“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober”. – G K Chesterton
Colin Kaepernick is just someone who doesn’t know history – which puts him right square in the middle of all too many of the American people. I saw a Facebook meme a couple days ago which asserted that Cecil Rhodes killed 60 million Africans compared to Hitler killing 6 million Jews. I did a bit of checking and found out the entire population of Africa was 133 million when Rhodes as doing this thing – how he managed to kill 40% of the continent’s population escapes me. This is especially perplexing as he didn’t have a “kill all Africans” plank in his political philosophy as Hitler had a “kill all Jews” in his. But that is the level of discourse these days – people are so ignorant of history that anyone who wants to grind an axe just has to make a statement and some people will believe it.
Columbus is made out to be this horrible person who set out to pillage and enslave – guys, he was just an intrepid sea captain who wanted to find a way to engage in the lucrative spice trade with Asia…as Muslim powers controlled the overland route and the Portuguese had got the route around Africa, pretty much the only other way was going west. Columbus, like everyone else, just had no idea an entire continent stood in the way. Every bad thing which happened afterwards was laid at Columbus’ feet – and it is all asserted as deliberate. Remember, people say that what happened to the Native people was a genocide – which means they are asserting it was a deliberate act. Of course, almost all the Native people who died were killed by disease, often before they even set eyes on an European. Isolated for a very long time in the Americas, the Native people had simply never encountered outside disease environments…as it turns out, the Europeans arrived with a concentrated disease environment from Europe, Africa and Asia. But this was going to happen eventually – someone, at some point, was going to sail from Europe or Africa or Asia and arrive in the Americas. The only way it could have been avoided is if the Americas remained untouched until modern medicine was invented and even then only if the first people to arrive were a bunch of doctors bearing vaccines.
We are told (endlessly) that if we don’t pay close attention to the bad then we are denying the bad ever happened. That is just a bit of nonsense. Does anyone sit around continually going over every last mistake they ever made? Of course not – when we idly think of our past, we like very much to think over the pleasant things we have done or experienced. A wise person does ponder the bad in order to learn the proper lesson from it – but to dwell on it is morose. But we’re not even so much dwelling on it as obsessing over it. It is an endless parade of evil and everyone who ever did a great thing in America is torn down because he or she also had some sins to account for. Because the Founders weren’t perfect, they are to be disparaged; as if any human being – even the most Progressive hero – hasn’t been heir to human folly. It is sufficient to know enough of the bad to ensure against repeating it – but once that is done, it is time to seek inspiration from the good that was done so it can be built upon. And even though George Washington engaged in the sin of holding slaves, it is far more important that we learn of his courage in adversity; his determination to succeed against all odds; his unwillingness to seize power for himself.
Colin Kaepernick probably has never heard of Prince Estabrook – he was a slave, and also the first African-American to fight in battle for American liberty. He was wounded during the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He continued to serve in the militia until the end of the Revolutionary War, after which he was granted freedom. It was a terrible crime that he was held as a slave by men who held themselves to be freemen. But that was the nature of the times – slavery existed everywhere on Earth in one form or another, and when Estabrook stood firm on Lexington Common, it was still about a decade before any voice would be raised asserting that slavery as a thing was inherently wrong. To remember the good and the bad is necessary – and thus remembering Prince Estabrook is important…because he was good and brave and fought for freedom even when he didn’t have it, because people wrongly believed that others could be held as slaves. But he still fought. Plenty of men – born free – would run away on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War. Estabrook didn’t run away – and because of men like him, we have freedom. But, also, because of men like Washington and Jefferson, who both owned slaves. It is said that the evil men do is interred with their bones while the good they do lives on – and this is completely true. We don’t know much about Estabrook – like most true heroes, he doesn’t seem to have gotten around to talking up his actions and making sure everyone knew about them. All we really know of him is that he lived and he fought…but he was also a man, and thus there were probably times when he didn’t rise to Christian perfection. But, no matter – if from time to time he wasn’t perfect, that is now interred with his bones. But the good he did lives on.
Right now, our nations teeters and rocks – we sway giddily on the path, reeling from disunion, bitterness and mutual recrimination. We hope, as Lincoln once did, that the mystic cords of memory which stretch from each Patriot’s grave will continue to bind us…but for that to happen, people have to know about it. Right now, all too many people don’t…and that is why you can find people saying America never was great. But America has been great from the beginning – it started out great, because it was started out by people willing to sacrifice all to strive for an ideal. We must recapture the past – the whole past, and most especially the past which showed us at our best. If we deny that – if we continue to harp upon evils done along the way with no mind to the greatness done by intent – then we will be doomed to failure.