Original Sins?

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All nations have narratives about themselves, it is America’s unique position to have done this in filmic form. The films my father watched – John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart films, often dealt with the theme of ‘the way the West was won’. It is sometimes said by those who haven’t watched enough films, that the narrative around this theme is simplistic and triumphalist – which is code for ‘the white guys won and are celebrating that’. Let’s hold back for a moment the question of why that might be a bad thing, and say that you couldn’t watch a movie like ‘the Searchers’Β and come away with something that crude. Ethan Edwards, the character played by John Wayne, is prepared to scalp the Indian he kills, and even to kill his niece Debbie because ‘living with Comanches isn’t living’. There are times he’s as brutal as those he is fighting. The whole film is far from presenting a black and white image of the ‘old West’.

Such films now fall under the general suspicion to which it seems to me many of the achievements of Western Civilization have succumbed; it is as though we no longer have the confidence to face our own past squarely, but must, instead, offer mumbled apologies for it. It isn’t hard to see why. The legacies of the history of the USA are bad as well as good. The great civilization which was built up and which created the greatest Power in the world, was not without its casualties. As the Native Americans had no ‘green card’ system or immigration rules, no one thought to ask the Pilgrim Fathers for their work-permits. The great cities and the railroads which linked them, and the great population expansion all took place in a manner where there were losers as well as winners. The Native Americans were displaced and largely destroyed as a people, their customs and history derided, and their lands taken; they became a remnant in a continent they had once roamed freely. They were the ‘other’, the ‘enemy’ in those old Western, because they were to the European settlers; there was violence on both sides, but they lost, as they were bound to given the disparity in weaponry and resources. That’s a kind of original sin about which it is not surprising there are bad feelings. My own Briton ancestors were largely exterminated or pushed to the margins of Britain by the Anglo-Saxons, but that was 1500 years ago, and I’ve probably got as much Anglo-Saxon in me as I do Welsh. History has, if not healed that hurt, made it irrelevant. But in the USA the history is too recent for either of those things, although it will have to deal with it – what’s the alternative – everyone of European ancestry goes away and leave the place as their ancestors found it? Hardly!

The other great casualty of the making of America was, of course, the huge number of African slaves brought over to work the plantations of the South. Here, too, the history is too recent and too sore for the hurts to have healed, and how this will work its way through only time can tell. The arguments for slavery bore a remarkable similarity to those for abortion now – the ‘negro’ was dehumanized, which allowed those who supported the evil to justify it on the ground that those being dehumanized were not humans. We can only hope that the evil of abortion will, one day, be looked upon as we look at the evil of slavery. What comfort there is comes from the fact that in the end, the majority descended from white European immigrants ended both slavery and then the ‘Jim Crow’ system. It does not mean that either their traces or their consequences have gone away, only time and political effort and vision can accomplish that. The things about Dr Martin Luther King which strikes me most is Christianity, and his vision for the future was that of a Christian prophet.

For our true Original Sin there is only one cure – Jesus – and it is in him, if anywhere, that the cure for the other ‘original sins’ discussed here will lie.

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About JessicaHof
Anglican Christian, evangelist, survivor, grateful

32 Responses to Original Sins?

  1. Dave Smith says:

    Yes, Jess, there is no nation that was not formed on the face of the earth that did not displace or kill others in order to do so. From the earliest pre-history of peoples, tribes overcame other tribes, often enslaving and finally incorporating them into the fabric of an area which whose boundaries then became known as a nation. It is the story of civilization.

    Why it seems wrong in the instances you bring up is that we were Christianized and civilized at the time. Had the slaves been left in Africa they may have lived and died in similar circumstances as warring tribes and slavery were part of their fabric. That is no excuse for slavery but it is a fact that slavery of the conquered tribes has been with us from the beginning and still exists to this very day.

    I am more fearful these days of voluntarily going into slavery for the state than I am from a conquering horde: as that is the latest devil in the details of the ideologies that we seem to be drifting toward.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JessicaHof says:

      Yes, of course, all societies have grown up this way, and it may be a downside of American exceptionalism that this is not always apparent in the discussions!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave Smith says:

        Indeed, usually never. πŸ™‚

        But then, when people are displaced and seeking a new area to inhabit it is doubtful that you will find a place that does not already have inhabitants. What are to do? You either try to get along or you fight for your very lives and values that are part of your baggage. You win or lose. The way the world is at any point is the outcome of who won up that point in time.

        Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          It really is. As I suggest in the post, what do people want, you all to leave and make the place the way it was before? How would that work? Crazy stuff!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          Indeed and how do we track down the originals in any nation. Shouldn’t that be the logical task of all these sentiments? We will all pack our bags and return to the place from which we all originated. I think science would place that somewhere in Africa. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          It’s a long way, and the more recent inhabitants probably wouldn’t welcome us πŸ™‚

          In my case, half-Welsh (mother) and half-German (father, hence the surname), I’d have a lot of wandering before I get to Africa πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          Me too – English and German. I might as well skip the in-between stuff and just go to Africa. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          I think we should go on a cruise first – long way for Neo to come to find some sea though πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          Indeed so, Jess. He does have seas of grain to contend with though. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          πŸ™‚ – as he’s got a bad cold I guess there might be another grain being employed at the moment πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          It would be wise that he did. πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          I think so – it’s cos he’s ill that I’ve made a come back this week πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          Well somebody had to do it. Glad to see you getting back to snuff as they say. πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          Yes, I thought I’d done my shift, but Able-seawoman Jess reporting to duty in an emergency πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          And your doing a bang-up job of it too, lass. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          Thank you πŸ™‚ 😳

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave Smith says:

    Nice to see good 0l’ John Wayne again in your picture for the post. He was a most welcome convert to the faith in his waning years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JessicaHof says:

      I adore John Wayne – I used to tell my daddy that I would not get married to anyone except JW – kind of explains why I am single πŸ™‚ xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave Smith says:

        Well you always seem to set some high standards for yourself . . . I guess from a very young age. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          Yes, my daddy always used to smile and say I’d find myself a nice young man – shows what he knew πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          Nice and a man of character are not always the same thing it seems. I’m sure to your daddy, he expected both. πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          You are spot on there, as I did – but I obviously got it mixed up a bit! Ah well, happily single now πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          Glad you can speak of it that way now. πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          After what happened in 2013, it all seemed far less important. I am sorry for it, and would have stayed, but he decided otherwise, and I’m happy as I am. The rest is in the Lord’s hands πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dave Smith says:

          It is . . . and always was to some extent; in His grace at the very least. πŸ™‚ xx

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Damn, us Irish thought we were the layers of human history, both prehistoric Ireland and of course the pagan Celtic’s! πŸ˜‰ Between 12,000 and 11,000 B.C. the retreating ice sheet had left the island a scoured and boggy tundra! But seriously, the land of Saints, Scholars & Kings, were surely affected by Rome and the Romans, who it seems have affected the whole Western civilization! Of course with a few Vikings and the Anglo-Norman invasion! But the new religion brought with it two inestimable boons: a written language and the legacy of Greco-Roman classical culture! And even before Ireland was officially Christian, scholars from the Continent were emigrating to the island to escape the barbarians. But romance, legend and poetry are the elements of Irish Literature! And the rest is history! So where would the world be without us Irish? πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • And America too of course has its flowering of the Irish! But again being serious, where has the Great Gospel gone? And true Christianity is more than being simplistically mystical! And with the authority (St. Paul) of abstract reasoning – the heritage of Greece – on which was built a new dialectic in the depth of Christian Theology! The best of Catholicism and the Reformational and Reformed Faith! But without the West, where is the mind for the Gospel?

      Liked by 1 person

    • But truly, every Island Brit, has many layers of people! Even us old toe-heads also! It will be interesting to see what becomes of so many Muslim people who have come into Britain (and the US)? One hopes many of them will find the depth of the best of the Western mind and consciousness! (Gal. 4: 5-7) But of course GOD In Christ has something to say and do here. Always to God be the Glory!

      Liked by 1 person

      • But speaking for myself, all we see today…and it appears in the future? To be but a Remnant of Faith, and for and from both Jews and Gentiles! (Luke 18: 7-8) Noting too the Parable of the Pharisee and the publican, (18: 9-14 – with verses 15-17).

        Liked by 1 person

        • JessicaHof says:

          It does rather look like that, alas!

          Like

  4. the unit says:

    Thanks for mentioning Coop, Stewart, and really et al.
    In early ’50’s a friends mom drove about four of us to the Rex Theater to see the Saturday afternoon feature and a Rocket Man sequel. It was Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys. I was last in line. It cost a dime to get in. My dime had a little crease on the edge, like a nick for some reason. Technology was far advanced then and the ticket lady’s little machine she put dimes in wouldn’t take the nicked dime and turned me away. Friends mom was turning the corner and gone. I had to walk five miles home. My mom gave me a dime and took me back. Movie was over and friends were coming out. I missed the movie, and wish I still had the real silver dime. πŸ™‚

    Like

  5. Pingback: My Article Read (1-8-2016) | My Daily Musing

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