Searching for Alternatives
By Steven J. Grisafi, PhD.
On Sunday, October 11th, as part of their celebrations for Indigenous Peoples Day, protesters in Portland, Oregon toppled the statues of former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. They carried with themselves a banner claiming that both Lincoln and Roosevelt were “Racist Colonizer Murderers.” We need to think extensively about this.
Over the centuries the policy of the conqueror toward the conquered has become increasing humane. Was this a mistake? Once conquered, the Romans held such peoples to become part of Rome. Emperors emphasized this repeatedly telling such peoples that they now enjoy the benefits and privileges of being part of the Empire. In times earlier than that of Rome, conquered peoples were simply slaughtered, women and children included. Our memory of the Gauls survives because the Romans did not slaughter the women and children of the people they conquered. The policy applied here in America has been even more humane than that applied in Ancient Rome. Was this a mistake?
Why is it that such people who wrote that banner don’t view themselves as the descendants of Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt? Lincoln and Roosevelt did not think highly of my ancestors. But I do not hate either Lincoln nor Roosevelt. I consider Lincoln and Roosevelt to be my ancestors because I am American. I believe the former President of France explained the situation perfectly: Those who claim to be French must accept the Gauls as their ancestors. The Gauls were not perfect. But they were the original people of France. But how original were they really? Whom did they displace? Whether you like it or not, war and conquest were, and continue to be, an integral part of human civilization. We strive to improve the conditions for all people. But we do so only within the framework of rules we establish for ourselves. Protesters who violate those rules are to receive no sympathy, but only the wrath, of the law instead.
Those who toppled the statues of Roosevelt and Lincoln refuse to work within the framework of the law. Perhaps they should contemplate the condition of those peoples whom the Racist Colonizer Murderers displaced. The Racist Colonizer Murderers brought to the Americas the concept of the Rule of Law that has permitted such protesters to live amongst the descendants of the Racist Colonizer Murderers. Did we make a mistake? Should we have eradicated all memory of the people we displaced? Ought we have been even more ruthless in our conquest? Those who wrote that banner give us good reason to think that we ought not thought it possible that the descendants of those whom we conquer would ever live peacefully amongst us. Incidentally, this is how the concept of Ethnic Cleansing arose. Would anyone prefer that policy?