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CH A P T E R

N I N E

American Exceptionalism and the Myth of the Frontiers


R aj i v M a l ho t r a

The Myth of the Frontier is our oldest and most characteristic myth, expressed in a body of literature, folklore, ritual, historiography, and polemics produced over a period of three centuries. According to this mythic-historiography, the conquest of the wilderness and the subjugation or displacement of the Native Americans who originally inhabited it have been the means to our achievement of a national identity, a democratic polity, an ever-expanding economy, and a phenomenally dynamic and progressive civilization. The original ideological task of the Myth was to explain and justify the establishment of the American colonies; but as the colonies expanded and developed, the Myth was called on to account for our rapid economic growth, our emergence as a powerful nation-state, and our distinctively American approach to the socially and culturally disruptive processes of modernization. Slotkin 1998, p. 10 The Making of a Supernation A popular misconception, even among many intellectuals, is that Americans have no deep history or any particular culture. It is thought that Americans are a young country with no historical or cultural baggage. A consequence of this is that American thought may sometimes present itself as culturally neutral, without a Eurocentric or Americacentric bias. Hence it is seen as being free from the historical and cultural contexts with which other nations thinking gets interpreted. The American voice has thus seemed more universal than others because of this perceived freedom from past contexts.

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Indeed, American public leaders emphatically insist on the uniqueness of America based on its historical trajectory. But this view betrays a lack of understanding about the very intense and prolonged traumas that shaped the United States. The United States is the result of a special combination of history and geography. Its founding cultural capital, with race and Christianity as the strongest components, was brought from Europe, and this sense of various European pasts provided a starting point for identity building. But the factor that made the critical departure from European culture was Americas geography, inhabited by natives who were very different from Europeans. It was the geographical disconnect from Europe, and hence separation from the European historical identities, that helped form American character amidst clashes with various non-European civilizations. On the one hand Americans brought and retained their historical identities of European pasts, which were amplified by mythmakers. On the other hand, the vulnerability and geographical isolation across the ocean was intensified by encounters with the radically different cultures of Native Americans. This tension between historical continuity and geographical discontinuity mutated the various European identities. Over time these coalesced into something uniquely American. White settlers believed that their destiny and authority to expand their land occupation was Gods will and grand plan for Earth. From the early 1600s until the late-1800s, the entire land mass of what is now called the United States was occupied under such a presumed mandate from God. Blacks were brought over from Africa and made into slaves in order to till the landand to fuel the huge agrarian economy that created early Americas wealth. Gods civilizing teleology was used as justification for horrendous acts. Against this unique background, Americans produced a system of values in order to perceive themselves as an extraordinary people. Many American historians have referred to this as American exceptionalism: Americas self-ordained right to step out of the restrictions of morality, ethics and even law that bound everyone else, and apply its own rules to deal with others. This exceptionalism was developed in the context of the Frontier, and depended on the characterization of Native American others. The land mass that was the target of takeover at a given time became known as the Frontier; hence the Frontier was always expanding and shifting to new opportunities for takeover. All sorts of stories were reported and fabricated about what existed in this frontier. Courageous men, called frontiersmen, who ventured forth brought back bounty along with exotic and heroic tales of the inhabitants there. Many frontiersmen saw the native inhabitants of America as savages. Defined in this way, savages were dangerous and had to be captured and controlled. Even as the frontiersmen were violently subduing the natives, intellectuals and policymakers debated whether the Native Americans could. Many believed that by converting them to Christianity they could accomplish this task, while others asserted that the Native Americans could not achieve social parity with the new settlers even if they became Christians.

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Once the land mass had been taken over, the Frontier was declared closed by the Census Bureau after 1890 because there was no further land left. In 1893 historian Fredrick Jackson Turner advanced what would become known as The Turner Thesis, which said that every generation of Americans was more individualistic and democratic than the last because of its interaction with the Frontier. Then president Teddy Roosevelt, who was well aware of Turners thesis, successfully convinced Americans that the Frontier had to expand overseas. Roosevelt oversaw a huge buildup in the U.S. Navy, which led to the invasions of the Philippines and Central America. Manifest Destiny had gone globalas it continues to do to this day. Thus the geopolitical events we are witnessing today are not an anomaly but are the continuation of a very old American trajectory. The metaphor of the Frontier has sustained itself in the national culture and is invoked in popular entertainment, advertising, political rhetoric and in Americans sense of being a uniquely exceptional people. This collectivity of thought has been referred to in academic literature as the American Myth of the Frontier. However, Turner and his followers (including politicians, academics, and artists) focused only on the positive aspects of the Frontier in forming the American character and setting the United States on the road to becoming a superpower. Looking at America from a different perspective, we can also identify the darker aspects of the Myth of the Frontier. We can see how the descriptions and justifications that first developed for dealing with Native American tribes have become so deeply entwined in the national Myth that they shape American policies to this day. Although the other has changed his location, his race, and his cultural identity, he may find his role in the American Myth to be not so different from the role played by Native Americans. Besides being a physical place that shifted and expanded over time, the Frontier is also a mythic space. It represents that which is to be conquered/controlled, including such things as the Space Frontier, the Science Frontier, and the New Age Spiritual Frontier. Each of these has its specialized frontiersmen who venture out as opportunistic adventurers in unchartered territory, to become hardcore experts at understanding the mysterious wilderness waiting to be captured, and to return home as heroes of American Civilization. This is the quintessential American entrepreneurial spirit that fuels its enormous creativity as a nation. The Frontier is not only external but also internal, that is, located physically inside the space controlled by Civilization. These internal frontiers are the threats from within that must be vigorously suppressed in order to prevent chaos. In the early days the American Pilgrims were very tough and unforgiving on policing discipline internally within their settlements. Subsequently the Black slaves became the internal threats. Later on the internal frontiers consisted of Chinese laborers within America, the freed Blacks in the Jim Crow era, Asian immigrants, and Japanese interned during World War II. Todays internal threats include gays, polygamists, Muslim Americans, illegal immigrants, among others.

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While the frontiersmen represent American Civilization, the others (uncivilized/savages) consist of both those who are deemed harmlessly exotic and others who are dangerous. These two kinds have been seen as noble savages and dangerous savages, respectively. While the polygamists in Texas today might be benign and exotic noble savages, the outspoken American Muslims are monitored as dangerous. Many institutional mechanisms have evolved to support the frontiersmen in dealing with various kinds of savagesranging from co-opting the savages to serve as functionaries of civilization, taming them into civilized American citizens, and containing them in prisons and shelters. America evolves as these threats get assimilated and domesticated, or controlled and suppressed, or obliterated by genocide. Each such encounter produces a new and upgraded version of American civilization. Thus the early settlers called themselves English and referred to the savages as Indians. But once the settlements also had non-English Europeans (i.e., Germans, etc.) the us became known as Christians and the other side was called Heathens. Then came the era in which many Native Americans got converted to Christianity, so this Christian/Heathen discourse was replaced by the notion of White/Non-White people. At first only Protestants were considered White, and the Irish had to resort to violence to be allowed to join White labor unions. The book, How the Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev describes this process (Ignatiev 1996). Once the civic religion had expanded from Protestantism to include Catholics as well, Jews were still left out, and they had to fight their way into Whitenessas described in the book, How Jews Became White Folks and what that says about Race in America, by Karen Brodkin (Brodkin 1999). Each frontier encounter has thus expanded not only the physical territory but also amended the Myth to include more people as insiders. This article, however, shall focus primarily on the early formation of the Frontier Myth in encounters with Native Americans, and then summarize at the end the implications as the Frontier continued to expand further. Myth of Savages and Heroic Frontiersmen Americans not only have a deep and positive sense of history but are particularly invested in their own special place in the world. There is no need for the national myth to be explicitly stated as such and, in fact, leaving it implicit or denying its very existence in everyday discourse gives it greater efficacy. Americas core myth is embedded in its deep culture and enshrined in its institutions of power. The American Myth is a collection of stories and cherished presuppositions living in the collective memory that has been filtered and edited by various mythmakers since the early 1600s. Because of its persistent usage, it has acquired the power of shaping an important part of American character. Embedded within the Myth are ideological concepts, along

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with values and beliefs that can be found in its literature, film and art. Collectively, they shape Americas public policy. Much of the Myth has been distilled into symbols, icons, clichs, customs, rituals, parades, f lags, ceremonies, museums, codified language, and mythic symbolism that Americans assume implicitly and understand subconsciously. For a myth to be robust it must subsume or whitewash over hard facts that are disturbing, that would demystify many beliefs, and that would lead to sociopolitical disorder. There have been serious crises of Myth in American history when a combination of forces undermined the Myths legitimacy in the popular mind. But in all such cases the Myth was restored, after being refurbished for a new era into a more powerful myth than before. Myths such as the Frontier myth we are about to explore have given America a tremendous sense of purpose and have channeled its energies for a long time. Myths play a vital role in intercivilizational encounters. The people the Americans encountered did not often have powerful, world-altering, grand myths of their own. Even in the early decades when the Native Americans had a relative parity of fighting capability, they had no grand narrative of their own that could give them unity and a grand purpose to fight the settlers. Their counter-myths lacked the organizing power of the American myths. Their existence thus became fitted into the American narrative rather than having legitimacy as a separate counterforce. Founding of America, the City upon a Hill Key among the myths brought by Puritans from Europe was the notion of being a chosen people with special backing from God. This was adapted in America and shaped the common identities of Americans. The City upon a Hill and Garden of Eden were two primary images with which Americans identified themselves early on (Dunn 1997).1 Later these evolved into more robust myths of the Frontier and Manifest Destiny. The idea of America as the unique and hence privileged City upon a Hill has become interwoven throughout our history and our foreign policy, writes Duke University professor Gerald Wilson. The City upon a Hill image surfaces frequently in speeches by many presidents including John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. Reagan found it an instant crowd pleaser. Ive spoken of the Shining City all my political life, he said in his farewell address. In the early colonial period the unsettled parts of America (i.e., the areas not yet conquered from the natives) were seen as satanic wilderness, and this wilderness represented temptation, threat and adversity. This space outside the White territories was called the Frontier. John Mather (in 1693) suggested that going through this wilderness was a necessary stage that God expected them to pass through in order to reach

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the Promised Land. This meant that America was destined to become the Paradise but that it required their effort. This included the sacred mission to capture the wilderness and tame its natives. Only then would it be the Garden of Eden. The pragmatic and enterprising spirit that is the hallmark of Americas achievements is linked to this belief. The wilderness was both a threat and an opportunity. Henry Nash Smiths seminal book, titled Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, is one of the most thoughtful and detailed studies of Americas deep cultural history. One of the very important ideas of America, he explains, has been the tremendous opportunity offered by a vacant continent an unspoiled Eden for Gods chosen people. The American Myth has consisted of the Eden/Frontier pair. Eden is the space belonging to us, and the Frontier represents the satanic wilderness inhabited by others. The mission entrusted to Americans is to constantly expand Eden (or its secular equivalent, Civilization) by taking over the Frontier. This Myth helped to generate cohesiveness among the settlers by projecting varying degrees of otherness onto the Native Americans, who were seen as a part and parcel of the wilderness. The Eden myth gradually evolved in the popular American mind so that it projected all evil externally. Henry Nash Smith writes that even after the American land mass was taken over by Europeans, they continued to blame outsiders for evil inf luences. Americans had a sense of self-righteousness about their actions: Neither American [White] man nor the American continent contained, under this interpretation, any radical defect or principle of evil. But other men and other continents . . . were by implication unfortunate or wicked. This suggestion was strengthened by the tendency to account for any evil which threatened the garden empire by ascribing it to alien intrusion. Since evil could not conceivably originate within the walls of the garden, it must by logical necessity come from without . (Smith 1950, p. 187) At each stage of the evolution of this national Myth there has been the notion of progress through savage wars which are required to redeem the American spirit, and to reinforce the struggle. And every man provided he was Whitewas equally fit for this struggle, and a true representative of civilization. This made Americans the exceptional people and different from Europeans. The landscape of the Frontier Myth is partitioned by a moral demarcation separating civilization and wilderness. The Frontier has been both a geographical place and a mythic space populated by various fantasies. Its myths were about Native American Indians as savages, Blacks as inferior, White men as heroes, White women in need of being rescued from savages (and non-White women to be similarly rescued from their savage males), the Frontier as Americans right and responsibility to conquer, Manifest Destiny as their destiny to defeat others. The story of America

