|Vol. 9, No. 3||March 1998|
The Threat of Puerto Rican Statehood
A bill in Congress could make it happen soon.
Within the next few months Congress is likely to vote on a bill that would make Puerto Rico our 51st state. If it passes, the United States will be importing AIDS, crime, poverty and other Third-World problems. Four million Spanish-speakers who don’t even consider themselves Americans, would gain political representation at the expense of current citizens. Astonishingly, Republicans and Democrats alike support this bill.
Citizens by Law
Although Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by law, the island is not a state but a commonwealth. It is closely associated with the United States but is not a permanent part of the Union, and it does not have the same rights and responsibilities as a state.
In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, American forces occupied Puerto Rico after an invasion that met only token Spanish resistance and was generally welcomed by Puerto Ricans. After the war, Spain ceded the island to the United States, which ruled it as a territory with an appointed governor. In 1952, Congress made it a self-governing commonwealth on terms that were overwhelmingly approved by Puerto Ricans in a referendum.
|Our 51st state could be four million Spanish-speaking non-whites who don’t even consider themselves Americans|
As citizens of a commonwealth, Puerto Ricans pay no U.S. income taxes and do not vote in U.S. elections (though they do send a “resident commissioner” to Congress, who votes only in committee). They are eligible for some handout programs like food stamps — over half the island’s residents get them — but the amount of welfare can be capped by Congress. Until 1996 Puerto Rico’s economic development was enormously stimulated by a different handout program: U.S. companies were exempted from federal income tax on profits earned in the commonwealth, and many moved operations there.
Despite the obvious economic benefits of association with the United States, many Puerto Ricans deeply resent “colonization.” As Ricardo Alegria, the founder of the Center for the Advanced Study of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean says, “We weren’t Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona or New Mexico. We weren’t some sparsely settled frontier. We were a nation when the United States arrived… There will always be ethnic tension here if they try to make us a state.” In 1993, Renan Soto, the president of the Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers claimed, “Since that Sunday, July 25 of 1898, when we were invaded by the North Americans, Puerto Rico has been the victim of constant cultural aggression and intense publicity directed toward eliminating our language, Spanish.”
|If Puerto Ricans are so nationalistic why should there be any interest in statehood at all? The answer is the money.|
The most prominent expression of Puerto Rican resentment is the independentista movement. In 1950, some of its members nearly succeeded in assassinating President Harry Truman. Four years later, Puerto Rican terrorists started shooting from the visitors’ gallery in the House of Representatives, and wounded five members of Congress. To this day, the Puerto Rican independence movement is the leading source of domestic terrorism in the U.S. As Scott McConnell pointed out in an editorial that got him fired from the New York Post (seeAnother Political Sacrifice), “Puerto Ricans continue to revere as nationalist heroes several martyr-figures whom most Americans would view simply as terrorists.” Mr. McConnell found that Puerto Rican nationalism quickly takes the form of accusations of “racism.” Much like black groups, Puerto Ricans treat criticism as an attack on “la raza” to be dealt with by stern means.
Puerto Ricans have a deep attachment to culture, race and language. They see themselves, correctly, as members of a distinct Latino-Caribbean culture that cannot mesh with traditional Anglo-America. As Ruben Berrios Martinez, the leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, writes, “Puerto Rico’s heart is not American. It is Puerto Rican. The national sentiment of Puerto Ricans is entirely devoted to our patria, as we call our homeland in Spanish, our language. We are Puerto Ricans in the same way that Mexicans are Mexicans and Japanese are Japanese. For us, “we the people’ means we Puerto Ricans.”
Puerto Rican nationalism is perhaps on most obvious display during the Olympic Games; the island fields its own “national” team, and Puerto Ricans cheer the loudest when their teams face the United States. Puerto Rico also participates independently in international beauty pageants.
Puerto Ricans take fierce pride in their language. The whole island speaks Spanish, with only about 20 percent of the population fluent in English. This number has stayed the same for many years, since most Puerto Ricans do not want to learn English.
Until 1990, Puerto Rico had two official languages, Spanish and English. In that year, in a fit of linguistic chauvinism, the commonwealth demoted English and established Spanish as the sole official language. In 1993, pro-statehood forces captured the governorship and decided that an officially bilingual Puerto Rico would have a better chance at statehood. English was reinstated, but met huge resistance, including one anti-English rally that drew 100,000 people. Puerto Rico is officially bilingual again but in practice it remains Spanish-speaking.
Not even pro-statehood Puerto Ricans have any intention of abandoning Spanish, which they consider integral to their identity. The current governor, Pedro Rossello, who campaigns for statehood, has nevertheless written: “Spanish belongs to all Puerto Ricans, it is not negotiable under any circumstance or political status.” With Puerto Rico as a “state,” English-speaking Americans could conceivably find themselves in a part of their own country where not even the court system operates in English. They would need an interpreter to answer a summons for a traffic ticket.
If Puerto Ricans are so nationalistic why should there be any interest in statehood at all? The answer is money. If Puerto Rico becomes a state, Uncle Sam’s entire welfare bonanza will be available — including the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program that has seen such spectacular abuse. Puerto Ricans would have to start paying federal income taxes, but this would be made up many times over in increased government handouts. An August, 1996, report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) indicates that Puerto Ricans would pay an estimated $49 million in income taxes but would get an additional three to four billion from from taxpayers in the rest of the country.
Loyalty to the U.S. is hardly the main argument for statehood. In his aptly-titled book Statehood is For the Poor, former governor and current congressional delegate Carlos Romero-Barcelo writes:
“Puerto Rico’s per capita contribution to the federal treasury, were we a state, would come to less than that of any state in the Union. At the same time, the per capita benefits we’d reap from federal aid programs would be greater than those of any state in the Union. On top of all this, we’d also have seven or eight Puerto Ricans serving as full voting members of Congress, working up in Washington at all times to help draft and pass new and improved social welfare legislation.”
Mr. Romero-Barcelo means what he says. In 1974, when he was governor, he sued the U.S. government to extend food stamp availability to every town in Puerto Rico. He won in federal court and his victory cost the U.S. taxpayers $500 million in that year alone. Puerto Rican author Robert Fernandez notes that some aid centers in the capitol city of San Juan alone handle more “clients” than the entire state of Texas.
Puerto Ricans also have very high rates of AIDS, drug abuse, crime, poverty, illegitimacy, and unemployment. If Puerto Rico were a state, its AIDS rate (58 per 100,000 inhabitants) would make it third in the nation after New York (69 per 100,000) and Washington D.C. (220 per 100,000). In 1991 the island had a drug addiction rate of 1,972 per 100,000, compared to the U.S. rate of 1,176 per 100,000. In 1993, the Puerto Rican murder rate was more than two-and-a-half times that of the U.S: 24 per 100,000 compared to nine. In 1995 Puerto Rico’s per capita income was $7,670, which was less than half that of Mississippi, our poorest state. While unemployment in the U.S. is running around five percent, unemployment on the island approaches 20 percent.
