Sunday, November 2, 2008

Howard Zinn and the Poisonberry Bible

Or: What I Have Learned and Will Likely Forget from the First Three Chapters of A People's History of the United States.
Christopher Columbus was an asshole, but at least he was Spirit-led.

From Columbus's own account, one should assume that God has finally joined the Pharoah.

Upon first meeting the native Arawaks, Columbus journaled excitedly: "They would make fine servants ... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

But if forced slavery was easy enough, forced alchemy was another matter. Generous as they were with their possessions, the Arawaks were obstinate when it came to sharing non-existant gold.

Columbus reasoned with them by chopping off their hands.

Still nothing. No straw. No bricks. Just mass suicides, and runaways in droves.

Trying another tack, Columbus made a market of the Arawaks themselves. In the name of Christ, Christoper Columbus packaged, boxed, wrapped and freighted 500 healthy Arawaks out across the open sea. Success at last: nearly three in five survived that first trip of many.

Columbus had finally heard the call of God: "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold." And so he unwittingly earned his name: Christ-to-pher, merchant of little Christs.


A Pilgrim wrote of the Pequots they had set out that day to slaughter:

"The Indians sptying of us came running in multituteds along the water side, crying, 'What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for?' They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully..."


"Your Reverence writes me that you would like to know whether the Negroes who are sent to your parts have been legally captured. To this I reply that I think your Reverence should have no scruples on this point, because ... we have been here ourselves for forty years and there have been among us very learned Fathers ... never did they consider the trade as illicit."

Which makes me wonder: what "slave trade" are we complicit in today, that 200 years from now (or better, twenty) will make us look barbaric?
... "And Nathan did saye upon His Blogge, 'What is this Climat Chaynge, that i should so altyr the paterns of my life? Have I not putte in CFLs? What futuer tyrranie would requier more from its ancestrie than this? Have I not runn my mowth enough?'

And likewise did Nathan continue about Dayrfur, sex trayd, and povertie in the Global Southe..."


"Spreading the wealth around" has been fighting words for centuries. In the days of Bacon's rebellion, the phrase was "hopes of levelling." And even then, the Rich found ways to justify their backlash as a virtue, and to brand "the Crys of the poor and Impotent for want of Relief" as, in the words of McCain's advisor, "whining."


There was light.

Even then there were strikes. Protests. Revolts. Runaways. Bartoleme de las Casas. W.E.B. Du Bois. Pamphleteers. New York City church wardens. Whites that joined the Indians. Mentors in the cracks.

1 comment:

Two Dishes said...

That's a pretty wicked quote from C.C. about them making fine servants!

The last chapters made a big impression on me when they explained some context for the Vietnam War.