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thus became mythologized as the struggle of the civilized dwellers of Eden against the savages of the wild Frontier. Mutations of the Myth The Myth mutated from its Christian base to include an Enlightenment base over time. Between 1795 and 1830 the agrarian expansion was very successfully accomplished, and the Christian-eschatological substructure of the original Frontier Myth was overlaid with a more secular ideology. This and the subsequent rapid industrialization of America by 1870 fueled American mythmaking about the success of an exceptional people (Slotkin 1998, p. 17). In each stage the basic blocks of Americas core Myth have been the same: 1. We are the foremost among good and righteous people. 2. There is danger and darkness on the other side. 3. A frontier exists that has to be won and captured for the sake of civilization. 4. Any cost would be acceptable and all methods are okay including savage wars. The myth of regenerating civilization through violence is a key organizing principle. 5. Civilizations innocence is represented as White women in the captivity of savages. The rescue of these women is the hallmark of masculine heroism, especially if it is done violently. 6. Ultimately, Good always prevails over Evil and this happy ending reinforces the Myth. The Frontier Myth has served as a principle for nation-building. And its building blocks have been powerfully reinforced by popular history writing. Once a genre of historical writing (and later movies) gained currency and became entrenched, it supplied the conventions that popular writers and others have followed in order to have their works accepted easily. So powerful is this Myth that it has captured the imaginations of Americans for the past few centuries, and it continues to serve progressives and conservatives, politicians across the spectrum, popular culture scriptwriters, historians, military strategists, and designers of childrens games. Thus the cycle of mythmaking has perpetuated itself (Slotkin 1998, p. 4). Americans are proud and nostalgic when they are constantly reminded of their history in terms of this Frontier Myth. It idolizes the national hero who is tough, capable, a team player and confrontational. Ronald Reagan evoked the images of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to explain his aggressive cowboy foreign policies to the American public. Many intellectuals may have thought him shallow, but he resonated with Americans, and they loved him.

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The Manifest Destiny of an Exceptional People

The term Manifest Destiny was coined in 1845 both to rationalize Americas thirst for expansion in the prior several decades and to defend Americas claim to new territories that were further west of the original colonies: . . . the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self government entrusted to us. It is a right such as that of the tree to the space or air and the earth, suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth. (OSullivan 1845) This was an imaginative metaphor that validated an already existing and violent aspect of Americas history and Americans self-image as the worlds extraordinary people. The term Manifest Destiny was quickly adopted by U.S. congressmen in their debates to justify three territorial conquests: the forced annexation of Texas from Mexico in 1845, the negotiated annexation of Oregon from England in 1846 and the war with Mexico which resulted in the annexation of much of the southwest in 1848. Although this was initially a Democratic Party ideal, the Whigs (who later became the Republicans) also supported it. The idea of acting on Gods behalf naturally included the importance of fighting evil. Henry Nash Smith writes that the Manifest Destiny myth helps Americans understand the image of themselves which manyperhaps mostAmericans of the present day cherish, an image that defines what Americans think of their past, and therefore what they propose to make of themselves in the future (Smith 1950, Preface). By 1849, Manifest Destiny became synonymous with seizing land from the natives, and this greed fed the frontier mentality. The settlers attempts to forcibly occupy Native American lands by brutal means were commonly explained by prominent leaders as acts that were necessary against savages. This theorizing was done by elitist intellectuals but it also had broad support from the lower classes of European settlers because more land became available for them to share. Accounts of the native tribes counter attacks and atrocities were highlighted, and such accounts are still used in history textbooks and national monuments to remove guilt about White expansion.2 The City upon a Hill and Manifest Destiny were powerful narratives that provided the logic for expansion by marking the natives as the barbarous and expendable. The expansion westward also became a popular theme of American literature, infecting both liberals and conservatives. Walt Whitman, a liberal who is seen by many Americans as their national poet, was fascinated by Americas Manifest Destiny and his poems often glamorized the westward expansion.3 In the preface to the first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855), Whitman explained that United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. He fantasized

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a nation that was expanding endlessly to include Central America and the Caribbean, and wrote in a newspaper article that manifest destiny certainly points to the speedy annexation of Cuba by the United States. Encounter with Native Americans Christianity, Enlightenment ideas, and greed often colluded to produce a result that annihilated the natives and built up America into a supernation. These three forces are summarized below: Biblical Myths

Lieven explains that the biblical myths were a driving force for settlers from the very beginning: The Old Testament gave the settlers . . . both a language and a theological framework in which to describe and justify their dispossession of the lands native inhabitants (Lieven 2004, p. 101). Long before the term Manifest Destiny was explicitly proposed, the English Protestant reinterpretation of millennium theology was brought over to America and it claimed America as having a special place in Gods plan.4 The United States became seen as the key agent in bringing the millennial prophecy to fruition. Protestant ministers of the nineteenth century used it to fire up nationalism leading to the notion that was later named Manifest Destiny. Americas special status in the Divine Plan was also accepted among many Christian experts in Europe.5 The Puritans initially had high hopes of converting the Indians, and their zealotry made them assume that Indians would happily abandon their own customs and religion to accept Christianity and White civilized life. (This is analogous to the American certainty that Iraqis would welcome the U.S. military as liberators and would enthusiastically embrace American ways.) Disillusion followed when the Native Americans rejected religious and cultural conversions, and fought wars to protect their traditions and lands. When they rejected the true religion of Christianity, they began to be seen with venom and hatred as agents of the devil, and at the very least as a stumbling block to civilizational progress (Slotkin 2000, pp. 18, 66 and 522). Horsman explains that the Indians by the latter years of the seventeenth century were despised because they have tried to remain Indian and had shown little desire to become Christian gentlemen. The Indians could therefore be thrown off the land, mistreated, or slaughtered, because in rejecting the opportunities offered to them they had shown that they were sunk deep in irredeemable savagery (Horsman 1981, p. 105). See also Roy Harvey Pearce, Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian in the American Mind (Pearce 1967),

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Robert Berkhofer, The White Mans Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present (Berkhofer 1978), and Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The metaphysics of Indian hating and Empire Building (Drinnon 1997). Nevertheless many die-hard missionaries argued in a more nuanced way that the Native Americans could be redeemed, and they continued to be hopeful of saving them from their own cultures and religions. This process was only made easier when accompanied by the stresses of defeat and displacement from native lands (Deloria 1988, pp. 101124). Enlightenment Thought

Just as the early leaders of the seventeenth century had seen the natives as targets for religious conversion, the leaders of revolutionary America in the 1770s and later saw them as targets for their notion of civilization. They believed that if the Native Americans could be civilized by accepting the White settlers way of life then they could be accommodated in the vast country being explored. Enlightenment ideas from Europe brought the notion that man could progress infinitely, and that all mankind belonged to the same species6 and hence every race was capable of improvement. Thus the savagery of Native Americans was a temporary stage in their evolution and they could be eventually improved through European civilization. Enlightened and liberal Americans such as Jefferson formulated arguments and policies regarding the natives in which they tried to civilize and settle them. While seemingly benign, this argument provided a convenient rhetoric to later justify savage war against the Native Americans involving their ethnic cleansing from state after state of the union while simultaneously claiming that this was in their best interests. Greed

Individual and corporate greed to seize lands was especially prevalent in the frontier. Ambitious White settlers looking for empty land to settle and farm kept encountering different native tribes who were already the owners and users of the land. The frontier was a safety-valve for the economic needs of the White population, providing endless vistas of unsettled land presumed to be waiting there to be taken. Thus poor White immigrants (like the Irish, etc.) could find opportunities away from cities and hence not cause social unrest. After the Civil War, the Native American tribes were in the way of coast-to-coast railroad building, which was undertaken partly to open up lucrative trade with China and India.

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It was profitable to see the Native Americans as merciless savages, both by Christian and Enlightenment standards. A whole host of news accounts, popular literature, and illustrations and images constantly reinforced this point by emphasizing atrocities by natives. When there was no immediate goal to capture lands, the east coast metropolitan attitudes toward Native Americans (as noble savages) were often positive or at least neutral. Some urban intellectuals decried the violence of the White settlers in the frontier and even acknowledged that the Native Americans were fighting to protect their lands and people. One sees many examples of interest in the native way of life and praises for their culture. In the end this sympathy proved transitory and ineffective in preventing their extinction.

Such was the conf lict between the selfish need to expand westward and various positive ideologies that expounded Americas mission to build a new and just civilization. I suggest a four-phase framework to explain the development of policies toward Native Americansa framework which may be useful in exploring later examples of American policy, up to the present day. These phases were not strictly chronological, but this framework helps understand the process by which the dangerous savage Native Americans were exterminated, the benign noble savages were domesticated in reservations to be raised as children, and eventually the native peoples were turned into an ornament glorified in museums. This framework traces the role played by the discourse among the intellectuals, the political leadership, and public opinion. I will also examine how institutional power was systematically deployed in a legalistic manner as per the rhetoric of due process, but cleverly designed to exclude the Native Americans and preserve White privilege. The four phases were as follows: I. Theorizing about noble savages and merciless savages during early expansion. II. Guilt management while committing genocide. III. Indians as children to be raised in reservations. IV. Academic research to support museumizing and digestion. Phase I: Theorizing the Savage in Early Expansion In early America, Christianity played a key role in forming the identity of the settlers and in justifying the brutalities against Native Americans once they refused to convert. But upon Independence, the generation known as the Founding Fathers of America was very much inf luenced by the Enlightenment.