Puerto Ricans who move to the United States fare worse in some respects than those who stay behind. While the illegitimacy rate on the island is already high at 30 percent, the figure doubles to 60 percent for Puerto Ricans on the mainland. In New York City, where all U.S. welfare programs are available to them, Puerto Ricans are more likely than blacks to be on welfare. If statehood is anything like moving to the mainland, Puerto Ricans may be courting more trouble than they realize.
Prospects for Americans
The vote on the Puerto Rican statehood bill (HR-856) was originally scheduled for after Labor Day, 1997, but was delayed because of grassroots political action by, among others, English First and the Council of Conservative Citizens. But a delay does not kill a bill; Congress could well vote on it this spring, on very little notice.
The bill’s chief sponsor is Don Young (R-AK) and it is co-sponsored by such Republican leaders as Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. The Speaker of the House rarely cosponsors legislation, so this is a sure sign that it is a priority for the GOP. Supposedly conservative Republicans are probably supporting statehood for “the welfare capital of the Caribbean,” as part of the party’s ever-growing commitment to “diversity.” Indeed, GOP pollster Frank Luntz recently urged the party to push for Puerto Rican statehood in order to win Hispanic votes.
With both political parties apparently in favor of statehood, and columnists who write honestly about its implications losing their jobs, prospects for the bill are good. Statehood would probably prove Mr. Romero-Barcelo correct: Eight liberal Democrats (two Senators and six Congressmen) would go to Washington to help pass “improved social welfare legislation.” Because current law limits the number of seats in the House of Representatives to 435, real Americans would lose a congressman for every one Puerto Rico got. The Congressional Research Service projects that the losses would come from six states: Mississippi, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.
The new Democratic non-white members of Congress would be an important step towards the Republican party’s long march toward permanent minority status, and the Puerto Rico delegation could be counted on to vote for every program the left espouses, from affirmative action and mass immigration to gun control and support for the U.N. A strengthened and increased Hispanic lobby would probably press hard for more U.S. foreign aid to its racial brothers in Latin America. Multiculturalism and official bilingualism would become, in effect, the law of the land. Appeals to tradition would be meaningless if one of our states had a Latino-Caribbean culture and spoke Spanish.
At the same time, statehood could very well invite precisely the kind of intractable ethnic conflict that now causes so much bloodshed all around the world. Although the independentistas do not get much popular support, they are desperate and determined men. As a spokesman, Carlos M. Ayes, warns, “Statehood will mean war. Violence is hard to stomach, but George Washington killed thousands of British to gain recognition for 13 colonies that claimed the right to be independent. If the United States wants its very own Northern Ireland let them continue this farce.”
Puerto Rico is an alien island with a people, language, culture, and traditions incompatible with the United States. We should be preparing it for independence, not statehood. This plan to absorb four million Third-Worlders is one of the most obviously misguided and potentially destructive pieces of legislation likely to come before Congress this year. It is entirely possible that the bill could come to a vote with only minimal discussion or debate — just like the 1965 immigration act. The media will not discuss its implications honestly, so it will be up to every patriotic organization in the country to see to it that this legislation is shown to be the awful idea that it is and to halt it in its tracks.
How the Bill Would Work
If Congress passes HR-856, Puerto Rico will hold a plebiscite once every ten years until a majority chooses either statehood or independence. Commonwealth status will also be on the ballot, so Puerto Ricans can vote to maintain the status quo if the want — but will have to do so every ten years if they want to stay a commonwealth. In 1993, in the last referendum of this kind, 49 percent of the electorate voted to keep the island a commonwealth, 46 percent voted for statehood, and only five percent voted for independence.
Despite deep resentment of the U.S., an active terrorist movement against statehood, and past referendums rejecting statehood, chances are that economic arguments will win over at least five percent of those who chose commonwealth status in 1993. If a majority votes for statehood, the President must submit a ten-year transition plan to Congress. If Congress approves the plan, ten years later we will add a 51st star to the flag.
In effect, the United States is saying to Puerto Rico:
“You can join us or you can become independent; we’ll be happy either way. If you can’t make up your minds now, that’s alright, too. We’ll be here whenever you want us — 10, 20, even 50 years from now. And we will be happy to have you even if only 51 percent of you vote to become Americans.”
It is hard to imagine a proposal more degrading to the current 50 states.
Puerto Rican ambivalence about joining the Union is in sharp contrast to the enthusiasm with which other territories have joined. In 1959 Alaska became a state with support of 83 percent of its population. When Hawaii joined in the same year 94 percent voted for for union.
Another Political Sacrifice
Though self-styled conservatives like to attack liberals for being “politically correct” they can be equally P.C. on issues of race. Scott McConnell, who was the editor of the New York Post’s editorial page, has joined Sam Francis and Joe Sobran as a political sacrifice made by conservatives to liberals.
His offense? Opposing Puerto Rican statehood. In a July 14, 1997, editorial called “The Puerto Rico question,” Mr. McConnell noted the obvious: Puerto Ricans are poor, dependent of American food stamps, and are often hostile to the English language.
The editorial chided Congress — especially Republicans — for supporting an important bill without much debate or caution. Mr. McConnell even dared to suggest that whatever benefits statehood might have for Puerto Rico it might not be good for the United States.
New York’s Puerto Rican “activists” demanded an apology. At a meeting with New York Post publisher Martin Singerman and Mr. McConnell, more than 30 Puerto Rican leaders took turns accusing Mr. McConnell of racism. In an article about his firing that he wrote for the October, 1997, issue of Heterodoxy, Mr. McConnell describes his response — which his employer apparently found inadequate:
“When they had finished, I said, as calmly as I could, that (I took full responsibility for the editorial, that its purpose was to expand the debate about Puerto Rican statehood which I felt consequential for the country as a whole, and that it certainly was not written to insult Puerto Ricans. I rejected the charge of fomenting a stereotype, which I described as a process of exaggerating a trait to give a maliciously false impression. Accurate statistics from the U.S. Census were not and could not lead to stereotyping. I said — provocatively perhaps — that perhaps some of the anger was due not so much to was written in the editorial as in the fact that the editorial broke the monopoly held by Puerto Ricans on discussion of the status of the island’s future. What I did not do — and this was probably my big mistake — was apologize for the editorial, or say that it was ill-conceived or unfortunate.”
Soon afterwards, Mr. McConnell was fired by the “conservative” New York Post.
