I was born in 1968. The official end of the Baby Boomer generation was 1965, according to the pharmaceutical industry. Technically, I’m Generation X, but in actual practice, I think the Gen Xers were born in the 1970’s. I’m somewhere on the cusp. Not one or the other, but the worst part of both — the pie-eyed gullibility of the Baby Boomers and the self-centered moral laxity of Gen X.
In terms of my early education, I think this made a pretty big difference. I learned to read out of a “Dick and Jane” primer, whereas kids a few years younger than me learned to read out of colorful books with glossy pages written by people with flair pants and big hair instead of pointy bras, tight suits, and Vitalis. I was in one of the first chemistry classes in my high school that got to use a scientific calculator instead of a slide rule.
The slant I got on history in my early education was right out of the 1950’s playbook. I believed what I was told about Thanksgiving. It never once occurred to me to ask why there weren’t any Indians [sic] around when we got along so well during that one year in Plymouth.
As my education ground along, things like the Indian Removal Act of 1820 and the Trail of Tears were completely glossed over. The Indian Wars after the Civil War were taught in the context of Manifest Destiny, and I don’t recall anyone offering a point of view that might suggest that we weren’t entitled to everything we could take.
Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn was presented as a colossal fuck-up on Custer’s part — an overreach because he was in a hurry to win another battle and run for president. No one suggested that maybe slaughtering Native Americans and taking their land might not have been the best practice from a moral standpoint. And, hey, Sitting Bull made it to Canada, but he couldn’t outrun his crime of being on the ass-end of the history of his people.
History is the story of peoples displacing other peoples. In the Old Testament, re-conquering Palestine is a point of pride for Israel. War in the ancient world was brutal. When the Romans took a village or a city or whatever, they’d kill every tenth man (hence the word “decimate”) and sell everyone else into slavery just to drive the point home that their victims lost.
Let’s face it: humans love genocide. We’ve loved it throughout history and as a species. Seen any Neanderthals lately? We need to reconcile ourselves to the indisputable historical examples of genocide throughout history. It’s not enough to go to Auschwitz and look at a pile of shoes and say, “Well, we don’t do that anymore. We’re not like them.” The Nazis get full marks for making the system maximally efficient, but they haven’t ever come close to cornering the market.
And we are like them. We’re the good Germans. The Rohingya people of Myanmar are being killed, raped, burned from their homes and driven away like lepers right fucking now, and the world does nothing. We just watch. This is just the latest example. I don’t feel like researching all the genocides of the past fifty years. If you don’t believe me, Google it.
Maybe it’s just me. I’m a member of an ethnicity that’s in a free-fall. There were seventeen million Jews in 1939. Then there were eleven million Jews. Now there are roughly thirteen million. The numbers change depending on who’s doing the counting and who gets counted. It’s obvious, though, that Jews are disappearing as a people as the population of other groups is exploding. The world has made it pretty clear that they don’t want Jewish people hanging around…well, anywhere.
I’m willing to bet that Native American people might find this narrative familiar. It’s not the same, though. At least the Jews got a pity-party and a country after the Holocaust. Native Americans got the shittiest real estate available and whitewashed from history.
Next year for Thanksgiving I’m going out for Chinese. Two Christmasses!