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The Merciless Savage

The Protestant Ethic that became the American ethos included a strong streak of Puritan hatred of many aspects of Native life such as their religions, mysticism, dancing, singing, and reveling. While it is easy to point out differences between Christianity and the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment can be seen as a child and a product of Puritanism. Indeed according to Max Weber himself, Both Puritanism and Enlightenment made contributions to the specific and peculiar rationalism of Western culture . . . with Enlightenment being the surprising but true child, the laughing heir of Puritanism (Drinnon 1997, p. 102). The Enlightenment supposedly freed Europeans from the constraints imposed by Christianity and claimed to have achieved an innate sense of human equality and dignity. However, while removing explicit dependency on God, many biblical assumptions remained a core part of its framework.7 There were important and nuanced differences. For the Puritans, the Native Americans who refused to become Christian were servants of the Devil. For the Founding Fathers, the native was the face of irrationality and unreason: Like the Puritan, Jefferson regarded the Indian culture as a form of evil or folly. If he chose not to become Christian and civilized then he was a madman or a fool who refused to enter the encompassing world of reason and order (Drinnon 1997, p. 102). This would justify removing him from the civilized space. From either point of view the conclusion was that the native was a savage whose culture and religion made him merciless, cruel, irrational and incorrigible. . . . From the Indian point of view the end result was pretty much the same: death, f light, or cultural castration . . . (Drinnon 1997, p. 102). Thus while Jefferson was no Puritan, and openly rejected Christian superstitions,8 his attempt to rationalize the world in an Enlightenment mode was just as fanatical. For the enlightened leaders of American independence as well as for the Puritans among them, the Native American was chief ly important not for what he was in and of himself, but rather for what he showed civilized men they were not and must not become (Drinnon 1997, p. 102). The Native American was the other against whom Americas self hood was constructed. Similarly for Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 1800s, native rituals like the dance were associated with devilish ritual, and with dark thoughts of the mind. In this suspicion of native religion this great post-enlightenment American writer was in agreement with puritanical demonization of it (Slotkin 2000, p. 476). Enlightenment rhetoric was based on the rights of man and even this limited egalitarianism conf licted with the pragmatic demands of land grabbing. This was resolved in the minds of many American intellectuals including Jefferson by classifying White farmers as more evolved than the Native Americans who were mapped as hunter gatherers. Jefferson wrote in the 1780s that proofs of genius given by the Indians of North America place them on a level with the Whites in the same uncultivated

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state (Horsman 1981, p. 108). The prescription for cultivating the Native Americans to make them civilized included forcing them to adopt private property which men farmed (whereas Native American men traditionally hunted and women did the farming); teaching native women spinning and weaving; and adopting Christian education. This social engineering devastated Indian communities. The aspects of native achievements that met White normssuch as agricultural settlements, commercial activity and sophisticated social organizationswere conveniently ignored when passing judgment on whether they were civilized. This was to justify denying them the human rights enjoyed by Whites by showing that they still needed to become civilized. Indeed there is extensive but rarely aired evidence of manipulation and hypocritical double-speak by Jefferson and other enlightened thinkersconstantly urging the Indian tribes to civilize and settle down while maneuvering to usurp their lands through engineered debts and force (Horsman 1981, p. 106; see also Fairchild 1928). The Noble Savage The Enlightenment also included a romantic urge to look beyond Europe for utopian and unspoiled regions. In the debate about the nature of the Native American not all saw him as a merciless savage. There was even the idea of the native as a noble savage who could be used to contrast against the vices of a decadent Europe. This became a popular stereotype. When certain European writers portrayed life in America as degenerate and associated this with natives, Americans such as Jefferson vigorously defended the native character as a part of defending the country. Native Americans had become our Indians for many patriotic and patronizing Americans (see Gerbi 1973 and Horsman 1981, p. 106). Some Americans clearly realized that the prevailing genocide and destruction of native tribes would be judged harshly by history. George Washingtons secretary of war, Henry Knox, wrote in 1793 that, if our modes of population and war destroy the tribes, American conduct would be matched with the Spaniard atrocities in Mexico and Peru, and this would undermine the American claim to moral superiority over Spaniards (Knopf 1960, p. 165). The general White population who were rapidly expanding their lands by encountering the Native Americans on a day-to-day basis rejected such Enlightenment thought of civilizing them. Natives were regarded as heathen and violent savages. But East Coast intellectuals wrote idealistically and with detachment, because there were no Native Americans left for them to deal with, most eastern tribes having been displaced and disbanded by the 1800s. But Whites on the frontier were fighting Native Americans for their lands and this fueled hatred toward them (Horsman 1981, p. 111). Even though there were multiple voices, the Whites controlled the ultimate outcome of such debates and hence the fate of the natives, because the Native Americans were simply not self-represented.

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The phrase merciless Indian Savages is used to describe the Native Americans in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. Drinnon notes that this was consistent with earlier Christian explicit condemnations of the Native Americans as heathen, animalistic and sub-human (Drinnon 1997, p. 99). Even though every other phrase in this vital American documentliterally the countrys birth certificatewas debated and repeatedly revised before signing, this one phrase was not debated or changed from the first draft to the final version. Everyone simply agreed with it! To this day there is reluctance and ambiguity about admitting the role of top Enlightenment intellectuals as well as Christianity in denigrating native cultures and religions, and thus paving the pathway for their genocide. In studies of the Declaration of Independence the exclusion of Blacks from the process is often noted, because Black scholars have now become a strong and independent voice. But Drinnon points out that the demonization of Native Americans is even today rarely discussed in scholarly or popular studies of that famous document (Drinnon 1997, p. 102). Phase II: Guilt Management while Committing Genocide The greatest episodes of ethnic cleansing and genocide of Native Americans occurred in the period following independence that was dominated by Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Before Andrew Jacksons presidency (and the massive removal, i.e., ethnic cleansing, of Native Americans) there was some debate between the Enlightenment view of the native as an innately equal human being who could be improved (if only he wanted to be), and the opposing side which considered him inherently a savage beast. But by Jacksons time the debate was faltering: Even those who considered Native Americans as equal human beings had completely internalized the portrayals of their culture and religions as debasing and cruel and in need of Christianizing and/or civilizing. This new consensus about Native American culture/character provided considerable leverage to those who considered the Native Americans an expendable obstruction in the path of Americas destined expansion. These arguments were reinforced by a variety of scientific and intellectual arguments, from phrenology to Hegels philosophy of History. This intellectual construction about Native Americans paved the way for their subsequent removal with President Andrew Jacksons enthusiastic support. It culminated as a major victory for supremacist ideas which had long been part of Americas deep culture. There were several levels at which the Indian Removal, that is, ethnic cleansing and the resulting genocide, was justified and carried out: 1. Biblical and Enlightenment based intellectual justifications 2. Anecdotal data of atrocities committed by the Natives 3. Good Cops and Bad Cops

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In each of these levels, the Native Americans were outsiders, non-players in the intellectual-political-moral game that sealed their fate. They could fight tactical battles bravely, but they were not even participants in the discourse. 1. Biblical and Enlightenment-based Intellectual Justifications Besides personal success and wealth, the Americans of the 1700s and 1800s also wanted a clean religious conscience. To resolve this dilemma, the Myth blamed the savages for the violence even when it was committed by White Americans (Horsman 1981, p. 210). Slotkin and many others explain that this charge is better understood as an act of psychological projection that made the Indians scapegoats for the morally troubling side of American expansion: the myth of savage war became a basic ideological convention of a culture that was itself incredibly devoted to the extermination or expropriation of the Indians and the kidnapping and enslavement of black Africans (Slotkin 2000, p. 12). Stephenson sees the inf luence of two important authorities that shaped the sustained genocidal attack on the Native Americans in a manner that absolved White Americans of their personal sense of guilt: one is biblical authority and the other is Common Law based on European and Enlightenment underpinnings (Stephanson 1995, p. 25). In Genesis, God promises Isaac that he will make his children multiply and give the countries of the earth to them, and in Psalms God offers his people the heathen for the inheritance, and uttermost parts of the earth for their possession, in order that the faithful biblical people should crush the heathen into pieces like a potters vessel. This message was understood by many deeply religious Americans to be a sanction to possess, multiply and fructify at the expense of the heathens (ibid.). Indeed, there is little doubt that Jackson and others often saw themselves in Old Testament terms as an instrument of an avenging God (Drinnon 1997, p. 108). According to earlier Christian missionaries, Whites were Gods means for the salvation or destruction of the Indians (Slotkin 2000, p. 99). This mindset persisted in the American deep culture two centuries after the Puritans arrived. The inf luential eastern newspaper editor Sullivan coined the phrase Manifest Destiny in 1845, and also wrote: History was a providential plan whose end was to be played out in the especially designed space of America. . . . The Cause of Humanity was identical with that of the United States, and that cause was destined to cease only when every man in the world should be finally and triumphantly redeemed (Stephanson 1995, p. 40). Advocates of common law believed that there was an obligation to cultivate the earth because it is mans nature to improve nature, where

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improving meant subduing the wilderness. And Native American culture clearly failed to do that, hence their possession of the land did not amount to proper use of it. Thus they could have no legal title to the land, at least not title that American law would have to respect and protect: In vulgar form this argument boiled down to the dual proposition that Indians were hunters and gatherers and that the land was therefore empty, a waste there for the taking. Plentiful evidence that they were preexisting settlers was completely ignored (Stephanson 1995, p. 25). As the Governor of Georgia said blatantly in the 1830s, treaties with Native Americans were expedients by which the ignorant, intractable, and savage people were induced to yielded up what civilized people had a right to possess (p. 26). The land was far too precious to remain undeveloped with the Native Americans. A factor that worked against their chances of survival was the difficulty in Christianizing and assimilating Native tribes as appendages to the White settlements. Native ways of life were too closely linked with their ancestral lands, and with their religions and belief systems. Another factor was that various scientific theories circulating from the 1830s onward indicated that Native Americans were doomed because of innate inferiority, that they were succumbing to the superior White race, and that this was for the larger good of humanity. Indian removal and massacres were not seen as such but as the result of the Laws of God, destiny, and nature (Horsman 1981, pp. 189206). 2. Anecdotal Data of Atrocities Urging Savage Wars There was an overabundant supply of popularly accepted stories and images on the savagery and brutality of the Native Americans that justified harsh treatment toward them (similar to many of todays ethnographies and reports about India and Africa). These atrocity stories served as anecdotal data that reinforced the theories about Native American savagery. Their repetition by popular as well as scholarly writers was sufficient to block debate on substantive issues of the Indians own rights, as we shall see. It is crucial to note that both in the theoretical set up as well as in the anecdotal data-gathering, no effort was made to cross-examine the American point of view. The Enlightenment and biblical theories were never challenged nor declared problematic to the same extent as native culture and religion were questioned. (This bias survives in the form of todays privileged position given to Western social theories in the academy.) Furthermore, the brutalities of settlers and missionaries were never highlighted on par with Indian actions. There were no reverse gazing native scholars looking at White culture to counterbalance the discourse. The earlier romantic image of the Native American as a noble savage lingered on in the 1800s. Even as their White brethren were eradicating the Native Americans, important American writers, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, and James Fennimore Cooper, continued to portray the native as a tragic

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and somewhat noble figure although with some rough and savage edges. These writings had a sense of tragedy based on a sense of inevitability nature had predestined the Indian for destruction in the face of progress (Fussel 1965). This was a more humane portrayal than the beastly savage image, but it did not prevent their extermination, nor did it attempt to fix blame on Manifest Destiny or Enlightenment thought. Offsetting this high literary image of the native as a complex, tragic figure, there were a much larger number of cheaper books and pamphlets that were popular among White readers. This best-selling Indian atrocity literature chronicled the captivity of various Whites, especially women and children, at the hand of Native Americans on the frontier. Today, we would say that they portrayed the Native Americans as egregious human rights violators and stereotyped their religion and culture as being the culprits. Many of these sensationalized stories were one-sided exaggerations of actual incidents and many others were outright lies. Their main application was to provide an excuse for usurping Indian lands (Brands 2005, p. 170 and Slotkin 2000, p. 97). Popular stories and theater productions in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries commonly showed pure White maidens and peaceful White men being captured by fierce and atrocious Native American raiders, and heroic White men rescuing the beautiful women from the ugly men. Richard Slotkin explains that The great and continued popularity of these narratives, the uses to which they were put, and the nature of the symbolism employed in them, are evidence that the captivity narratives constitute the first coherent myth-literature developed in America for American audiences (Slotkin 2000, p. 95). The captivity narrative was among the most popular form of American adventure story in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America. The hero of the captivity narrative is typically a White woman or a Christian minister who is captured by Natives during a savage war. The captive symbolizes the values of Christianity and civilization that are imperiled in the wilderness by the non-Christian savage. This is the Myth of the Frontier in which the triumph of civilization over savagery is symbolized by the hunter/warriors rescue of the White woman held captives by savages (Slotkin 2000, p. 15). The native religions were regarded as witchcraft. Sometimes, women who were captured and rescued, if they showed any strange behavior, were tried as witches. The idea conveyed was that close association with the non-Christian and their evil, devilish religion had turned a good Christian into a witch, i.e.[,] a pagan. Such a person was given sympathy and de-programmed by a Pastor, unlike other witches who were tried and punished. (This is eerily similar to the de-programming of Christians who join eastern religions and cults today.) But more importantly, the reputation of the Native Americans and their evil religion was reinforced because of the narratives of these psychologically ill women who in a sense converted to native religion and then came back to Christianity to tell the tale. Confessions were often obtained to show that the woman in

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question had taken up a Native American god for worship. In the 1700s, this thinking about the corrupting nature of native religion and captivity became a great cause for brutality and savagery against the natives (Slotkin 2000, pp. 138140, 142 and 144145). 3. Good Cops and Bad Cops The landscape of the Frontier Myth is partitioned by a moral demarcation separating civilization from the wilderness, a civilizational euphemism derived in order to distinguish civilized Whites as distinct from uncivilized non-Whites. The real issue of course was greed for land and the need to dominate others, but these had to be justified in order to quiet the grumblings of the conscience. Although the white Americans . . . wanted personal success and wealth, they also wanted a clear conscience. If the United States was to remain in the minds of its people a nation divinely ordained for great deeds, then the fault for the suffering inf licted in the rise to power and prosperity had to lie elsewhere. White Americans could rest easier and the sufferings of other races could be blamed on the racial weakness rather than on whites relentless search for wealth and power. (Horsman 1981, p. 210) Right from the beginning of an independent America, a paradox existed between the Enlightenment view of nativesas innately equal humans beings who, given proper training, could be civilizedand the opposing view, that considered them subhuman beasts. Thomas Jefferson lauded Indians as noble and unspoiled, yet was ambivalent about their position and fate. He saw their extinction as tragic, yet during both terms of his presidency tens of thousands of Indians were forcibly relocated from their native habitats to reservations west of the Mississippi River. This doublefaced strategy played out consistently throughout the early era of Americas nationhood. The historian Richard Drinnon gives several graphic illustrations of how American literature of the period provided justifications for ignoring the natives rights.9 The literature often acknowledged that the other side had a case in its favor, but the debate never got serious and simply served to assuage the American conscience. In many of these tales, there was a sympathetic figure who tried to make the case for the Indians. This is a historical version of the urban, liberal White good cop who feels pity and objects to the unfair demonology and the killings of natives by an unsophisticated but courageous frontiersman, the bad cop. This fictional spokesman for the Enlightenment may express shock; he may suggest that humane values and fairness in battle should not be forgotten; he may also raise uncomfortable questions about the natives inherent right to control their own

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lands. Thus both meta-level issues and issues about the specific methods used by the frontiersman could potentially be raised in the storyline. The classic device in these stories to end the debate with a clear conscience now comes to the forefront. The frontiersman (often the hero of the tale) shows the liberal reader extensive evidence of the personal threats and danger he lives with every day. He may show the graves of family members and tell tales of natives atrocities against Whites, especially women and children, and also, if possible, against other natives. At this point the good cop in the Frontier Myth backs off and reluctantly concedes that he, like other educated White consumers of these stories, should not be so quick to judge the frontiersmen, who seem to have ample justification for their violent behavior. After all, these frontiersmen know the native culture best. Moreover they are clearly victims of the savages threats and actions.10 (We can see a modern parallel when this assumption of objectivity and expertise about native cultures is attributed to todays Area Studies experts in the American academy.) Once the savagery of the native is proved in this manner, the discussion is closed. The substantive issues of White greed and aggression, and the natives inherent human rights to defend their sacred sites and families, and the huge imbalance between White and native atrocities, are never discussed. Drinnon writes, Yes, the reader was asked to ref lect, is it not too easy to be virtuous at a distance? The White liberal conscience was thus convinced not to forgive merciless savages when we ourselves have not suffered . . . at their hands (Drinnon 1997, p. 127). There was often a very interesting good cop/bad cop partnership between the government and frontiersmen (Drinnon 1997, 483n). Andrew Jacksons excesses against the natives (as bad cop) were greeted with public criticism by other top officials (the good cop). John Quincy Adams was asked to investigate Jacksons actions. He produced a white paper in which he avoided dealing with substantive issues, such as gathering data on White militias atrocities and the White communities thirst for land. The debate was easily shifted by simply raising the bogey of civilization in danger from savage attacks by natives. This approach eliminated any serious analysis and soul-searching. Adams was not acting in isolation but relying on the writing of important Enlightenment thinkers. This switch the debate approach has always had support from the American establishment, sometimes fairly explicitly. All former American presidents alive at the time endorsed Adams. Thomas Jefferson felt that by linking the usurpation and ethnic-cleansing of native lands by the United States to their inherent savagery, the white paper was a triumph of logic, and would help maintain in Europe a correct opinion of our political morality (Drinnon 1997, p. 111). The good cops conceded the debate and violence was justified and approbated by powerful government officials. Even those who did not indulge directly in this sort of atrocity literature were heavily inf luenced by the projected attitudes. Most Americans simply assumed that the uncivilized Native American was doomed for

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extinction, given the relentless march of civilization. This idea had permeated literature about the natives for over 200 years (Horsman 1981, p. 191). The framework created by Christian theology and Enlightenment notions of progress and history became the assumed truth about the natives inevitable fate. It is in the context of such high theory formulation by leading intellectuals of the day that the lower-level atrocity literature served as field data gathered by other Whites and had its real impact. The control of theory, institutions and publication mechanisms by Whites also defined what kind of data never got collected, documented, and highlighted. It is essential to note that both in the theoretical set up as well as in the anecdotal data-gathering, no effort was made to interrogate and problematize the White point of view. Enlightenment and biblical theories, in which non-White inferiority and native savagery were framed, were never challenged or seen as problematic, while native culture and religion were criticized and demonized. Further, the brutalities of settlers and missionaries were never highlighted as data points on par with Indians actions even in cases where the Indians actions were in direct retaliation against Whites brutalities. There was, historically, no reverse gazing, no Native scholars looking at White culture to counterbalance the discourse.11 4. Institutional and Legalistic Manipulations Dispossessing Native Americans of their land would not be easy because the U.S. government had written treaties with the tribes granting them rights to their own lands. The desired goal of taking over lands was accomplished in a systematic and legalistic way. Powerful institutions at the state and federal levels, in which the Native Americans themselves had little or no say, were involved. Over many decades several legal means were adopted:

Doctrine of Discoverythe legal basis for capturing land: The original legal justification for the occupation of the American continent was affirmed in the landmark court case of 1823, Johnson v. McIntosh (Kades 2001). Chief Justice John Marshall confirmed that Christian European nations had assumed ultimate dominion over the lands of America during the Age of Discovery. After having been discovered, the Indians had lost their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations, and only retained a right of occupancy in their lands. Steve Newcombe remarks, In other words, Indian nations were subject to the ultimate authority of the first nation of Christendom to claim possession of a given region of Indian lands (Newcomb n. d.). This has been called the Doctrine of Discovery. The origins of this doctrine go back to the Pope, who in the fifteenth century directed Portugals King to to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all those who the Kings men saw as pagans . . . and other enemies of Christ. The Popes directive was to reduce their persons

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to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate . . . their possessions, and goods, and to convert them to . . . [Christian] use and profit . . . This Doctrine was later reinforced by a later Pope to legitimize Christopher Columbus conquests. European nations upheld and implemented this Doctrine as the legal and moral basis for colonialism (Brands 2005, p. 310). Marshalls 1823 decision reestablished that principle in American law. Contesting Who speaks for the Indians: When the land belonging to the various tribes was to be demarked, Whites raised disputes about the fitness of various Native American spokespersons. They claimed that those who were savvy about Western ways, who thought strategically and had leadership skills, who were literate, and who laid claim to territorial boundaries were not the real Indians. They were too Westernized and hence illegitimate. In other words, Whites wanted the benign or incompetent or unconfident Indian to represent the tribes. Thus Jackson claimed that issues of territorial boundaries were not real Indian issues because: In this matter the IndiansI mean the real Indians, the natives of the forest are little concerned. It is a stratagem only acted upon by the designing half-breeds and renegade white men who have taken refuge in their country (Brands 2005, p. 310). These issues were especially raised in the context of potential disputes between tribes to further weaken the legitimacy of hard-bargaining spokespersons. Thus only the claims of the nave and the pliable were considered legitimate. Quite often, since the tribes were devastated, uprooted and disoriented, their cohesiveness and leadership was under duress. In this vulnerability, one leader or splinter group could be induced to sign a treaty giving up an entire tribes land. Once signed, there was no appeal (e.g., the Treaty of New Echota made it possible to remove the entire Cherokee tribeeven though historians agree that it was signed by a splinter group within the tribe). Federal treaties with native tribes attacked by states: This convenient f lexibility of the law meant that treaties made when the Native Americans were strong and prepared to fight could later be abandoned when they were weakened. Those treaties signed by the U.S. Federal government that did not suit could be nullified using complex arguments about States rights and Federal rights. Even where the Native Americans had civilized themselves, the Whites started legal fights by arguing that states rights were being compromised by federal treaties with the tribes. Thus, this became a legal tussle about the rights of Whites argued between competing White institutions, while ignoring Native American rights. Tribal identity attacked by substituting individual property for tribal rights: State governments sought to remove collective tribal rights by substitut ing individual rights for Native Americans. Besides voiding the effect of the federal treaties with tribes, this also had the

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effect of breaking up group cohesion among the natives, because tribal identities and social capital was the fabric of their societies.12 Moreover, before the Civil War these individual rights were framed as belonging to free citizens of color, a status better than Black slaves but below that of Whites. Enlightenment thinkers in President John Quincy Adams 1825 Cabinet hoped that the civilized natives (i.e., those who gave up their traditional ways and adopted Western ways) could be given individual lots of land and live along with Whites in the states where they already lived. But privately, even a Cabinet member who publicly attacked the ruthlessness involved in White Americans expansion expressed the view that it was impossible to civilize Indians . . . it was not in their nature. He believed they would be destined to extinction . . . he did not think them as a race, worth preserving. He considered them as essentially inferior to the Anglo-Saxon raise which were now taking their place on this continent . . . and their disappearance from the human family will be no great loss the world (Horsman 1981, p. 198). Elimination of natives individual land ownership: But after taking away their group rights and substituting some form of individual property, Whites squeezed further. Some states like Georgia successfully pressured Congress to help eliminate not only tribal land but also individual land ownership by Native Americans within their state (Horsman 1981, p. 196). Merging tribes into one big tribe under the Union: Under pressure from rebellious states on this serious matter, the federal governments Cabinet was divided and ended up promoting unrealistic options, such as that Native Americans should be removed but that they should be brought into civilization and incorporated into the Union by combining the various tribes into one big tribe and moved to a separate territory far away. Fair exchange of eastern land for western land. The federal government endorsed the policy of taking native lands in the east in exchange for lands in the west, but insisted that this could be done only by voluntary consent of the tribes. These ideas about re-engineering and moving the tribes were proposed as a sop to the conscience of the Whites, with little regard to the trauma and human suffering of such a huge move. It also ignored the fact that the new lands were almost always of lesser value. Even the Native Americans lucky enough to be relocated to petroleum-rich land in Oklahoma would later have a hard time holding on to it when the value of the land under their feet became known. As Horsman notes, Indian Removal was not an effort to civilize them under more favorable circumstances even though that was how the Jacksonians justified the measure afterward. It was a blatant act to enable the Whites to occupy all the lands they wanted east of the Mississippi River (Horsman 1981, p. 199). Confusing debates to seem fair-minded: All through this, White Americans debated with each other over what to do with the natives and what