The Galton Report
A sampling of recent science literature.
Race Genetics in the Mainstream
Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, has called for a crash program to catalog racial differences in DNA. He has called for this work to be done with “some urgency,” using the “four major population categories: African, Asian, European, and Native American.” By this summer, government-funded research may be systematically cataloging the genetic variations that our government leaders and the major media still pretend do not exist.
The genome project has hardly gone racialist. New technology, together with the burgeoning commercial interest in genetic variety, has made the study of group genetic differences a high priority.
Scientific and technological progress has been much more rapid than anyone had expected back in 1990 when the Human Genome Project (HGP) began (see AR, March 1997). The 15-year program was to culminate in a complete sequential description of the approximately 3 billion bases that make up one copy of the human genome. The project is proceeding apace and by the year 2005 we should have the completed sequence for one “representative” copy of human genes.
|By this summer, government-funded research may be systematically cataloging the genetic variations that our government leaders still pretend do not exist.|
The nature of the actual research work continues to change because of new technologies. One exciting innovation should greatly speed up the discovery and characterization of genetic differences. It has recently been found that single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) — known as “snips” — can serve as markers for genetic differences between any samples of DNA. Snips are not complete genes; they are short DNA sequences that mark the locations of genes that differ, both between individuals and races.
Technological breakthroughs make it likely that very soon there will be semi- or fully-automated high-throughput snip detectors. This would mean that genetic group differences could be discovered very rapidly. If so, why is the head of the HGP in such a hurry to have the government do this work?
The reason is that fast, automatic detection and analysis of snips comes just as more labs and companies are getting onto the gene-discovery bandwagon (see “New Gold Rush,” AR, Jan. 1998). With many companies starting crash programs to discover gene variants, the new techniques could result in the quick discovery of thousands of markers for genetic racial variation. By analyzing snips, researchers can track down genes that individually play only a small role but that collectively can cause serious illness. Diabetes, hypertension and some mental illnesses are some of the conditions caused by multiple genes. Knowledge of genetic variation will make it possible to devise drugs for the specific treatment of groups or even individuals.
Thus there is potential for tremendous profits from new drugs designed on the basis of knowledge of gene structure, and the patent law treats newly-sequenced disease genes just like any other chemical discovery. This ability to patent newly-discovered genes is what drives the genetic biotechnology industry, including well-known companies Amgen and Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
As a recent Science article puts it, “although it may seem odd that common variation in the human genome could be claimed as intellectual property, some patent experts consider SNPs to have sufficient defining features of novelty, utility, and non-obviousness to be patentable.” The concern of Francis Collins and other planners at the HGP is that commercial enterprises could quickly patent large sets of SNPs. Were that to happen, they could then charge license fees to use them in any kind of research, including studies of the genetic nature of racial differences. Such fees could quickly price much basic research out of existence. The worst case would be if egalitarians patented a large number of snips and banned their use in racial research.
This is not Dr. Collins’ specific concern. His is the straightforward one that scientific knowledge should be in the public domain rather than be privately held for private gain. But if he succeeds in getting the government to speed up the research and gets snips in the public domain before private companies can patent them, he will have put government resources to work in a way that will be immensely valuable for racial research. [Collins, F. S., Guyer, M. S., & Chakravarti, A.,”Variations on a theme: Cataloging human DNA sequence variation.” Science, Vol. 278, (28 Nov. 97), pp. 1580-1581; Marshall, E., “Human genome project: “playing chicken’ over gene markers.” Science, Vol. 278, (19 Dec. 97), pp. 2046-2048.]
Who Was Stanley D. Porteus?
Stanley Porteus was the most eminent social scientist ever to spend his career on the faculty of the University of Hawaii. In appropriate recognition of his many contributions to knowledge and to Hawaii, the social science building on the Manoa campus is named Porteus Hall.
Porteus is best known for his cross-cultural research on mental ability. In 1914 he invented the Porteus Maze Test, one of the most widely-used mental tests that does not require either verbal instructions or verbal answers. His results from extensive testing of individuals from diverse “cultures” were largely consistent with current scientific findings.
This, of course, means that a group of faculty and students has decided that Porteus Hall must be renamed. As they put it, “[the] board of regents made an appalling and inexcusable mistake (in honoring Porteus), whose only claim to fame for more than 50 years was his notoriety as a pseudoscientific racist.” He is said to have been “blatantly racist” and supported “neo-nazi causes.” They add that because the university is on land that was “stolen” from the Hawaiians the building should have a Hawaiian name. [Constantino, S. “Hall’s namesake center of focus,” Ka Leo O Hawai’i, November 24, 1997.]
Senility by Race
The National Research Council, which is the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has published a new report, “Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Health of Older Americans.” American Whites have been found to age better than blacks and Hispanics. Dementia (senility) rates for Africans and Hispanics are said to be “dramatically in excess of that found in non-Hispanic whites.” It seems that people of lower intelligence tend to lose cognitive functions sooner than people with high intelligence. Environmentalists suggest that education and or thinking tends to delay the onset of dementia, but there is no real evidence for this.
It is sometimes theorized that in the elderly depression tends to be mislabeled as dementia. However, researchers are confident that differences in depression do not account for the observed differences in dementia among the races. Older blacks display very little depression, but have comparatively high rates of dementia. Whites show the least dementia but the greatest tendency toward depression. [Holden, C. “Ethnicity and aging”. Science, Vol. 278, (5 Dec. 1997), p. 1717.]
Glayde Whitney is professor in psychology, psychobiology, and neuroscience at Florida State University.
‘The Merciless Indian Savages’
A fresh perspective on how the West was won — and from whom.
Scalp Dance: Indian Warfare on the High Plains, 1865-1879, Thomas Goodrich, Stackpole Books, 1997, $32.95, 340 pp.
The American Indian has always had champions among whites. Their voices have generally been loudest in areas furthest removed from Indians in their natural state — perhaps not surprisingly since traditional Indian life involved almost perpetual warfare. Thus, as America’s political frontiers moved West, Easterners came to see Indians not as, in George Washington’s words, “beasts of prey” with an insatiable appetite for bloodshed, but as victims of the white man’s greed and brutality. With the disappearance of the frontier all Americans could take this view, and in the last 30 years book after book has promoted guilt over the fate of the Indian and regretted our nation’s very existence.
|“Some bodies were set up on their knees and elbows and their hind parts had been shot full of arrows.”|
Thomas Goodrich has boldly attempted to redress this imbalance with Scalp Dance, a historical narrative largely drawn from first-hand accounts by soldiers and settlers who faced the Indian menace on the Great Plains. For Americans reared on tales of Wounded Knee and Sand Creek, a better understanding of Indian warfare casts these famous massacres in an entirely different light.
