I’m passionate about American history — its flaws, its nobility.
In a recent conversation online I asked to what extent my ancestors should be accountable for the fates of the tribal peoples of the continent. Here’s my unpopular take:
” … to be fair we would also have to look at what would now be considered crimes against humanity perpetrated by the tribes as well and hold them accountable too. Write about both sides (and the many shades of both sides) as the flawed human beings they were and only then will you create interesting and ennobling history.
A better approach would be to hold ourselves accountable in our time by admitting our own lack of forgiveness, our own viciousness and need to feel superior or inferior based on our race, class, mental state or anything else.
How does this play into an adoption story? It’s a flawed and clunky analogy but so be it.
M’s tribe of origin had generational incest as a norm.
Violent abuse was a common occurrence. After she was “stolen” from her birth mother and sent to a re-education camp (foster care), her foster parents had to teach M and her sisters the very basics of hygiene, the very basics of motor coordination necessary to hold a fork. Peeing in the closet was normal. Rummaging around in the cabinets to devour bags of sugar with their hands was normal. The sisters had never been inside of a department store and walked around in a state of frightened awe.
This new society of fixed bedtimes, silverware and full stomachs would seem to the outside observer to be a step up for the girls, but they needed a lot of convincing. Was it abusive to destroy their micro culture for the more dominant one? Who’s to say that a long life is more valuable than a short one snuffed out in a violent rage?
M still sometimes wishes to be in that original, wild and exciting culture. She seeks it out where she can find it, sniffs out chaos and embraces it with open arms. She’s drawn to the dominant civilization but still aches for other. She knows the words and traditions of both but no strong allegiance to or acceptance from either.
Not every conquered person is saddled with low IQ. This makes assimilation just that much harder.
Whose ancestors should be held accountable for the mess M is in?
If we say the people of the dominant society, we are right but only in the sense that it is made up of flawed individuals who rebel against virtue (but then we’d have to agree on what virtue means and if the micro culture should be forced to accept the macro culture’s norms). If we say a new social program or a reparation of some sort would fix the mess we are probably delusional.
Let’s blame M’s mother, or grandmother. But then we must blame M for having come from vicious people. A person’s ancestry is beyond anyone’s ability to control. We can’t punish or really even hold accountable (whatever that means) people of the present for the people of the past.
We can only hold ourselves accountable. Am I vicious? Am I unforgiving? Am I greedy and selfish? Do I break agreements with the tribes of people around me? Do I see people in the light of an ancestral color (a color with many shades)? Do I attribute every false move of a vicious person to their color affiliation (which hides within a massive jumble of genetics encompassing both the abused and the abusers of history)?
It’s about us. NOW. It’s not about atomizing ourselves. It’s not about pointing fingers or shaming. Slavery, genocide, child abuse, medical abuse, animal cruelty and theft. All alive and kicking. Right now. This is us no matter what flag we fly on social media.
This is what the story of the CROSS is about. Christ, God–abused, rejected, denied, turned out, impoverished, shamed, turned in by a traitor, nailed to a cross.
This is what we do to each other. The cross is what He did for us. Humanity in all of its splendor can’t come close. We are in so many ways beautiful creations, but so terribly flawed.
Human heroes and villains of the past won’t change a thing about what we do right now. If you think my ancestors were imperfect, I can only imagine what you’d think of me if you saw inside my heart on some days.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 John 4:8