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rationale to use to make sure the process was (or would at least appeared to be) righteous, fair-minded and based on the rule of law. Brands and other historians have noted that this was a characteristic approach: using a series of confusing and contradictory manipulations to impose conditions of despair and then using these adversities as excuses for further damage (Brands 2005). Even those voices in government who opposed the forcible removal of Native Americans tended to ultimately go along with political and legal choices that enabled Whites to have more rights. Pessimism about the natives ability to survive as a race and as cultures became self-fulfilling. 5. Displacement for Their Own Good Policies to grab Indian lands would often be couched in language that seemed to indicate humanitarian concern for the well-being of the Native Americans and a condescending spirit of compromise. For instance, the initial argument for Indian removal was positioned as a way for them to retain their wild life by moving further away from White settlements. The wide open spaces on the other side of the Mississippi were believed to be more conducive to the Indian way of life even though it meant forcibly uprooting entire tribes and communities from their ancestral lands and transplanting them to regions where their old farming technology didnt always work. Upon Andrew Jacksons election as president in 1828, the debates ended, and forced removal of the native tribes became a hard reality. Excerpts from several of Jacksons annual speeches to Congress over the years tell a remarkable story of the dulling of the collective conscience through the use of the hypocritical claim that whatever was being done was in the best interests of the Native Americans. Here are some highlights:

In his first annual address in 1829, President Jackson laid out his policy for relocating Native Americans to territories hundreds of miles away from their lands, calling this an act of sympathy to save them from catastrophe.13 To avert this calamity, and to protect Americas sense of national honor and humanity, Jacksons policy became the law known as the U.S. Indian Removal Act. In his second annual message to Congress, President Jackson blatantly supported further actions in the name of civilization defeating the uncivilized.14 He used the inexorable march of destiny to provide philosophical consolation to those whose conscience was troubled.15 Yet another important argument he gave was that the Native Americans had themselves invaded America in the distant past and had exterminated (mythical) older civilizations that had once f lourished there.16 In his fourth annual message to Congress, President Jackson described how native uprisings were put down by heroic White soldiers, but omitted mentioning that he had refused to implement the U.S. Supreme Courts ruling in favor of the Native Americans, thereby

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making a mockery of the U.S. law when it did not suit the interests of the deep White culture.17 In his fifth annual message to Congress, President Jackson rationalized the inevitability of the extermination of native tribes.18

The prevailing hypocrisy in dealing with Native Americans was not lost on Alexis De Tocqueville, the famous European observer of nineteenthcentury America. While de Tocqueville admired many things about America, he could not help saying sarcastically about the treatment of natives: It is impossible to destroy men with more respect to the laws of humanity (de Tocqueville 1966, p. 30). Phase III: Indians as Children Protected in Reservations Once the merciless savage had been uprooted to a contained area away from his land, laws and customs, he could then be managed and raised as a child. His savage religion could be replaced with superior Christianity. This was the culmination of an Enlightenment idea that saw non-Whites as racial and cultural children. Jefferson, who did not seem to consider Native Americans as racially inferior (unlike Blacks), nevertheless believed that their backward religion and culture made them incapable of decisionmaking in the same autonomous way that White adults could.19 In 1831, the Supreme Court had already declared that all Native American tribes were a dependent nation, thereby allowing them to be categorized as subjects or wards. Thus, the long prevalent Enlightenment view of non-Whites as backward children needing to be tutored by Whites was given a new legal basis, thus nullifying the supposedly universal right to consent to ones own government (Stephanson 1995, p. 26). Several notable Americans who admitted that Native Americans had been harmed by White expansion now openly proposed that the only option to enable the natives to flourish was to put them under the direct protection of the Anglo-Saxons. The self-congratulatory argument was that enslavement and protection had allowed Blacks to grow their population in America while the Indians had declined in number (Horsman 1981, p. 203)! A few isolated voices challenged the notion of the Native Americans being inferior especially if they were educated and Christianized. In other words, their backward condition was not permanent, but like children, given time and a chance to learn true religion they could be redeemed. Congressmen testified that there were many individuals of several tribes . . . who were as intelligent as nine tenths of the members of [Congress] (Horsman 1981, p. 204). Others pointed out that it was preposterous to conclude that a whole nation of people were destitute of the ability to improve themselves (ibid.). But while defending some specific Native Americans as individuals, even such liberal Americans were

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unwilling to stand up for Native American cultures or for their collective identities. One Congressman was brutally honest and insightful in his rare assessment that it was natural that Americans should look for the causes of Indian disappearance among the Indians rather than among the whites, but this was a false search (ibid.). Ultimately, the very few true friends the Native Americans had in positions of power and public inf luence were simply overwhelmed and exhausted by the pervasive demonizing of the Native Americans in news reports and popular literature. Any rare episode of natives defensive resistance against the taking of their lands was exaggerated over and over again to condemn them as savages. Attempts by non-Whites to unite were particularly targeted as evil. One watershed event in this regard took place in the early 1840s when escaping Black slaves joined hands with Indian tribes in Florida to attack Whites settled on captured lands. The conf lict was especially threatening as an alliance of the colored races versus the Whites: Wilderness threatening Eden. The well-popularized image of the native as a brutal savage was revived by a Congressman who dramatically held up a spear-point that he claimed was removed from the body of a child, and who then called for the extermination of the Native Americans because they had proved once again that they are demons, not men. They have the human form but not the human heart. Public figures who expressed sympathy for the Native Americans were silenced by telling them that this sympathy was misplaced because the colored races were attacking White Christians. Senator Thomas Hart Benton used atrocity literature testimonies in Congress and campaigned to overrule the land rights of natives and build a railroad corridor to the Pacific coast for the purpose of trade with India (Horsman 1981, p. 204). Because of the popular demonology of Native Americans and pseudoscientific research to show their innate inferiority, ironically enough, the only defenders remaining were missionaries claiming that although Native Americans were presently savages they could be rescued by converting them to Christianity. Further physical genocide could be prevented by completing the cultural genocide. Sadly, freedom loving Americans explained away their genocide of Native Americans as the natives inability to adapt to civilization: As American hopes of creating a policy based on Enlightenment ideas of human equality failed, and as it relentlessly drove the Indians from all areas desired by the whites, Americans transferred their own failure to the Indians and condemned the Indians racially (Horsman 1981, p. 207). Phase IV: Academic Research and the Museumizing of Indian Culture Even as the Native Americans were being killed, relocated, and systematically subjected to conditions of genocide, there was considerable interest in

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governmental and private circles for documenting and preserving important aspects of the culture in museums and books. This was sometimes fired by the quest for knowledge or reputation via authorship. Often the motivation was money through ownership of soft and hard knowledge in the form of traveling exhibits. Former frontiersmen who had made their mark as Indian fighters, along with missionaries and officials who ruled over the defeated natives, jumped on the latest bandwagon to document, paint and later photograph various aspects of Native American life, including languages. Thus a famous Indian-fighting general wrote to a famous Indian Office administrator, urging him to collect such materials for the sake of history, before the tribes entirely disappeared. Often there were only one or two surviving members left of the great tribes (Drinnon 1997, p. 194). Field agents and missionaries who were collecting data on Native American languages and vocabularies were urged to be especially attentive to any last man of his tribeto get from him the words [of his language]. Such a man may be looked upon as a connecting link between time and eternity, as to all that regards his people; and which, if it be lost all that relates to his tribe is gone forever (Drinnon 1997, p. 192). Writers, painters, Indian fighters, administrators, philanthropists, and missionaries all got into this act. They knew that lining up the right partnerships with the right Indian experts to produce these books, illustrations, and traveling exhibits could be immensely profitable, and would make reputations as sought after experts. One such famous author teamed up with an Indian fighter/administrator and urged a well-known painter of scenes from Native American life, urging him to join up in illustrating a forthcoming work on native history: (If you) . . . join us, we shall have in our hands a complete monopoly; no other work can compete with that which we could make. And this could lead to immense profit (Drinnon 1997, pp. 194195). This book went on to become the definitive nineteenth-century history of the Native Americans, the multivolume McKenney and Halls History of the Indian Tribes of North America, bringing the authors money and glory. This is an important lesson to draw as it remains quite true today: Interest shown in any ethnic group by well-paid American academics is not necessarily due to genuine altruism and deep sympathy with that group. Ultimately the goal in many cases is to gain approval and validation in the form of job appointments, research grants, promotions and an ego-boosting collection of studentsthat is, validation not from the humans being studied, but from ones own peer group and from the prevailing establishment. The deep culture has created institutional mechanisms of peer-review, funding, tenure, censure and promotions that all scholars must live with. Independent scholarly research, especially on cultures of non-Whites, is unlikely to happen unless American scholars work is scrutinized and the framework seriously challenged from outside, that is, by scholars of the other culture being studied or American intellectuals outside the academy.

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Scholarly histories of the Native Americans also portrayed their barbarity and savagery to the fullest extent possible. They were depicted as fierce, rapacious and untamable (Hall 1978, p. 104); also we find the Indian, when seeking revenge . . . becomes processed of an insatiate and insane thirst for blood, which impels him to feed his passion, not only to the carnage of the helpless of the human race, but even by slaughter of domestic animals (Hall 1978, p. 112). It was also common in scholarly works, as well as in the popular literature, to dehumanize Native Americans by comparing them physically and culturally with animals wolves, snakes and vultures were the tropes used, explicitly or implicitly (Drinnon 1997, p. 197). Sometimes an individuals criminal acts were not blamed on the individuals characteras would be the case for a White person committing the same crimebut rather his culture and religion were blamed as savage. Thus we have this scholarly expression of sympathy for the Indians low moral development: . . . he has never been taught those lessons of humanity which have, under the guidance of civilization and Christianity, stripped war of its more appalling horrors, and without which we should be no less savage than the Indians (Hall 1978, pp. 201202). The end result was that he must be cured of his religion and culture or else be destroyed. A crucially important factor in reinforcing this message was the lack of balance in gathering and presenting opposing data or having voices from the other side that would evaluate the values and power structures linked to Whiteness or Christianity as important factors in the conf lict. The atrocity literature did not document the greater savagery and the many unprovoked attacks and systematic massacres committed by White Christians against the Native Americans. Drinnon notes dryly that it is unclear what the Native Americans themselves thought of this great interest that was being shown in the dying tribes, cultures, religions and languages by many of the same people who were directly and indirectly responsible for their extinction. However the data collectors were powerful and the native informants, translators and interpreters had little choice and provided whatever the various scholars sought. It is likely that this scholarly recording and museumizing of the Native American, while simultaneously carrying out popular denigration, missionary conversions and gradual genocide among them, helped assuage the American conscience. By showing that Americans were appreciating and memorializing the Native Americansalbeit as objects of the dead past to be gazed atit legitimized the sense of the historical inevitability and destined melting-away of the Native American, absolving the predator culture of any culpability. Another method to shield the self-image from these unsavory aspects of Americas past is to not talk about it. Popular works on American history often block negativesboth of the Western intellectual traditions soft power attacks on others as well as of Americas hard power actions. James Loewen explains: Most historians were males from privileged White families. They wrote with blinders on. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.,