Col. William Collins commanded men who faced the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, Cheyenne and Sioux. Of these tribes, he wrote: “War with somebody … is the natural state of an Indian people. Every tribe has some hereditary enemies with whom it is always at war … It is by war that they obtain wealth, position and influence with the tribe.”
What modern accounts of the “noble” Indian warrior commonly leave out is his manner of making war, and it is the eye-witness and contemporary records that both enrich Mr. Goodrich’s book and make it sometimes painful to read. Military historian John Keegan has written that “there is a cruelty in the warfare of some pre-Columbian peoples of North and Central America that has no parallel elsewhere in the world,” but it would seem that this barbarity continued well into the 19th century.
Col. Henry Carrington wrote: “The great real fact is, that these Indians take alive when possible, and slowly torture.” Enemy dead who could not be tortured were horribly mutilated. This is how Col. Carrington describes the battlefield where, on December 21, 1866, 80 American troops were annihilated by a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne under Chief Red Cloud:
“Eyes torn out and laid on the rocks; noses cut off; ears cut off; chins hewn off; teeth chopped out; … brains taken out and placed on rocks with other members of the body; entrails taken out and exposed; hands cut off; feet cut off; arms taken out from sockets; private parts severed and indecently placed on the person; … skulls severed in every form, from chin to crown; muscles of calves, thighs, stomach, breast, back, arms and cheek taken out. Punctures upon every sensitive part of the body, even to the soles of the feet and palms of the hand. All this only approximates the whole truth.”
A few of the soldiers had managed to kill themselves before being captured. Many — probably most — were taken alive and tortured to death. This was the potential fate of every soldier on the Plains, and it is hardly surprising that it was standard practice to “save the last bullet for yourself.”
The aftermath of the Little Bighorn massacre was entirely typical. Private Jacob Adams wrote:
“The men … were … scalped and horribly mutilated. Some … were decapitated, while many bodies were lacking feet … As I walked over the field I saw many unfortunate dead who had been propped into a sitting position and used as targets by bowmen who had proceeded to stick them full of steel-headed arrows… Some bodies were set up on their knees and elbows and their hind parts had been shot full of arrows.”
Most of the bodies were naked, and many had been elaborately savaged. Isaiah Dorman, an interpreter, and the only black in Custer’s party, was treated with particular contempt. A witness wrote:
“Isaiah lay with his breast full of arrows and an iron picket pin thrust through his testicles into the ground, pinning him down… Dorman’s penis was cut off and stuffed in his mouth, which was regarded among the Indians as the deepest insult possible … His body had been ripped open, and a coffee pot and cup which he carried with him were filled with his blood. What devilish purpose the Indians had in catching his blood I do not know.”
Major Marcus Reno, who had ridden with Custer, wrote of a scene he found in the Indian village near the battleground:
“One ghastly find was near the center of the field where three teepee poles were standing upright in the ground in the form of a triangle. On top of each were inverted camp kettles, while below them on the grass were the heads of three men… The three heads were placed within the triangle, facing each other in a horrible sightless stare.”
Whites who observed Indians at their grisly work described them as expert butchers of human meat. A drummer named James Lockwood wrote of the deaths of two soldiers outside Julesburg, Colorado: “In less time than it takes to read this, they were stripped of their clothing, mutilated in a manner which would emasculate them, if alive, and their scalps torn from their heads.”
Far more gratifying than mutilating the dead was torturing the living. This was the ultimate aim of Indian warfare and was considered a religious act. Col. Richard Dodge left this by no means exceptional account of the fate of one captive:
“He was stripped of his clothing, laid on his back on the ground and his arms and legs, stretched to the utmost, were fastened by thongs to pins driven into the ground. In this state he was not only helpless, but almost motionless. All this time the Indians pleasantly talked to him. It was all a kind of joke. Then a small fire was built near one of his feet. When that was so cooked as to have little sensation, another fire was built near the other foot; then the legs and arms and body of the whole person was crisped. Finally a small fire was built on the naked breast and kept up until life was extinct.”
It is worth noting that Indians did not single out whites for cruelty; they treated them just as they did other Indians. Mr. Goodrich quotes a Crow chief explaining to General George Crook his hatred for the Sioux:
“They hunt upon our mountains. They fish in our streams. They have stolen our horses. They have murdered our squaws, our children… We want back our lands. We want their women for our slaves, to work for us as our women have had to work for them. We want their horses for our young men, and their mules for our squaws. The Sioux have trampled upon our hearts. We shall spit upon their scalps.”
As this passage indicates, Indians did not restrict their slaughter to combatants; many white homesteaders were killed without regard to sex or age. Capt. Henry Palmer left this terrible account of the aftermath of a raid:
“We found the bodies of three little children who had been taken by the heels by the Indians and swung around against the log cabin, beating their heads to a jelly. Found the hired girl some fifteen rods from the ranch staked out on the prairie, tied by her hands and feet, naked, body full of arrows and horribly mangled.”
Mr. Goodrich devotes an entire chapter to women’s narratives of captivity. Its title is “A Fate Worse Than Death,” and he does not use this antique expression ironically. A captive in an Indian camp was fair game for any kind of degradation:
“She was led from her tent and every remnant of clothing torn from her body. A child that she was holding to her breast was wrenched from her arms and she was knocked to the ground. In this nude condition the demons gathered round her and while some held her down by standing on her wrists and their claws clutched in her hair, others outraged her person. Not less than thirty repeated the horrible deed.”
Of two white women rescued by the 7th Cavalry in 1869 it was recorded: “At first they had been sold back and forth among the bucks for fifteen ponies each, but their last owners had only paid two.” One victim “appeared to be 50 years old, although she was less than 25.” She had not only been repeatedly raped but had received constant beatings from jealous squaws.
Indians delighted in trophy-taking, and prized some trophies over others. Catherine German wrote of the death of her sister:
“Some time passed while the Indians were parleying; they seemed to make a choice between Joanna and myself… The Indians removed our bonnets to see if we had long hair … My hair was short … Joanna was sitting on a box that had been taken from our wagon … We heard the report of a rifle and when we looked again, our beloved sister, Joanna, was dead. The Indians then scalped their long-haired victim… This all happened within a very short time, and before any of us could realize it, our once happy family life was forever ended.”
Contemporary accounts show that the lot of an Indian woman was not much better than that of a white captive. Lieutenant James Steele wrote: “She is beaten, abused, reviled, driven like any other beast of burden … She is bought and sold; wife, mother, and pack animal, joined in one hideous and hopeless whole.”
