The Real Lesson of History: There Is No Going Back

By McCarthy, Abigail | Commonweal, December 4, 1992 | Go to article overview

The Real Lesson of History: There Is No Going Back


McCarthy, Abigail, Commonweal


Traditionally, Thanksgiving celebrates a mutually happy relationship between Indians and grateful Plymouth colonists. But this year we were reminded that the Anglo-Saxons of New England repaid the kindness of the Indians by cheating them out of their lands and well nigh wiping them out with disease, rape, and pillage.

Defenders of the colonists might argue that the Indians were not all that friendly. Cape Cod history records that, when the French explorer Champlain ventured landfall there, he and his men aboard ship woke the second day to the sight of Indians dancing gleefully on the beach draped in the skins of the men who had gone ashore the night before to forage and to wash their clothes. The Indians around Plymouth colony who seemed less warlike had been decimated by illness a few years before the colonists arrived (all sickness did not arrive with the Europeans) and may have decided that conciliation was the better part of valor. But still the wary colonists took no chances. When they lost half their number in the first terrible winter they buried them in a common grave so that the Indians would not know how many were gone.

To argue this way, however, is to indulge in "presentism." This is the term historians use, according to Douglas Wilson (Atlantic Monthly, November 1992) to describe "the malaise that plagues American discussions of anything and everything concerning the past: the widespread inability to make appropriate allowances for prevailing historical conditions."

Before the quincentennial of Columbus on October 12, we of European ancestry were awash in the guilt induced by reminders from Native Americans that their ancestors' cultures were destroyed and their ancestors enslaved by those who accompanied and followed Columbus. The claim is that the only motive of Columbus and the early Spanish conquistadores was greed. The National Council of Churches issued a declaration calling the Columbus event "an invasion and colonization with legalized genocide, slavery, and economic exploitation"--certainly a black-and-white review of history.

Pope John Paul II, arriving in Santo Domingo for the Fourth General Latin American Episcopal Conference, acknowledged the abuses that resulted from Columbus's voyages but expressed gratitude for the evangelization of the Americas: "On October 12, exactly five centuries ago, Admiral Christopher Columbus...arrived in these lands and planted the cross of Christ. That is the beginning of the sowing of the precio. us seed of faith. And how can we not give thanks for that?" (Washington Post, October 13, 1992).

The pope's view is harshly challenged by the arbitrary statement of the Reverend Arthur Cribbs, a United Church of Christ clergyman and an African-American, who sees little or no positive contribution of European Christians to the history of the Americas. "The Spaniards who did speak out against the injustices were the exception .... "he says. "The overall effect has been that the majority of Native Americans...have not benefited from Christianity" (Washington Post, October 12). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Real Lesson of History: There Is No Going Back
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.