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found himself able to write an entire book on the presidency of Andrew Jackson without ever mentioning perhaps the foremost issue Jackson dealt with as president: the removal of Indians from the Southeast. Whats more, Schlesingers book won the Pulitzer prize (Loewen 1996, p. 273)!20 While many of todays best American historians (including those quoted in this chapter) are more forthright and do critique the Christian and Enlightenment lapses of the past, this knowledge of the dark side is still debated mainly in closed academic circles, and does not loom large in the public understanding of America. Indeed Americans are understandably uncomfortable when this dark history is presented. This mythic self-righteousness hides the extended genocide of Native Americans in the basement of Americas collective memory in order to prevent guilt. This helps to preserve the deep culture, whose many benign and truly admirable characteristics get highlighted. But unfortunately, it also prevents Americans from learning from this experience and examining the particular strains in their collective mythology and national character that caused these tragedies and that continue to manifest in their dealings with non-European, non-Christian cultures. Native Americans, as living and vibrant cultures, religions and peoples, are almost extinct. But their memories are preserved in museums, and their names live on as automobile models, team names, commercial brands, place names, and so on. Individuals and groups among them appear to prosper as civilized and exotic casino operators, who are part and parcel of the American landscape rather than a challenge to it. In sharp contrast there is a large White guilt toward Blacks, primarily because, unlike Native Americans, Blacks live in the mainstream in large numbers, have a group identity, and have become mobilized as a voice that will not go away. Very importantly, Black scholars have also developed a sterling intellectual tradition that reverses the gaze on White culture, and have tried to challenge White frameworks by adopting Afro-centric frameworks. The Failure of Discourse American attitudes toward the Native Americans were complex. Internal conf licts among inf luential Americans remained and pro-native voices definitely existed throughout this long saga. BUT NATIVE AMERICANS WERE NEVER IN CONTROL OVER THE DISCOURSE CONCERNING THEM, AND BOTH SIDES TO THESE DEBATES WERE WHITES. Whites for one plan would argue against Whites for another plan concerning the plight of the Native Americans. There is an important lesson here when area studies disciplines about non-Western nations are being controlled by American institutions and driven by its deep cultures worldview. There were many periods in which the Native Americans, represented by their White supporters, seemed to be well protected and temporarily secure. The pendulum swings back and forth many times during this

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300 year encounter, but Native Americans continually slip in their share of the land, their rights, and ultimately their very survival. Along the way, there were important stories of their defense by Whites as well as betrayals and dishonesty. While the Whites always had a clear Manifest Destiny, the Native Americans did not have a comparable myth of their own destiny to take over the earth. This meant that even those Whites who supported the Native Americans did so in the context of their own (superior) place in Manifest Destiny. Native Americans did not control the discourse because of a lack of their own grand narrative in which to theorize about the Whites collectively (i.e., a deep cultural strategic advantage for the White Americans). They also lost control over the discourse because White institutions, intellectuals, media and writers ran the show. Since Whites controlled all three layersdeep culture, institutions of power, and pop culturethis made Native Americans vulnerable to cultural genocide that was followed by their physical ethnic cleansing. It is indeed a sad ending. The Native Americans have slowly been repositioned with great sympathy. The ideological stance and iconography about them has turned into a positive image of the cult of the Indian, now that he was only present in museums and ceased to be a threat. The old Frontier has been captured already and the boundaries have moved to new frontiers. Native American culture is now a trophy to adorn mainstream America. From its original positioning as grotesque and savage it is now beautiful and American. Hypocrisy as National Character Importantly, throughout the debates on what to do about the savage, there took place an intellectual game the purpose of which was to show that a fair and equitable due process was being carried out. The best academic minds in America produced (and continue to produce) devastating negative knowledge about others while seeming to be liberal and to engage in honest academic discussions. In light of this pattern, Marimba Ani, a Black scholar of White culture, provides a provocative but cogent framework to interpret White culture, suggesting that hypocrisy is an essential element of its success. She explains European/American culture includes moral statements whose primary purpose is image projection and political benefits. This is the same competence that is found in American advertising, public relations and salesmanship: Within the nature of European/American culture there exists a statement of value or of moral behavior that has no meaning for the members of that culture. I call this the rhetorical ethic; . . . The European mind is a political one and for this reason constantly aware of the political effect of words and images as they are used for the

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purposes of manipulation. By political I mean to indicate an ego that consistently experiences people as others; as representatives of interests defined differently and, therefore, as conf licting with this ego. The individual is concerned, therefore, with the way in which his verbal expression and the image he projects can inf luence the behavior of those to whom he relates . . . This is what is deeply rooted in the American mindthe psychology of public relations, salesmanship, and political strategy. (Ani n. d.) According to Ani, Americans have a deep talent to project moral values in a manner that appears altruistic and thereby hides their own vested interests: Because they exported (sold) this altruistic image so successfully, they have had to project themselves as adhering to this ideal; similarly, the projection of themselves or their motives in this way has been essential to the successful imposition of this ethic on others. The basic principle . . . . is that the major contributing factor to the success of American nationalism has been its projection as disinterested internationalism. (Ani n. d.) Americans honestly believe that their actions are intended for others good. In this way, they have fallen victim to their own myth. Lessons from the Native American Experience The wars against the Native Americans were concluded in the 1890s, but deep patterns remain in the American culture which distinguish it from other Eurocentric cultures. We have examined seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century ways of dealing with the native other, which began with European roots in biblical and Enlightenment thinking. We have traced how both these sources were used to frame the idea of the other as savage or noble, dangerous or childlike, depending on which model best suited the requirements of personal greed or national expansion. We have seen how well-meaning people who spoke up for the natives were marginalized, and we have noted that the Native Americans were the losers in part because they lacked a grand unifying myth that could help them participate in the discourse that justified their destruction. In the following section, we will apply the same insights to an examination of the period of American domination on a global scale, which still continues in spite of recent setbacks. Civilizations Aesthetics, Morality, and Reason Myths are the organizing principles shared by a people to give meaning to their collective memories and to bring coherence to their present

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experiences and future expectations. Myths are not necessarily false, and the functional power and effect of a myth is determined by peoples belief in it and not the extent to which it is true. Myths are built by selectively picking and choosing parts of the truth that fit and help empower the myth while ignoring or whitewashing parts that dont. A myth contextualizes the motifs it borrows into a coherent picture for the intended audience. Biblical myths are filled with motifs that show the chaotic wilderness as Satanic, and Eden as the realm of Order. The struggle between Good and Evil is a battle between Order and Chaos. Centuries later, the Enlightenment movement in Europe removed the dependency on explicit theological references to God and Satan, but the underlying implicit premises have remained the same. Eden was replaced by the secular notion of Civilization. The Enlightenment considered Civilization to be orderly and standing in opposition to uncivilized societies that were characterized by Chaos. Cultural ambiguity and uncertainty are markers of Chaos whereas Order is characterized with normative, decisive, canonized rules and predictability. The West, as Hegel pronounced, was uniquely endowed to lead the rest toward Civilization. Those who were not following the West on this caravan were destined to perishthe Native Americans, Hegel wrote, were thus meant to suffer genocide, just as the Africans were suited for slavery. A variety of stereotypes were constructed and associated with depicting these savages revolving around the biblical idea of chaossuch as incoherence, evil, socially irresponsibility, irrationality, and sometimes sexual promiscuity. All these attributes are power-laden images. They serve as code words that can devastate when applied, because they bring forth powerful knots of energy hidden in the collective subconscious. A key approach to evaluating other cultures was based on White Americans criteria of beauty and aesthetics. The savage others were depicted as ugly and their deities and symbols were considered grotesque. The others aesthetics was also seen as a barometer of his morality. God made good people beautiful, and conversely, beautiful people must be good. Ideas of aesthetics are controlled by the dominant culture of the time, and this culture likes to project itself as the image of goodness. While images of Jesus in art in the early centuries showed him to be darkskinned, since the Italian Renaissance he acquired White phenotypes. Only in the early twentieth century was he first painted as blonde with blue eyes. Besides aesthetics and morality, the third dimension of this framework was about truth. The savages lacked rationality. Civilized peoplewho were good in looks and moralshad Reason. The triad of beauty-goodness-truth became commonly applied in the discourse about non-White peoples (figure 9.1). Once any one or two out of the triad of attributes could be asserted concerning a given savage, then all three evaluations automatically applied: Grotesque deities and filth in the society signified immoral people who lacked reason. Poverty implied lack of rationality because

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Civilized Beautiful

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Savage

Ugly

Moral

Truthful

Immoral

Irrational

Figure 9.1 Stereotypes of civilized and savage peoples

rationality results in progress; hence poverty was correlated with lack of morality, and thus the poor need to be saved from their immoral native culture. Kantian Eurocentrism The three ideasaesthetics, morality and truthhave been inter-linked in Western thought. One finds numerous instances where a judgment about one is superimposed to implicate another aspect of that culture. That this was an enlightened view held by some of the greatest liberal thinkers of the West is illustrated by Kants writings about Asians and Africans in this regard. Kant, like many other European Enlightenment thinkers, exerted considerable inf luence upon American intellectuals and leaders. Although Kant had little or nothing to say about Native Americans, he was offended by the non-European aesthetics of the Chinese: What trif ling grotesqueries the courtesies and studied complements of the Chinese contain! Even their paintings are grotesque and portray strange and unnatural figures such as are encountered nowhere in the world. (Eze 1997, p. 55) He also attacked Asian Indians based on their art and aesthetics, which he found to be grotesque: The Indians have a dominating taste for the grotesque, of the sort that falls into the adventurous. Their religion consists of grotesqueries. Idols of monstrous form, the priceless tooth of the mighty monkey Hanuman, the unnatural atonements of the fakirs (heathen mendicant friars) and so forth are in this taste. (ibid.) Because of such a horrible state of aesthetics in their religion it was natural to find them oppressing their women, he explained. While the European had transformed relations between the sexes to go beyond the physical