War correspondent DeBenneville Keim reported: “The relations between the sexes is the same in nearly all cases — that is, they [the women] are the servants or slaves … All labor performed in an Indian village fall[s] to the lot of the women.”
Elizabeth Burt, an army officer’s wife, recorded her impressions of domestic life among Indians:
“I saw one of them [a chief] walking in front of a squaw, whose back was bent under a heavy sack of something, probably flour, while he, with his tall body wrapped in a gayly colored blanket, carried nothing but a stick. We stopped to watch them. Did he offer to help her carry the load? Not he, indeed; but on the contrary would use the stick to poke her in the back, to urge her on when … he found her falling back with her heavy load. The brute!”
Mrs. Burt believed she was allowed to walk about in Indian camps because “women are such inferior creatures in the estimation of an Indian that … I engrossed little of their attention.”
Mr. Goodrich concludes his book with an account of the attempt by Chief Dull Knife’s Cheyenne to escape from their Kansas reservation and return to their traditional hunting grounds. Historians usually treat this as an epic of aboriginal bravery against all odds. It inspired the adulatory film Cheyenne Autumn. Mr. Goodrich gives all due credit to the Cheyenne as warriors, but he presents the breakout as what it was: a killing spree. Dull Knife’s braves launched a reign of terror over Kansas from which no white American — man, woman, soldier, or civilian — was safe.
Despite such frank accounts of Indian behavior, Mr. Goodrich’s book is by no means uncritical of whites, whose atrocities he also chronicles. Whites who lived in closest contact with Indians were those who hated them most, and some repaid barbarity in the same coin. A settler named George Porter, who had seen his entire family murdered (and all its female members raped beforehand), went on a one-man vendetta in which he is reported to have killed 108 Indians.
Men like Porter occasionally fought in uniform as volunteer soldiers. Mr. Goodrich actually begins his book with what is generally regarded as the worst case of white brutality in the Indian Wars: the attack on the camp at Sand Creek, Colorado. Here, in the winter of 1864, Col. John Chivington led the Union volunteers of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry against the Cheyenne and Arapaho of Chief Black Kettle. These Indians had been granted a voucher of safety by a regular army officer, and Chivington caught them completely unprepared. His men killed women and children as well as men.
Unlike other historians, Mr. Goodrich puts this massacre in context. Chivington’s volunteers knew that during the summer white civilians in the area — men, women, and children — had been slaughtered by Indians. Some of the volunteers were probably related to the victims, and their battle cry was “Remember the murdered women and children!” Regular troops who conducted the bulk of the Indian campaigns were generally far less brutal than Chivington’s men because they had a less personal stake in the fighting.
This said, the army that fought the Indians was not America’s finest. During the Civil War over two million men served in the federal armies, and in May, 1865, one million men were wearing Union blue. But by the next year this force had shrunk to a peace-time strength of 55,000 men, 20,000 of whom were occupying the South. It was a meager force that guarded American lives and property as settlers and railroads moved west.
The post-Civil War army also suffered from severe morale problems. The officer corps had been purged of its Southern patrician bedrock, and recruits were often beggars and recent immigrants. Many soldiers tried to survive their “hitch” by avoiding battle. Desertion was an almost debilitating problem, and sometimes it was only the cruelty of the enemy that inspired great efforts from the men. One officer from Gen. Patrick Connor’s 1865 campaign recalled:
“About ten days before, the Indians had captured one of our men, and had tortured him and mangled his body in a shocking manner. Our boys swore that if they ever got hold of an Indian they would cut him all to pieces, and they did.”
Given the kind of enemy they proved to be, it is surprising there were not more massacres of Indians.
Mr. Goodrich’s book captures the insoluble essence of the problem. No matter how militarily impressive, the traditional Indian way of life was incompatible with civilization. It was a way of life that held plunder and killing as the highest virtues. Its passing should elicit few tears.
A poor Kansas farmer named John Fergusson expressed in his homely way the determination that finally drove the Indian from the prairies:
“I have been looking for the redskined Deavels in on us every day for the last month. they have been in and killed settelars twenty miles north of me and carried off gerls prisoners. the people here is living in constant dread of being attacted by them every day. the settelars cant verry well leave. they have reasded good fare crops of wheat and corn … and the most of them thinks as I do that we may as well stay here with what we have got and run the risk of being skalped as leave it. as for me I have lost over a thousand Dolars runing from Indians over the last five years and I am going to stand by what I have got now to the last minut.”
It is the perspective of the people who built the United States that has been withheld from us by the purveyors of popular culture. Scalp Dance reminds us of the nobility of America’s settlers and of our debt to their memory.
Mr. Schwamenfeld is a writer who lives in Dundee, New York.
IN THE NEWS
O Tempora, O Mores!
Standing Athwart NR
Over the last several years, National Review has been moving in very sensible directions on immigration, multiculturalism, and even race and IQ. William F. Buckley’s fortnightly journal has defended The Bell Curve, published reviews by Philippe Rushton, and called for serious immigration reform. Of all the large-circulation “conservative” magazines, NR has lately been the best on racial matters.
Mr. Buckley has recently removed the two men most responsible for this. Former editor John O’Sullivan was forced out in December, and just this February former Senior Editor Peter Brimelow was demoted to the meaningless position of contributing editor. The man replacing Mr. O’Sullivan is Rich Lowry, a 30-year-old political writer who reportedly wants to halt the spread of “Buchananism.” Mr. Brimelow’s replacement will be John Miller, who is vice president of the pro-immigration Center for Equal Opportunity. This group, run by Linda Chavez, was probably the main force behind the firing of Sam Francis from the Washington Times in 1995.
Mr. Buckley founded National Review in the 1950s to stop the spread of communism and left-wing “progress.” In his now-famous phrase, NR was, “standing athwart history yelling “Stop!’” The magazine has done much good in its time, but these personnel changes indicate that the principled and even daring conservatism of Whitaker Chambers, Richard Weaver and James Burnham — not to mention the young Bill Buckley — is glimmering away at National Review. It will not be yelling “Stop!” to mulitculturalism or the Third World.
Black and Proud (and Sometimes Dead)
Martin Luther King, Jr. hospital serves the people of South-Central Los Angeles. It was established in 1972, on the curious assumption that a shortage of hospitals was one of the causes of the Watts race riots in 1965. Although it opened with an excellent medical staff, it soon came under black management, and the care it provides is now so bad it is known as “Killer King.” It is also known for consistently promoting blacks over better-qualified people of other races.
