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Old 02-18-2008, 09:27 PM
 
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I'm really not comfortable comparing the human sacrifices of the Aztecs to the sweeping massacres led by the Pilgrims and Puritans. First of all, the motivations and the ultimate results were vastly different. Additionally, history hasn't been written to hide the human sacrifices. Almost anything written about the Aztecs and the Mayans, even at earlier grade levels, usually mentions human sacrifice. However, most of our elementary schools still teach about the Pilgrims and the Indians and everyone eats popcorn and spends a week or more decorating little paper turkeys and headdresses with paper feathers, and anything that resembles the truth isn't taught until college (maybe it's touched on a little in high school) and even then it's not the worst of it. It's my choice to balance the romanticized view of Bradford with the reality of his actions and the ultimate impact of those actions in the years that followed.
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Old 02-18-2008, 11:03 PM
 
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I am really uncomfortable with the "everything in it's historical period" analysis. While I don't think you can ignore historical context, I do think it often provides a very comfortable way to excuse things that happened in the past, as "oh, but that's what everyone did then". As though it never occured to anyone in that period that things were wrong. During colonization there were articulate critics and resisters to the genocide both white and native, and I believe this to be true of virtually every struggle we have record of, there are always dissenters. But it is easier and more convenient to view people as victims and perpetrators neither of whom had access to any different idea's. It's simply not true and it lumps a whole divers group of people together as homogenous.

It is very simple to reflect back and condem others, yet very hard to see how our own actions can be parallel. It's easy to look back and be horrified by slavery, and say it will never happen again, it's awfully easy to buy that pair of shoes made by slaves in another country, and it's awful easy right now to discrtiminate against muslims for "security reasons". We don't want to view ourselves as complicit and so we justify our actions, so did people before us, but just like there are now there were also people before us who pointed out the injustices. I believe that by silencing those people in history we get to sort of create this vortex of feel good historical relativism.

While I think on one side we can't ignore the cost of holding radially differnt opinions in a historical period, I think we do ourselves and our children a great disservice if we just chalk everything that happened in the past up to period, without examining why dissenting voices were ignored at the time.
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Old 02-23-2008, 10:50 AM
 
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"I'm really not comfortable comparing the human sacrifices of the Aztecs to the sweeping massacres led by the Pilgrims and Puritans. First of all, the motivations and the ultimate results were vastly different."

I would say they are directly parallel -- except the human sacrifices of the Aztecs continued for a longer period of time and occurred on a much larger scale. Religious justification for conquest of neighboring areas is pretty parallel...

"Additionally, history hasn't been written to hide the human sacrifices."

Out of curiosity -- will you be discussing the eastern tribes tendency to the ritualized torture of war captives (both Native American and white) with your kids while discussing Bradford? That's something that's not discussed when we talk about Thanksgiving either.

"I am really uncomfortable with the "everything in it's historical period" analysis. While I don't think you can ignore historical context, I do think it often provides a very comfortable way to excuse things that happened in the past, as "oh, but that's what everyone did then". "

Its not an excuse -- its trying to understand the motivations and actions from the framework in which they arose. I do not, in any way shape or form, disagree that the conquest of the Pequot was wrong. However, I am very uncomfortable with a historical analysis that looks back 400 or 500 years, imposes 2008 values on whites and then basically doesn't hold other racial/ethnic groups to the same standards. It seems to imply that only the "white folks" could be expected to know "better".

"During colonization there were articulate critics and resisters to the genocide both white and native, and I believe this to be true of virtually every struggle we have record of, there are always dissenters."

I agree that is true, and that it is frequently the people who can essentially see further than others that are the "great men/women" of history. I guess I don't agree that they are as common as you seem to think, especially when you look at a world without TV, telephones, internet, regular newspapers, radio or mechanized transportation. The community that any one Pilgrim would have interacted with regularly was very, very small and so the chance of hearing dissenting opinions was also small.
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