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animal drive and toward higher levels of morality, charm and decorousness, the same was not true of Orientals: Kant wrote: Since he has no concept of the morally beautiful which can be united with this impulse [of sex], he loses even the worth of the sensuous enjoyment, and his harem is a constant source of unrest. He thrives on all sorts of amorous grotesqueries . . . he makes use of very unjust and often loathsome means. Hence there a woman is always in a prison, whether she may be (unmarried) or have a barbaric, goodfor-nothing and always suspicious husband. (p. 57) To strengthen his case that Indians were aesthetically and morally deprived savages, he used whatever he had heard or read of sati to his full advantage. He made sati seem like a normative practice that could be used as the basis for making sweeping conclusions: The despotic sacrifice of the wives in the very same funeral pyre that consumes the corpse of husband is a hideous excess (p. 55). While sharing prevailing views about Black ugliness and White beauty, Kant again extended aesthetics into moral judgments of Africa, and wrote: The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the trif ling (Eze 1997, p. 55). Kant believed, along with a number of other Enlightenment scholars, that all Negroes stink (Eze 1997, p. 46). Immoral Potatoes and Other Savages Similarly, aesthetics were applied by the enlightened continent of Europe to make many irrational judgments. For instance, the potato had been first developed by Native Americans in South America but was rejected by Europeans for its bad aesthetics and for its association as a product of the savages. Many European thinkers argued that its odd geometry lacked symmetry, thereby suggesting that it was linked to evil, because God made the good food symmetrically shaped. The threat of a massive famine across Europe that could have killed as much as half its entire population finally forced farmers in Europe to grow potatoes as a highyielding source of nutrition. The European sense of aesthetics considered beauty to be symmetry and an odd shaped potato to be ugly, and then linked this ugliness to evil and immorality, because God would not intend for us to eat ugly food, and hence they declared it a dangerous food. Potatos reputation was also associated with the Native Americans from whom Europeans had obtained it, and who had by then been declared evil and uncivilized peopleso the potato was also guilty by association. In its deep layers of myth, the Inquisition in Europe was about Order (usually imagined as masculine) becoming threatened by the feminine aesthetics of the pagan faiths, which were seen as chaotic and hence linked to evil. All sorts of stories were made up about their evil practices

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which, naturally, had to be seen as inspired by Satan. Rule books were written and officially sanctioned to provide the normative, orderly mechanisms for proving the guilt of those accused of such practices. This lasted several for centuries and spread to virtually every corner of Europe, killing tens of millions of women accused of witchcraft. Contrary to their claims of respect for individuality, Europeans were most intolerant of the women priests of native religions because they were declared a threat to Order. When I first arrived in the U.S. corporate scene in the 1970s, management training seminars emphasized certain normative body language: A strong handshake makes you seem confident and reliable; a limp handshake is seen by White culture as a sign of weakness and lack of moral certainty. Eye contact with confidence (almost to the point of aggressiveness but just the right level), yet balanced with a smile, shows being nice but in control. And so on. The notion of power lunch and power breakfast entered corporate culture, along with a series of bestseller books with titles explaining what real men do and dont. Soon women followed with titles like real women do X and not Y. Cultural biases in aesthetics are important to understand. Lawyers advise their clients appearing in court to dress formally and wear their hair in a clean orderly appearance, because that is the aesthetics correlated with being moral and truthful. Images of the savage look, on the other hand, are routinely used by media and by opponents to depict someone as a crook or immoral or dangerous. This is ironic when one considers that many of the crooks and criminalssuch as the leaders of Enron, WorldCom, among othershave the perfectly orderly aesthetics. Neither aesthetics nor their superb intellects (i.e., Reason) kept them from being immoral! Frontier Encounters with Other Civilizations Black scholars have explained how racist ideas about Blacks aesthetics were linked to being evil and irrational, and hence in need to be controlled by the forces of goodness and truth which were identifiable by good (White) looks. In the 1930s, when Adorno criticized Whites for defining jazz as Black music, the prevailing White dominated discourse did view jazz as primitive and perhaps even dangerous, its refinement best left to whites. . . . (Steinman 2005, pp. 115137). Record companies forced Black groups to adopt Frontier names like The Jungle Band and Chocolate Dandies, and were given labels like Ethiopian Nightmare. Mainstream critics described jazz as degenerate and something to be wary of. Later, in the 1950s, when Elvis crossed the line and appropriated Black music for White audiences, on the one hand it was seen as White (and thus civilized) by his fans, and on the other hand the orthodoxy declared it an invasion by the forces of Chaos. The Frontier threatened to take

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over Civilization. Elvis records were publicly destroyed and burnt and many governmental inquiries were ordered to find out ways of stopping this menace from attacking the realm of Order. Eventually, the threat of Chaos disappeared when jazz, rock, and other Black genres got captured and turned into an orderly product of the music industry. Adorno explained capitalisms appropriation of Black music into commodities and confusing parodies that were manufactured by the fashion industry (Steinman 2005, pp. 115137). When Americans decided to capture territories from Mexico, the Mexicans were depicted as savages lacking aesthetics not only in their looks but also in their grotesque symbols and art. These images were seen as a sign of their immorality and wickedness. Hence, there emerged the images of dangerous banditos which were further extrapolated as proof of their lack of reason. Naturally, White civilization had to conquer such devilish peoples. Todays debates against Mexican immigration and Americas domestic policies that prejudice against Hispanic Americans are not explicitly racist. But scholars of race point out the underlying images and myths present in the discourse that involve one or more of the trio: lack of aesthetics, moral deficiency, and inferior reasoning. Thus there is implicit racism that is subtly codified. For instance, while cigarettes have become civilized as Wall Street capitalism, drugs belong to the darker races marijuana to Mexicans, heroin to Blacks, peyote to Native Americans, and so we see the War on Drugs is a mythic war between Order and Chaos. It is interesting to see how consistently the logic of these myths has been used time and time again in dealing with non-Western civilizations since first contact. The chronology of encounters that helped shape Americas deep culture is shown in figure 9.2. The three boxes in figure 9.2 represent three eras, which are roughly as follows:

In the first era, the early settlers were on the defensive in an isolated strange land, and the myth was for a positive build up for hope and ethical actions. In the second era, expansion over the land mass became important. This entailed violent encounters with Native Americans and Mexicans for land. Slavery of Blacks was required to make the agricultural land productive and hence valuable. The Myth was constantly adapted to justify all this in the name of civilization. The corpus of frontier literature about the savages was vastly expanded and constantly fed by missionaries, fiction writers, theatrical productions, journalists, academic scholars, and political rhetoric. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Manifest Destiny idea was again adapted to take America across the oceans because the land mass had been taken over already. This overseas expansion involved violence against Filipinos, Caribbean peoples, Hispanics, Chinese (as laborers), Japanese (interned) and Vietnamese, among others.

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[4] Caribbean [5] Philippines

Isolation & Frontier

[1] Native Americans

[3] Mexican

[7] Vietnam

(External Frontiers) City on a Hill

Manifest Destiny (Land) [6] Chinese Workers

Manifest Destiny (Overseas)

Europe [2] Black Slavery (Internal Frontier)

[8] Japanese Internment (Internal)

[9] Jim Crow Racism

Figure 9.2 Encounters that shaped national character

Atrocity Literature as a Genre21 In each instance there was extensive literature developed and disseminated about the atrocities committed by the savage cultures. More generally, the literature showed them to have frontier-like attributes of chaos, lack of morality, lack of aesthetics, and certainly the lack of rationality that was required to be civilized. In each case such literature got deployed to argue in favor of invasions and containment of those people, often with claims that it would be in their own best interests. One cannot help being reminded of the way Iraq was instantly demonized by the media, including CNN and other liberal media, the moment the U.S. authorities started to debate the merits of waging war.22 Pop media images served as the fifth column to support the case for invasion. A little later, the noble and oppressed Iraqi people, yearning to breathe free, were demonized when they failed to greet the American invaders with enough enthusiasm. Current debates about the future course of the United States in Iraq make heavy use of both sets of myth. Each of these historical encounters was prolonged, intense and exceptionally violent. What is particularly relevant to note is the critical role of popular and academic literature as weaponry in the form of denigration and demonology of the other culture in every single encounter. Once a given people could be deemed dangerous savages then it was considered okay and even mandatory to wage savage war against them, because this war was for Order against Chaos. Both the academy and media dished out images of savagery about the non-White cultures that America encountered. The systematic approach was repeated and the process became more sophisticated each time. As a result of Americas superiority complex, there has developed a genre of American literature that is known as atrocity literature. Over the past four centuries a corpus of academic and fictional writings that

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have been adapted into Broadway plays and Hollywood movies have portrayed American encounters with other culturessuch as Native Americans, Blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Haitians, Cubans, Vietnamese, and now Muslimsreinforcing the idea that the rest of the world is inferior to America and must be won over to its ways for their own good, no less. Only then can John Wayne fade peaceably into the sunset on his horse. Atrocity literature was integral to portraying other cultures strangeness and exotica by emphasizing the dangers it posed. The phenomenon may be brief ly stated as follows:

The mythmaking consisted of painting a vivid picture of the other as being dangerously savagea people who were a threat to innocent God-fearing Christian folks. The imagery sometimes suggested that the biblical Eden (now home to Americans) was being violated and threatened by evil savages from the Frontierthe collective rest of the non-Christian, uncivilized world. Often this image of the savage was created by making associations. They were typically depicted in scenes of idol worshipping replete with grotesque and sundry divinities, as opposed to the one true God of the Christian Americans. These others were packaged to appear primitivelacking in morals and ethics, prone to violence, whatever it would take to make them appear monstrous and threatening. This triolack of aesthetics, lack of morality, and lack of rationalitybecame a fixture that is found over and over again in atrocity literature. Historians have described how narratives about dangerous nonwesterners were formulated to incite support for violence against anyone who could be portrayed as savages. When conf licts erupted, the good Americans were depicted as responding legitimately and dutifully to the actions of savages. Thus American brutalities were depicted as pre-emptive strikes against potentially threatening savages and seen as justified and reasonable measures. The savage cultures were also shown to victimize their own women and children hence making the violent civilizing mission of the Americans seem to be in the best interest of the savage societies at large. This kind of atrocity literature became a major genre that gave intellectual sustenance to the doctrine of Americas Manifest Destiny. In turn, Manifest Destiny fed even more of such literature. This genre thrives on half-truths, on selecting items from here and there, and stitching themes together into a narrative that then plays on the readers psyche with pre-conceived stereotypes. The literature seeks to create a sense of heightened urgency in dealing with savagery. The other cultures portrayed in this way may or may not have committed the alleged atrocities attributed to them. The truth, in all probability, is not one-sided. Typically, the bad behavior on the other

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side is exaggerated and sensationalized in order to make an ideological point, not to unveil the truth. Americans are spared blame for their violent actions which are portrayed as being just and unavoidablea necessary evil when dealing with an uncivilized and threatening world. Once established in the popular mind, atrocity literature was often used to justify the harsh subjugation of the people in the Frontier because they did not deserve to be treated like civilized people. In many instances this led to genocide (Native Americans) or large-scale violence (the Vietnam War). These mechanisms are important to study because they are not only in the past.