Incompetence is now legendary. One 18-year-old patient died when doctors accidentally severed her jugular vein when they were trying to open a passage in her throat so she could breathe. When a 37-year-old woman died after a routine operation for an ovarian cyst, the hospital’s own chief of pathology called it a “chain of stupidity and incompetence the likes of which I have never seen.” When a 26-year-old sheriff’s deputy was shot in the line of duty and brought to the emergency room he was given the wrong drugs and died. The District Attorney looked into the case and concluded it was part of a pattern: “Public safety is threatened when people come to Martin Luther King Hospital for medical care …” Not surprisingly, it pays out more settlements for medical malpractice than any other Los Angeles hospital — more than do institutions three times its size.
Why the poor record? Blacks are 10 percent of the county workforce but make up 67 percent of the hospital staff, and black administrators mean to keep it that way. Discrimination has been so blatant that even the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which seldom worries about black discrimination, has accused the hospital of racism. Los Angeles County’s own Civil Service Commission notes that the hospital “has an unwritten policy of maintaining itself as a black institution, and of placing black candidates in positions of leadership within the institution, to the exclusion of non-blacks.”
Recently, a mediocre black was put in charge of emergency room operations. When some of his surprised non-black colleagues leafed through his resumé they found he had published only 17 of the 38 journal articles he claimed to have written. He had also falsified a certificate qualifying him to teach advanced cardiac life-support techniques (anyone he instructed from 1994 to 1996 must now be retrained). False qualifications are grounds for dismissal but the county mysteriously refuses to fire him.
One black doctor who taught at the affiliated medical school made $55,000 more per year than his boss, who was several rungs higher on the academic pay scale. His boss was an Indian. In 1994, the hospital hired a black doctor and paid him $240,000 a year — $100,000 more than his white predecessor. This was far more than civil service regulations permit, so he was surreptitiously paid out of the supplies budget. As a result critical supplies sometimes ran short.
Discrimination has been so easy to prove that at least five non-black doctors and administrators have won out-of-court pay-offs, and five more have filed suit. When the hospital actually fought a discrimination claim — a claim it thought it could win — a jury awarded the doctor $570,000.
A lawyer who has represented several doctors against the medical center says the county does nothing “because they are afraid to confront black racism.” Boyd James, a black from the West Indies who teaches psychiatry at the medical school, agrees: “If it were not for blackness, the county would have closed this place down.” (Susan Goldsmith, Blacks Only, New Times Los Angeles, Dec. 11-17, 1997, p. 11)
Another Race Initiative
Olin Tezcatlipoca, is a Mexican-American who heads a group called the Chicano Mexicano Mexica Empowerment Committee (CMMEC), which he established in Los Angeles in 1993. Mr. Tezcatlipoca’s goal is to drive white people out of the southwestern United States and create an all-Aztec nation untouched by European influences — well, almost untouched: “We want a Mexica society the way it used to be, but with computers and stuff.”
Mr. Tezcatlipoca was born as Leo Guerra, but rejected his European “slave name” just as black Muslims reject theirs. Many of his 30-odd followers have also adopted Aztec names like Nau Ilhuicamina Xolotl (a woman’s name). Mr. Tezcatlipoca’s opus, Mexica Handbook, is their Bible.
The motto of CMMEC is “NOT Hispanic. NOT Latino. Mexica!” Mr. Tezcatlipoca does not consider himself Hispanic or Latino because these are linguistic rather than racial designations. “Why should we have to unite with people we have nothing in common with?” he asks. “What does an African Dominican have in common with a Slavic Argentinean? We have completely different racial histories.” CMMEC’s members resent Spanish cultural domination of Latin America and accuse fellow Mexicans of trying to look and act white.
Mr. Tezcatlipoca’s movement is unabashedly dark-skinned and Indian. He says his people must take pride and stop thinking that: “Indians are ugly, they are poor, they are the ones selling oranges on freeway ramps. Hispanics are beautiful people; they are white.”
Europeans are, of course, history’s great villains: “[They] call themselves Americans, Canadians, Hispanics … They should call themselves sons and daughters of thieves and murderers, grandchildren of liars and enslavers, great-grandchildren of monstrous invaders.” Mr. Tezcatlipoca concedes he does not yet have enough power to rise up, kill the whites, and rebuild the Aztec empire, but he is in it for the long haul: “It may take 100, 200, or 1,000 years, but it will happen.” (Victor Mejia, He Has A Dream, New Times Los Angeles, November 20-26, 1997, p. 13)
On The Warpath
Larry Erwin is the principal of a high school in Drumright, Oklahoma. During a lecture on American history, he led a discussion on stereotypes that Indians and whites had of each other in the 1800s. On the blackboard, he wrote “buffalo killer, land stealers, disease carriers,” for whites and “savage, drunken, lazy.” for Indians.
Christie Towell, a 15-year-old Indian student, was offended. A “racism” investigation was duly carried out but school superintendent Roxie Terry cleared Mr. Erwin: “I really cannot find any impropriety that Mr. Erwin did in that class. In any cultural class, you’re going to have conversations like that,” said Mr. Terry.
Mr. Erwin nevertheless apologized, but the student’s mother rejected the apology, and Indians have promised not to let the matter rest. The contracts for the principal and superintendent were to come up for review at a school board meeting in February. “Nineteen Indian tribes have been notified of the school board meeting,” says a spokesman. “They’re coming to stand behind Christie.” (Patti Weaver, “Class Gets Apology for Race Remarks,” Tulsa World, Jan. 30, 1998.)
It’s even Worse in France
Jacques Seurot is — or was — a professor of history at the University of Dijon, France. In November, 1996, he published an article in a university publication, in which he complained of “hordes of unassimilable Muslims” who are “besieging even our remotest counties.” This was too much for the usual French “anti-racist” busybodies, who brought a civil suit against Professor Seurot for “promoting racial hatred.” A judge in Dijon found the professor not guilty, but only by the most literal reading of the law. Muslims, the court concluded, “do not constitute a particular race but are found among various peoples.” This was too close a call for the French educational authorities, who have fired Prof. Seurot and even suspended his administrative superior during the court proceedings. (From a French correspondent.)
Bastardy in the Big City
In 1996, half the children born in New York City were illegitimate. In some black neighborhoods the figure was close to 100 percent. The city has so many teen-aged mothers that public schools offer day-care in what are known as LYFE centers (Living for the Young Family Through Education). LYFE costs about $10,000 per “client,” and young mothers can leave children in the nursery all day; they do not even have to come feed them during lunch hour. LYFE staff explain that this lets the girls hang out with their friends during lunch, thus preserving some of the “giddiness” of adolescence. (Heather Mac Donald, Guiliani Tackles Illegitimacy, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 1998.)
Black Homeland Shrinks
The United States has 102 “historically black” colleges but a few of them are black only in history. Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia, now has a student body that is 93 percent white. Only 17 of its 198 employees are black; it has an all-white faculty and a white president. Still, because it was founded before 1964 specifically to educate blacks, it qualifies for one million dollars a year in special federal funding. “We go after all the grant money that we qualify for,” says an unapologetic president Robert Moore.
