying that America's extermination of the Indians and thefts our their lands "was ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable". Roosevelt once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth". (Stannard, Op.Cit.)

The apathy displayed by these founding fathers symbolize the demoralization related to racial superiority. Scholars point toward this racial polarization as evidence of the existence of Eugenics.

Eugenics is a new term for an old phenomena which asserts that Indian people should be exterminated because they are an inferior race of people. Jefferson's suggestion to pursue the Indians to extermination fits well into the eugenistic vision. In David Stannard's study American Holocaust, he writes: "had these same words been enunciated by a German leader in 1939, and directed at European Jews, they would be engraved in modern memory. Since they were uttered by one of America's founding fathers, however...they conveniently have become lost to most historians in their insistent celebration of Jefferson's wisdom and humanity." Roosevelt feared that American upper classes were being replaced by the "unrestricted breeding" of inferior racial stocks, the "utterly shiftless", and the "worthless" (Ibid)

Dave Alexander said...

I responded to Bobbi in another comment which I have since deleted. I did so, because I got caught up in my own rhetoric that I did not fully read and digest everything Bobbi said before posting. Now that I have, I agree with the points made about Eugenics. However I would still point out that without the leaders of the past, this Nation would not be what it is today, and I would strongly argue that if we had been as PC as we are today back then, we wouldn't have this Free Nation to call home. I'm thankful that we have a venue like this to share our thoughts and disagreements. As it's also the discourse that has shaped us just as much.

Bobbi said...

OK, Dave. Where would we be without these men? Sorry, but I lack the skills required to answer your question. In fact, no one does. So, your question is based on an unwarranted assumption.

What do I want us to do? Well, let's try telling both sides of the story. This country was built on the backs of slaves. This country was built by the persistent attempts of genocide.

You call my remarks "sqwaking." How interesting that since you cannot attack my argument you choose, instead, to attack me, by calling into question my patriotism and claiming to respect my opinion.

I did not miss your point, Dave. You missed mine.

Being a patriot does not mean ignoring the mistakes of the past, or celebrating and glorifying those who believed in genocide. It does mean, in my opinion, not only knowing and accepting the entirety of the history of the US, but understanding the consequences of such history that many still live with today.

For example: On the Pine Ridge Reservation
The Average life expectancy on the Reservation is 46
Pine Ridge Teen suicide rate is 150 times higher than the National Average
65% of the residents of the Reservation live in sub-standard conditions such as no electricity, running water, and often, without heat
Many of the elderly (some of whom still live in sod houses) die of Hypothermia each year
Average income is $2600 to $3500
Due to lack of sustainable jobs on the Reservation, unemployment is approximately 85-95%
Infant Mortality rate is 300% above National Average
There are NO commercial, industry or technology infrastructures on the Reservation to provide employment
Diabetes is 800 times higher than the National Average

As for other figures, American Indian/Alaska Native men and women generally have lower cancer rates than the non-Hispanic white population. However, disparities still exist in certain types of cancer.

From 2003-2007, American Indian/Alaska Native men were 80% more likely to have liver & IBD cancer as non-Hispanic White men.
American Indian/Alaska Native men are 1.8 times as likely to have stomach cancer as non-Hispanic White men, and are over twice as likely to die from the same disease.
American Indian/Alaska Native women are 2.6 times more likely to have, and twice as likely to die from, liver & IBD cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic White women.
American Indian/Alaska Native women are 40% more likely to have kidney/renal pelvis cancer as non-Hispanic White women.

So, tell me again how great is this country when the Indigenous People of this continent live under these conditions?

Tell me how we can consider the US to be a great country when, in fact, the confidence in the US in falling drastically around the globe?

Tell me why, when asking for th truth you suggest that I am something less than patriotic?

Tell me why, if good came out of some presidencies, we should justify ignoring that which was abhorrent?

Bobbi said...

I did not see your second post until after I posted my last comment.

So, might it be safe to say that while we might not be on the same page, we are, perhaps, reading the same chapter?

Dave Alexander said...

Bobbi, I like the way you answered that. I think you're right, we are reading the same chapter, just on a different page. Thanks for sharing your opinions and information. Although I deleted my original response, I'm leaving up yours in the interest of our debate.

Davit System said...

Well of course they were all heroes who contributed to our country to make US the strongest nation of the world.

In my view if i flash back the history Abraham Lincoln makes me very impress because at that time when he was president the way they handled US was really almost unthinkable at this time its just his foresight to saw all the situations & make the US not only stable but progressive also.

ayumi said...

wonderful work! the way you discuss the subject i'm very impressed. i'll bookmark this webpage and be back more often to see more updates from you.