Many scholars have naively participated in producing such atrocity literature either without realizing it, or without taking into consideration how the material would eventually be used. For example, Professor Dunning at Columbia University produced a large quantity of such atrocity literature aimed at Blacks in the early twentieth century. His writings helped justify the Ku Klux Klans ideology and buttressed White racial attitudes toward Blacks as inferior. These depictions would not get corrected until the civil rights movement and social reforms of the 1960s. Once a target culture was branded and marked in this way, it became the recipient of all sorts of untoward allegations. It became impossible for the leaders of any such branded culture to try to defend themselves against the false charges and depictions. Anyone engaged in this criticism of America would be immediately put on to the list of suspected dangerous savages and stigmatized. The normal rules of providing evidence and the right to fair representation would be superseded by the swarm of negative allegations. The means justified the ends: Civilization had to be saved at any cost, and the applications of increasing amounts of violence proved effective; in fact, the more the better. Evolution of Myth Table 9.1 summarizes how the Myth evolved in each stage of American history. It shows how the us was defined and evolved over time from Puritans to Englishmen to Christians to White, and so forth. The Frontier was both a geographical location in any given period and also a set of alien cultures to combat, including both those located outside the Frontier and various internal others such as slaves, former slaves, defeated Native Americans, non-White populations acquired by annexation, and immigrants. In the following diagram, the two columns on the rationalization show both kinds: the overtly selfish reasons cited such as expanding commerce or bringing security from dangerous savages; and the pretence of

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Table 9.1 Rationales Used for Expansion Geographic and Cultural Frontiers Geographic : East coast occupied by Native Americans Cultural: Native Americans outside and African slaves inside Geographic : Westward and southward Cultural: Indigenous people and Spanish speaking Whites outside; African slaves inside Geographic : Central America, Philippines, Vietnam, etc. Cultural: Heathens overseas; Immigrant labor internally Geographic : China, India, Pan-Islam Cultural: Non-European externally and Immigrants internally Global superpower MilitaryIndustrial superpower Globalizing freedom, commerce, democracy Flat World meritocracy Commercial and military expansion across North America Manifest Destiny: American exceptionalism spreading Civilization Commercial expansion and security of the colonies Manifesting Christianity on Earth via City on a Hill imagery Selfish Rationales Self-Righteous Myth

History of the Frontiers

Stage of the Myth

Definition of Who Is Us

American Counterculture Responses Romanticism of Native Americans as noble savages; seeing free Blacks as exemplars Enlightenment, anti-slavery, and Progress theories

Colonial Period

a) Fellow countrymen from a European nation b) Christians c) Whites

North American Expansion and European Immigration

White American citizens of a newly invented nation

Overseas Expansion and Non-European Immigration

Whitened American citizens of a massive continent and economy

Transcendentalism; Black pop culture and music; drugs; Asian inspired counterculture; civil rights and antiwar movements Postmodern pop culture

Current Frontiers

Multiethnic power pyramid

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altruism to save humanity, or make progress or civilize others in the name of God or Providence or History. The final column shows that there has always existed a counterculture of protest within America, similar to the hippies of the 1960s. But these served as Good Cops who would get overruled by the Bad Cops or get convinced by them and join them, or would simply die out and fade away in defeat. This is sobering evidence of the challenges facing the small intellectual voice today that is truly attempting sweeping changes. The Power of Myth Salman Rushdie calls a myth the family album or storehouse of a cultures childhood, containing [its] . . . future, codified as tales that are both poems and oracles (Rushdie 2000, p. 83). Culture is an enactment of myth, and the two support and nourish each other. In order to understand a specific culture one must know the myths which serve as the implied context for experience. Naturally, myths are not static but evolve and compete with other myths in a mythic space. They must be adaptable to new imperatives. Hence the plasticity and elasticity of competing myths will determine which ones dominate by providing greater coherence and thereby surviving as the most viable and robust. Bruce Lincoln explains how myths are constantly reshaped by narrators and audiences: Myths are not snapshot representations of stable taxonomies and hierarchies . . . Rather, the relation between social order and the stories told about it is much looser andas a resultconsiderably more dynamic, for this loose fit creates possibilities for rival narrators, who modify aspects of the established order as depicted in prior variants, with consequences that can be far-reaching if and when audiences come to perceive these innovative representations as reality. (Lincoln 1999, p. 150) In intercivilizational competitive situations, understanding the other sides myths become a critical factor in ones ability to negotiate for domination or collaboration. The mythic representation of the other side drives ones ability to engage that side, and this can become a powerful weapon or a cataclysmic liability. For instance, the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, lost his entire kingdom to the Spanish conquistador, Cortez, because Montezumas own myth made him imagine Cortez to be a mythic god. Cortezs Eurocentric myth did not bestow a similar prestige and glory upon Montezuma. On the contrary, the cunning Cortez played his role as per Montezumas mythic expectations. A very tiny and vastly outnumbered ragtag army of Cortez killed Montezuma in the cruelest manner, in the watershed event that led Europeans to conquer the vast South American kingdoms. One might say that Europe had the more effective myth in this clash of civilizational myths.

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Similarly, the British in India mastered the study of Indias myths for the purpose of colonial manipulation, and this was the explicit motive for starting Indology in British universitiesand now a major reason for U.S.-based South Asian Studies. The British spun myths of their own superiority that were installed in the minds of ambitious Indians. But Indians had no representation system of the British in Indian epistemic and mythic terms. The mythic battle was won by the British. Given the mythic and functional power of modern science, a myth may masquerade as historical fact with reinforcement from major scholars, institutions and media. Levi-Strauss remarked that in our own societies history has replaced mythology and fulfils the same function . . . (Levi-Strauss n. d., pp. 4243). Often the strategy to be credible involves approximating the truth sufficiently to be seen as truth. The lie that is closest to the truth is the most dangerous lie. For instance, J. M. Blaut explains that moderate racism is, today, a more serious problem in the world of scholars than is classical racism, because it is mainly an implicit theory (Blaut 1993, p. 65). Thus a myth may remain partly submerged in the subconscious in order to stay below the radar of critical inquiry. The West does not want to recognize its own narratives as myths, but as logos/reason, while depicting worldviews of all others as myths. Derrida wrote, The white man takes his own mythology . . . for the universal form of that he must still wish to call Reason (Derrida 1982, p. 213). J. M. Blaut wrote that American mythic superiority seems to be rooted in an implicit theory that combines a belief that Christian peoples make history with a belief that White peoples make history, the whole becoming a theory that it is natural for Europeans to innovate and progress and for non-Europeans to remain stagnant and unchanging (traditional), until, like Sleeping Beauty, they are awakened by the Prince. This view still, in the main, prevails, although racism has been discarded and nonEurope is no longer considered to have been absolutely stagnant and traditional (Blaut 1993, p. 6). He goes on to write: Eurocentrism is the colonizers model of the world in a very literal sense: it is not merely a set of beliefs, a bundle of beliefs. It has evolved, through time, into a very finely sculpted model, a structured whole; in fact a single theory; in fact a super theory, a general framework for many smaller theories, historical, geographical, psychological, sociological, and philosophical. (Blaut 1993, pp. 1011) Besides helping to defeat the other cultures, the dominant cultures myths also serve as master-narratives into which others can be appropriated, often in ways that make it seem very attractive to the others. The captured others get mapped into mythic roles assigned to them in inferior positions, their knowledge gets mapped as belonging to the dominant culture, and their symbols become ornaments, as Native American symbolism has

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been used. Robert Young explains the Enlightenment support for such mythic appropriation: Hegel articulates a philosophical structure of the appropriation of the other as a form of knowledge which uncannily simulates the project of nineteenth-century imperialism; the construction of knowledge which all operate through forms of expropriation and incorporation of the other mimics at a conceptual level the geographical and economic absorption of the non-European world by the West. Marxisms standing Hegel on his head may have reversed his idealism, but it did not change the mode of operation of a conceptual system which remains collusively Eurocentric . . . The appropriation of the other as a form of knowledge within a totalizing system can thus be set alongside the history (if not the project) of European imperialism, and the constitution of the other as other alongside racism and sexism. (Young 1990, pp. 34) Notes
1. John Winthrop made his famous sermon, A Model of Christian Charity, while on a ship to America in which he said the famous line, wee must consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill . . . 2. This trend started much earlier. Colony officials and opinion makers portrayed the Indians as barbarous, and adopted a policy of genocide and deceit. 1n 1624, for example, more than 200 Indians who had signed a peace treaty with the Colony were served poisoned wine and killed. 3. In his earliest notebooks, Whitman was already piecing together a vision of the United States as a live organism, stretching from one coast to another . . . He was particularly interested in learning about the parts of the country he had never seen, and compiled notes on the f lora, fauna, and natural features of each state. See The Global Imaginary in Whitmans Writing at http:// humwww.ucsc.edu/gruesz/global.htm, accessed April 8, 2006. 4. There were at least three precursors to this notion from earlier Christian history: (1) The Book of Revelations, written in the first century after Jesus had mapped the Jewish apocalypse onto Christian history, good/evil becoming Christ/Antichrist, etc. (2) St. Augustine (fourth century) replaced this with a more sophisticated philosophy of the fight between City of God (i.e., the Christian Church) and City of Man (i.e., all non-Christians who were declared to be ruled by Satan), and this ruled mainstream Christianity until the seventeenth century. (3) By 1600 European science had become very confident of explaining nature through empiricism and hence undermined Augustines notion of nature as the evil domain of the Devil which had to be avoided with the new notion that nature could be captured by man. The seventeenthcentury Anglican theologian, Joseph Mead, reinterpreted the Book of Revelation and developed what spread as a revived and reinterpreted apocalyptic millenarianism. This was also exported to America. 5. For instance, Samuel H. Cox, a leading Presbyterian minister of the 1840s, told an audience in England that, in America, the state of society is without parallel in universal history . . . I really believe that God has got America within anchorage, and that upon that arena, He intends to display his prodigies for the millennium. [Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition (1993), volume 17, p. 408.] 6. However, Voltaire and major intellectual works of the enlightenment doubted this, and thought that Africans were a new species. See Eze (1997, p. 91). 7. Secularisms link to Christianity has been widely described. See: Eschatology, in The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 17. pp. 401408. Eliades deconstruction of modern Marxism as a Judeo-Christian myth is also very interesting. (Eliade 1957, pp. 196207)

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8. Even going so far as to edit and truncate the Bible to among other things, remove references to the Divinity of Jesus and his miracles. 9. Based on the stories found in works of famous American writers like James Paulding author of Westward Ho which became a rallying cry for frontier America in the 1800s. Other writers using this device include Timothy Flint. 10. See Drinnon (1997, pp. 126127 and 156157) for examples of such changes of heart in White conscience keepers confronted with atrocity data. 11. Indeed to this day all over America there are many memorials and annual commemorations for Whites killed in battle with the Indians, but few indeed for countless the Native American patriots who were killed fighting for their lands and way of life. 12. In 1816 Governor McMinn of Tennessee indicated . . . [that] the federal government should eliminate all general Indian claims within his State by ending tribal ownership. Individual Indians should be able to retain land and pass it on to their heirs (Horsman 1981, p. 193). 13. Our conduct toward these people is deeply interesting to our national character. Their present condition, contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful appeal to our sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for awhile their once terrible names. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization, which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay, the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware [tribes on the east coast who were already assimilated and destroyed] is fast overtaking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the states does not admit of a doubt. Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity (Horsman 1981). 14. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion? (Horsman 1981). 15. Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth . . . . But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another (Horsman 1981). 16. In the monuments and fortifications of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated and has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes. . . . Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers (Horsman 1981). 17. After a harassing warfare, prolonged by the nature of the country and by the difficulty of procuring subsistence, the Indians were entirely defeated, and the disaffected band dispersed or destroyed. The result has been creditable to the troops engaged in the service. Severe as is the lesson to the Indians, it was rendered necessary by their unprovoked aggressions, and it is to be hoped that its impression will be permanent and salutary (Horsman 1981). 18. That those tribes cannot exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear (Horsman 1981). 19. See Drinnon (1997, pp. 9598) on Jeffersons often hypocritical stance on this issue. 20. Loewen is referring to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson, Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1945. 21. Gatlung (1990, pp. 291305) defines cultural violence as any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural forms. Atrocity literature has been used by Americans to justify violence in a guilt-free manner. 22. In the ethics of Mahabharata, by contrast, war is to be conducted in accordance with its own dharma. Often the warring parties feasted together at night when war was ceased temporarily.

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This was a different ethos than American savage war where the end justifies the means once the other party has been demonized as a savage. U.S. arguments in the Iraq/Afghanistan War that the prisoners captured are not entitled to treatment under the Geneva Convention is a logic based on savage war, i.e., these combatants are savages and hence conventions of war are not applicable.

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