Bluefield is very much an anomaly, but integration has finally come to other black colleges. Although total white enrollment in them is still only 13 percent, two schools besides Bluefield — West Virginia State College and Kentucky State University — now have more white than black students. At a recent “Bayou Classic” football game, which is supposed to be the biggest black college match-up of the year, both Grambling State University and Southern University had white quarterbacks.
There is much hand-wringing about the disappearing “character” of these schools. A retired black vice president of Bluefield seems to think the institution is near death: “What you see here now are the late stages of a cancerous condition that started when the first white president came here.” No doubt from his perspective this is true, but we never hear similar complaints about disappearing white majorities. (Michael A. Fletcher, A College Fades to White, Washington Post, Dec. 8, 1997, p. A1.)
Tell it to the Japanese
In April, a group called the International Quality & Productivity Center will hold its second national conference on diversity. For $1,295 per person (or as much as $1,995 if you attend two workshops), you can hear about the latest triumphs in diversity from such companies as Motorola, Allstate Insurance and Microsoft. There will be talks on, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling,” “Creating a Competitive Advantage Through Diversity,” and “Value Creation Via Diversity.” One panel will “discuss the reasons why many companies are now increasing the focus on sexual orientation in their diversity efforts.” Conference organizers quote William Clinton to explain why you should attend: “Managing diversity and individual opportunity … is the key to our future economic success in the global marketplace.” Call (800) 882-8684 for details. (Advertising brochure, International Quality & Productivity Center, “Diversity: A Strategic Advantage.”)
For the first time in 200 years, the Maryland legislature has found it necessary to expel a member. Senator Larry Young, a Democrat from Baltimore, was caught using his office to solicit bribes. Mr. Young was also chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. (AP, Maryland Legislator is First Expelled From State Senate in 200 Years, Herald (Miami), Jan. 17, 1998, p. 10A.)
Last November’s mayoral election in Miami was close enough to require a runoff. Since the race was between two Cubans, the campaign attracted virtually no interest among Miami’s blacks — except for those who made it a money-making opportunity. One day before the election, a campaign worker for the eventual winner, Xavier Suarez, showed up in the Negro quarter, and started offering $10.00 to anyone who would vote for Mr. Suarez. A van was ready to drive people to the county hall to fill in absentee ballots. “It was a party,” says one of the voters. “Everybody needed money. You don’t make that much in an hour, and here you could make $10 in 15, 20 minutes.” Like the other vote-sellers, this man had no interest in a race between two Cubans: “I didn’t give a damn who won or lost. They’re not going to do anything for me, either way.” Neighborhood residents note that vote-buying (for as little as $5.00 each) is part of every election. Authorities are looking into the matter. (Joseph Tanfani and Karen Branch, $10 Buys One Vote, Herald (Miami), Jan. 11, 1998, p. 1A.)
Race Meets Law
In the January AR there was an O Tempora item about a federal judge’s decision to abolish the set-aside program run by the transit authority of the city of Houston, Texas. We have since seen a copy of Judge Lynn Hughes’ ruling. It is an interesting statement of what currently passes for “conservative” thinking on race. Some of the judge’s arguments were obvious but still noteworthy:
“The Constitution disallows collective guilt … We do not accept the concept that a person is responsible for what others of her race, town, profession, or politics may have done … The Constitution forbids punishment of the next generation for the wrongs of the last one.”
He also pointed out that even if there were such a thing as collective guilt and punishment that skips generations, “Texas has no history of discriminating legally or socially against Alaska natives, who are included [as beneficiaries of set-asides].” He also wrote, quite usefully: “Metro [the transit authority] argues that it has a duty to increase diversity and promote social justice. Using a purpose like a vision of social justice precludes rational analysis, ensuring arbitrary acts.” The judge also scoffed at the benefits of “diversity,” noting that he could not see how having a few non-white contractors could possibly make the buses run better.
These, however, are the opening words of the opinion:
“Race is politics not biology. Who is whom and what happens to them depends entirely on political decisions about society and economics — not on genetics.
“Because race is inescapably arbitrary, basing governmental action on race offends the American Constitution. Race is arbitrary because it is unrelated to the accomplishment of a public service and because the categories are hollow.” (U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston Contractors Association v. Metropolitan Transit Authority, Nov. 13, 1997.)
This is the crux of today’s “conservatism:” that race is politics — not biology — and therefore meaningless. Since Judge Hughes’ entire argument is based on this ringing declaration of pure nonsense, one wonders what sort of opinion he would have written had he not been so badly informed.
Mark Your Calendars!
The third American Renaissance conference will be held over the last weekend in August (the 28th through the 30th) near Dulles Airport in northern Virginia. Confirmed speakers already include Philippe Rushton, AR contributing editor Glayde Whitney, and Sam Francis. We hope to have someone from Europe to comment on the recent successes of racial-nationist movements there.
As those who have attended in the past know, an AR conference is a unique and inspirational combination of great speakers, high spirits, and good company. This one promises to be the biggest and best so far. We will announcing details in forthcoming issues. We hope to see you in August, so mark your calendars!
Indians on the Run Again
Rebecca Watkins considers herself an American Indian. Two years ago she moved from a small town near Yakima, Washington, to Post Falls, Idaho, to get away from Mexican immigrants. She says they were rude and violent. Her 55-year-old mother, Wanda Sanders, intends to join her in Idaho this year for the same reason. “We lost our country once because of immigrants,” she says, “and now I feel like we’re losing our country again.” (Elsa Arnett, Around U.S., as Immigrants Pour in, Locals are Pouring Out, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 19, 1998.)
When in Haiti …
A Quebec judge has given two Haitian men a lenient sentence in a rape case because she says their attitude toward women was influenced by their culture. Patrick Lucien and Evans Sannon, immigrants to Canada, took turns raping a young Haitian woman while the other held her down and covered her mouth to muffle the screams. Judge Monique Dubreuil sentenced the men to 18 months of house arrest and 100 hours of community service instead of prison. “The absence of regret of the two accused seems to be related more to the cultural context, particularly with regard to relations with women,” she explained. (AP, Lenient Rape Sentence Criticized, Jan. 23, 1998)
The Anti-Defamation League, in cooperation with The Learning Company, Inc., has developed a software program called Cyber Patrol that blocks “harmful” internet web pages. Rather than connect to the page’s address, the program delivers the user to the ADL’s web site. As usual, the ostensible goal is to “protect the children.”
