I have begun to use Google Scholar more and more often. One of these days JSTOR is going to be free, and I will use it even more. For now, the guilds of academia are using economic jiujitsu to force peasants to read uncited unreviewed material and use a bit of common sense. Since common sense is not quite enough to be authoritative, I'm just a blogger and you're just a reader. But we could be authors and scholars if we had the moola.
Be that as it may, I find it interesting every once in a while to find Google opening some interesting books. Take this one for example. The Cherokees: A Population History by Thornton, Snipp and Breen. No that's not a footnote, it's a hyperlink. A hyperlink is superior to a footnote, that's why they were invented. But you understand that footnotes are considered superior because credentialed academics use them.
So the conventional wisdom, which is part of the multicultural canon, relates the story of the Trail of Tears as a genocidal horror. Exactly how horrific was it?
So what I want you to do first, without going anywhere is take a wild guess as to how many Native Americans were 'exterminated' by Manifest Destiny. I'm sorry to say that I have already done a little checking and cannot play along with you - generally I say things when I blog in realtime and then in the next sentence do a test, but as you can see I already did a test in the hyperlink above. If you were too lazy to click the link then you can play the game, if not then you can sit smugly like I am and imagine what other clueless individuals are guessing.
OK good. Now you have an idea in your head. The answer is 4,000 for the Cherokee. Hrumph I can't find the link. Now as soon as I use 'Trail of Tears' at Google Book Search rather than 'Cherokee Population Study' at Google Scholar, you get a flavor of how sentiments change the interpretation of the numbers. 4,000 is a nice number because it dovetails rather nicely with the number of victims of the WTC attacks, which a host of Americans are wishing profoundly we would just get over and stop warring about just 10 years later. But is that a fair restriction on human memory, or are they right? I mean human souls were no larger then than now - the value of a human life was no greater in 1830 than today right?
I don't have an easy answer to that question, but I am learning something about the geopolitics of tribes into national ethnic minorities and what can befall them as ideas about race, nationalism, ethnicity and other factors change in the face of calamities (economic crises and war) that challenge larger bodies. Oh wait. Here's the link. Cherokee Population Losses During the Trail of Tears, by that same Russell Thornton. So now you have a name to associate with a highly cited authority on the Cherokee population which was somewhere around 30,000 max in the 1700s and hovers somewhere around 325,000 today.
Now I know that the chances for any tribe to maintain and retain the integrity of their indigenous culture decreases exponentially in an inverse relation to their urban integration. So I'm not trying to say that those 300,000 have much chance from a multicultural purist point of view. Then again, I don't believe they could teach the boys at Green Giant two cents about corn or the Kentucky Derby crowd a farthing's worth of horse knowledge. No doubt they were what they were way back when they were. But what they are today are 10 times as many souls - preserved as well as anyone. I mean how many of you can trace back your family to 1830?
What matters in this post is that charges of genocide should not be relativistic, especially from those who claim racial neutrality. A red man's soul lost to the ages is no more significant than a brown man's or a yellow man's or a white man's. And I think if our common sense were a bit more well informed about who is killing whom in what numbers throughout history, we wouldn't make such a big fuss over some of the things we fuss about. For example, how could some asshat traitor who's on a one-man jihad (or as part of a 20 man cell for that matter) affect the entire population of American Muslims? Well that depends on how faithfully you hew to the trail of actual dead bodies, rather than crocodile tears. And it depends upon how you view matters of ethnicity, religion, creed and color and those other things that we Americans are supposed to DISREGARD with respect to the enumerated rights and responsibilities as citizens under the Constitution.
Then again, you're likely to hear that since 20 million Cherokee were exterminated by America (oh I'm sorry did I put that number in your mouth?) there are no rights and responsibilities we conscientious progressives are bound to respect from America. Or as Fernandez put it today with characteristic irony, "Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism', meaning pissing on the Constitution because of who wrote it or who happened to disregard its implications over two hundred years.
Genocides and pogroms matter. Populations matter. Massacres matter. They all matter. Do you see where I'm going with my peasant theories? Peasants are the ones who die. They die for being on the wrong side. They die for being on no side. They die for being in the way. You and I, we are no more or less peasants than the Cherokee. Except we have the tools of democracy (and Google) to help us understand the fallacies of peasant-think. We must think like kings or die like peasants. It helps to be able to count.
BTW. Welcome to my new category 'History'.