Updated: Aug 26
We've been hearing about the "original sin" of this country. The original sin was wrapped up in a mess of insanity and delusion. Let's look at delusion first.
The original delusion was that Columbus discovered America. He didn't. People were here already and Columbus was so lost he thought he was India. In fact, when Columbus first met the Maya people, he wrote soon thereafter in his travel log: "We are ten days journey to the river Ganges." He didn't have clue where he was at. He was off the coast of Honduras. Clearly delusional on that end, yet he witnessed something rather remarkable.
“There is not in the world a better nation,” Columbus wrote about the Taino, Arawaks, and Mayas. “They love their neighbors as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, accompanied with a smile.” He found their manners to be rather “decorous and praiseworthy.” And the people were “so peaceable.”
Despite his kindly writing, Columbus was criminally insane. Columbus and the rest of his sick crew spread disease, murdered, raped, and enslaved Native American people. He openly bragged about some of this in his diary. He seemed to be on a mission to destroy the best of humanity, which ultimately resulted in the loss of millions of Native American lives. That insanity spread, later through the work of Spanish conquistadors and Catholic and Jesuit priests as they burned temples and cities and libraries and people. All across America, Columbus is celebrated as a hero. The trouble is, his heroism was a lie. He ignited of the genocide.
The original sin of this country was genocide. And it infects our world even today. For, it didn't stop; it only mutated into different forms.
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.)
Fast forward to the era when there was a bounty on Native Americans. That was genocide where people were paid to participate. The genocide wasn't just to shoot at point blank. It included cutting off Native food supplies so entire villages and nations would starve to death. White people poisoned streams and rivers to kill fish. The killed off the massive expanse of bison herds, the main food source for tribes from Iowa to Idaho. White people participated in "flock shooting" Indian people, even at times of spiritual/religious gatherings. And let's not forget the blankets they handed out, which were infected with small pox and measles. This worsened an already catastrophic epidemic, spreading through and killing tribal communities. There's a term for that, and it's genocide.
And there was slavery. Slavery was more of a delayed genocide. It was the "work'em till they die" approach. And there was no crime if a slave died. There was no crime if a slave owner killed a slave. It was accepted. It was the norm. It was condoned even to the letter of the law. Genocide and slavery were written into the laws of the United States.
Over several hundred years, the laws that supported genocide became a bit more cryptic. Instead of allowing for outright killings, the laws allowed for cultural genocide. These aimed to eradicate different cultures and force integration. Look all the Indian kids who had to go to boarding schools and suffer through that bit of hell. Look at all the black and brown folks who sit in prison cells. Or look at how federal and state laws allow for the destruction of Native American history, historical records, and holy sites. Just because the United States allows for the slow erasure of black and brown histories and cultures, even preventing them from having an equal chance in this world, doesn't make it any less of a genocide. It just makes it slow, one beautiful little flower at a time, so the world doesn't rise up in protest as they're choking and killing the field of flowers.
Genocide. It is the original sin of this country. And it's still happening today. Genocide has a lot of faces, a lot of forms. It has so many layers. But cut through the crap to the center of the rotting fruit, and you will find the seeds to this suffering.