No one has released a list of the web pages the program blocks, but a reader who has tested Cyber Patrol reports that the AR page is one of them. The program’s targets are not always what one would expect. The ADL considers holocaust revisionism one of its biggest enemies, but it has reportedly let a number of sites slip through. Cyber Patrol blocks the American National Party but not the British National Party. The program also reportedly blocks a page that is critical of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank.( www.moneymaker.com/frb ).
As our correspondent notes, few people will be fooled by a group that claims to be helping children when it is really shutting out political ideas with which it disagrees. Nor will a child grow fond of the ADL if it keeps getting its web page when he wanted something else. And any child who can’t reach a site on his own computer will be all the more eager to find it on someone else’s.
Fish Swim, Birds Fly
AIDS is not a big problem in Honduras — except in a corner of the country inhabited by people who speak a language called Garifuna. Garifuna-speakers are descended from African slaves, and live mainly in the town of Triunfo. They reportedly have no inhibitions about sex, but are extremely reluctant to acknowledge that 20 percent of them carry the HIV virus. “This community is dying of AIDS and the Garifuna simply deny it,” says a government nurse who works in Triunfo. There are an estimated 100,000 native speakers of Garifuna in the world — and 30,000 of them live in the Bronx. (Edward Hegstrom, AIDS Ravaging a Unique Culture, Herald (Miami), Dec. 29, 1997, p. 6A.)
Mexico Moves North
The police in Cheyenne, Wyoming, are learning Spanish. This cultural enrichment will allow them to converse with Mexican drug dealers, who are fanning out through the region, bringing narcotics to new markets. Most are illegal border crossers who know that even if they go to prison and are then deported to Mexico they can come right back.
For the last 50 years, Wyoming has seen very little crime, but this is changing. In one 12-day period last October, there were 18 arrests in the state on drug, illegal immigrant, and fire-arms charges; 13 of the suspects were Mexicans. “Our greatest problem today is illegal aliens and drugs,” says Tom Pagel, director of the state Department of Criminal Investigation. (Richard Serrano, “Mexican Cartels Find Lucrative Markets in American Midwest, Atlanta Constitution, Dec. 21, 1997, p. A19.)
To Catch a Thief
One reason South Africa is overrun with criminals is that the police can’t keep the crooks they arrest. During the last four years, 34,000 prisoners have escaped from custody. During the same period, 171 police officers were prosecuted for helping prisoners get away. (Reuters, South Africa Having Trouble Holding Inmates, Jan. 17, 1998.)
LETTERS FROM READERS
Sir — With regard to the Feb. 1998, “O Tempora” item on the Amistad, there is another piece of the Amistad legacy Mr. Spielberg’s movie conveniently left out. The movie begins with the black protagonist, Cinque, aboard the ship struggling against his chains and ultimately freeing himself. We are led to believe that what inspired him to this heroic act was the indignity and cruelty of slavery. However, according to Patricia Turner in, I Heard it Through the Grapevine (reviewed in AR, Feb. 1994), “it was not visions of liberty that inspired a revolt but a rumor: According to their [the slaves’] account of the takeover, a mulatto cook on the Amistad had claimed that the white men intended to eat them. Their throats would be slit, their bodies sectioned and salted, and they would be consumed as dried meat…Horrified by this prospect, Cinque managed to unfasten his chains from the wall. According to Kin-na, another of the captives, Cinque convinced the rest to join him by pointing out, “If we do nothing, we will be killed. We may as well die in trying to be free as to be killed and eaten.’” (p.14) (Miss Turner cites as source, Mary Cable, Black Odyssey: The Case of the Slave ship “Amistad,” New York, Penguin Books, 1971.)
W. Scott Wilson, Ft. Worth, Texas
Sir — Having read AR for many years, I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually find something with which I disagree — to wit, opinions expressed in your February review of Keith Windschuttle’s
The Killing of History. Your position is that “deconstructionists” are barbarians who have chosen to abandon the facts in order to promote their own politically correct version of history. While I would not argue about the love of the “decons” for political correctness, I would have to say they are right about the subjectivity of history — or anything else that proceeds from the mouth of man. While the decons seem to be guilty of carrying their thesis to the extreme of saying that what is written doesn’t matter, what they intend to say (at least in my opinion) is that all writing is necessarily filtered through the human mind that composed it, which means that the biases, etc. of that mind necessarily affect the outcome, with the result that it is mistaken to claim that any writing is “true.”
You mock Paul Feyerabend, who asserts that the knowledge of necromancers and haruspices is a valid as that of geologists. Feyerabend, a world class locksmith and — in his spare time — a Nobel laureate in physics — was not as crazy as he may sound. My guess is that his point is that science, like the theories of the readers of entrails, is based on faith; and while science can command more respect than magic and divination because of its considerable powers, its ultimate foundation is hardly more tenable.
The application of the decons’ thesis to the history of Western civilization is correct in the sense that it points up the fact that the white men who wrote it would necessarily have a different point of view from those of the conquered peoples whom they left in their wake. What textbook before the current crop would have told about Columbus’ enslavement and virtual extermination of various native American tribes? None, I would venture to guess.
So here, at least is a way in which decons, by emphasizing the subjective nature of history, have advanced truth — or at least “truth.” The value of the decons, then, is to point up the fact — or “fact” — that to obtain the truths of history you need to read all sides. This thesis deserves to be appreciated by those who are interested in truth. Until we are willing to listen to our enemies, I do not seriously believe we should hope they will listen to us. And unless we wish to adapt the view of some of the cruder decons that history is merely a power play and a matter of indoctrination, we had better thank the decons for their efforts, however painful their message may be.
John Bryant, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Sir — With regard to your interesting, temperate, and thoughtful letter to President Clinton on race (Jan. 1998), it has probably occurred to you, that there is a logical fallacy in the President’s assumptions as you cite them: All races are the same, and different racial results are due to white racism. If this is true, the races cannot be the same. Whites must be inferior because of their wickedness.
Name Withheld, Gig Harbor, Wash.
Sir — In his January review of War Before Civilization, Thomas Jackson wrote: “Revisionists have sometimes made the improbable claim that European colonists taught the Indians to scalp enemies …” Such talk of “revisionists” would be expected from journals far less aware than yours.
Revisionism was best defined by Harry Elmer Barnes: “Revisionism means nothing more or less than the effort to correct the historical record in the light of a more complete collection of historical facts, a more calm political atmosphere, and a more objective attitude.” Rather than criticize revisionists, Mr. Jackson would have done well to read F.J.P. Veale’s classic revisionist work, Advance to Barbarism. As he noted, the theory that Indians learned scalping from Europeans was circulated, not by revisionists but despite them.
Richard Widmann, San Diego, Cal.