Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jacksonian Opportunity

So here's what much of our vacation looks like from my vantage point:

You can't see the tiny human sleeping on my chest, but he's there. The book is Take the Cannoli, previously the only Sarah Vowell book I hadn't read. I've corrected that now.

The book is a collection of short Vowell pieces, including one in which Vowell and her twin sister (who are part Cherokee), take a journey tracing the path and history of the Trail of Tears.

That, of course, involves confronting the figure of Andrew Jackson himself, who is both the guy who ended the idea of the President as a job belonging to only a Certain Class of American aristocrat, and also the guy who may be one of the most racist, genocidal asshats to ever occupy the office.

As they contemplate Jackson's grave, Vowell pulls out a letter he wrote about the "relocation" of the Native Americans, giving a glimpse of how he sell such an awful thing to both his people and to himself:

Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers, but what do they more than our ancestors did nor than our children are doing? To better their condition in an unknown land our forefathers left all that was dear in earthly objects. Our children by thousands yearly leave the lands of their birth to seek new homes in distant regions... Can it be cruel in the government, when, by events which it cannot control, the Indian is made discontent in his ancient home to purchase his lands, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode. How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions?

The Trail of Tears was, of course, a forced march over thousands of miles to a harsh land not of their choosing, with uncounted dead left along the way (including, Vowell points out, chiefs who had previously been Jackson's allies in battle).

But Jackson (and others) sold it as falsely equivalent to the voluntary immigration to American from foreign lands. He sold it as something that, you know, the Native Americans really wanted. And he sold it as an opportunity.

Through human history, this has always been the way when one group of people wants to profit by taking something away from another group. It's really just the samed as this other good thing. Besides, these folks really want us to do it, really want the benefits of this. And in the end, this is a great opportunity for them-- golly, I bet any one of Our People would give his eyeteeth to have this same opportunity (and yet nobody ever does).

It remains the same today. When someone wants to offer this kind of Jacksonian opportunity, watch your back and keep your hands on your valuables.

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