If the children are of African or Native American descent, they learn that their ancestors lost badly and ingloriously, but that was all for the best anyway. The historical record often does not agree with these kinds of conclusions. The English newcomers sent to Roanoke Island in 1584 by Sir Walter Raleigh are a case in point. What these pioneers did was self-destruct over their own love of possession. When a silver cup allegedly disappeared, the Roanoke men roared out of their tiny enclave, muskets, and torches in hand, to destroy their Indian neighbors’ village and crops. This blazing display of European possession-mania cut the colony off from the one local source of help.
When the Spanish Armada severed the settlement’s connection to British ports, it withered and died. Roanoke Island became famous as”the lost colony”.
In light of this unacceptable object lesson for children, school texts prefer to begin US history with another colony, Captain John Smith’s Jamestown, Virginia, founded in 1607. Captain Smith was sent out by a London joint-stock company seeking profits from colonization. Smith sailed with an overload of failed aristocrats and settled on land owned by the Algonquin Confederacy.
Trouble began when the newcomers refused to plant, build, or exert themselves. Iron pistol in hand, Captain Smith ordered his lazy gentlemen to “work or starve.” Time and again the English were rescued from starvation through the generosity of the Algonquin Confederacy, which provided corn and bread. The foreigners responded by refusing to share their advanced agricultural tools with the Indians and violence soon broke out.
At Roanoke Island colonization proved a total failure. At Jamestown, what collapsed was the European “work ethic.” No wonder some scholars decided that US history did not begin until the arrival of the hard-working Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Leaping over events can avoid some unpleasant conclusions about early European motives, character, and success.
In 1962, it was announced that U.S. planes were bombing South Vietnam—there was no protest. The United States used chemical warfare to destroy food crops and drive millions of people into “strategic hamlets,” essentially concentration camps. All of this was public, but there was no protest; it was impossible to get anybody to talk about it. Even in a liberal city like Boston, you couldn’t have public meetings against the war because they would be broken up by students, with the support of the media. You would have to have hundreds of state police around to allow speakers like me to escape unscathed. The protests came only after years and years of war. By then, hundreds of thousands of people had been killed and much of Vietnam had been destroyed.
But all of that is erased from history, because it tells too much of the truth, which is that it took years and years of hard work by plenty of people, mostly young, to build a protest movement. But the New York Times reporter can’t understand that. I’m sure she’s being and saying exactly what she was taught, that there was a huge antiwar movement and now it’s gone. The actual history can’t be acknowledged. You aren’t supposed to learn that dedicated, committed effort can bring about significant changes of consciousness and understanding. That’s a very dangerous idea, and therefore it’s been wiped out of history.
35 years ago: NASA unveils first space shuttle, ‘Enterprise’
Thirty-five years ago today, in Sept. 17, 1976, NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise rolled out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities and was greeted by NASA officials and cast members from the ‘Star Trek’ television series. From left to right they are: NASA Administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher; DeForest Kelley, who portrayed Dr. “Bones” McCoy on the series; George Takei (Mr. Sulu); James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott); Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); series creator Gene Rodenberry; an unnamed NASA official; and, Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov).