Sunday, March 13, 2016

In case you forgot that America once allowed slavery

There's a new 10 episode series reminding us of the fact.  I realize that for many, it's probably been at least a day since we were reminded that America legalized slavery, or persecuted Native Americans, or rounded up Japanese Citizens, or discriminated against minorities, or didn't allow women to vote, or opposed Catholic immigrants, or embraced antisemitism.

So a series like this is healthy.  It's good that a nation remember its sins.  In fact, I'm pretty convinced that the only thing a nation should do is remember its sins.  That certainly appears to be the going assumption.

It's worth noting, however, that focusing exclusively on the sins of the past appears to be a pretty Western approach.  Other countries, cultures and religions don't seem to do that.  I've been reading various books on the history of Islam.  Books written by Muslims or those supportive of Islam.  And do you know what?  They will mention times when Muslims did bad things.  But only as asides.  In fact, I have to dig and study to find details about the various events they reference.  Sure, they'll mention oppression of minorities here, or slavery there, or brutal wars of extermination over there.  But they only mention them as matter of fact, and often as an afterthought.

Usually, once the sentence or two about the various violent or oppressive moments is mentioned, the rest of the sections go on to praise and adore the Muslims at the time, their contributions, their positive influence on history, and on and on.

In texts about American history, or the history of Europe, it's just the opposite.  When anything positive is mentioned at all, it's quickly shoved aside to focus on the failings, the problems, the evils, or whatever.  Something, by the way, that the books I've read on Islam are also happy to do.  In fact, the book I'm currently reading makes it clear: all of those things the Catholic Church likes to claim credit for, like education, universities, hospitals?  Nah.  Those are straight from Islam.  Europeans just stole the ideas.

So in keeping with the West's modern approach, it's good that we are reminded, yet again, that America owned slaves.  We shouldn't allow ourselves to go too long without reminding ourselves about our sad, sad history. Heck, I'm not sure at this point if we should focus on anything else.  After all, why should we be any different than other civilizations and cultures who appear to want to do the same?

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