America, land of the free and the home of the brave. You can feel patriotic just by saying the name a couple of times,
America. America. America.
But what truly is the greatness of America, that we owe it so much honor? Well, let’s take a look back. I remember the classic mnemonic that was ever so subtly etched into my seven year old brain: In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And I remember coming home so proud to have known it by heart, enough to repeat it redundantly (and quite obnoxiously) again and again with as much glee as a seven year old could have. It was only later that the mnemonic gained a dark twist as my “tweenaged” self cracked open the horrifyingly huge textbook that described the atrocious happening of 1492, as well as Columbus, who indeed sailed the ocean blue, but however, did not discover the mountain majesties of America.
If we go back a little bit further, we can see that yes, the Norse (more popularly known as the vikings, and no they didn’t have horned helmets) were most probably the first to voyage into the lands of America, but they didn’t find America either. Long before anyone decided that they wanted to sail away from the eastern hemisphere and accidentally bump into the Americas, there lived a people. In fact, there lived many peoples; with different languages, traditions, customs, beliefs, foods, clothings, social standards, and lots more. We like to coin these vastly different peoples into one name (because that’s the sensible thing to do): the Indians, or in some cases the Native Americans.
They are the natives of America, those who lived in America long before Columbus even decided he wanted to learn how to sail. The Apache, Cheyenne, Dakota, Hopi, Navajo, Lakota… the list goes on. Do we owe the honor to them? Is it the greatness of their vast amount of different tribes and customs that rings the patriotic bells in an American? Well, for a blunt answer, no.
In all honesty, the colonists who came to America weren’t the excited philanthropic people who invited the natives to a tea party, as the sugar coated tales of elementary school painted it to be. There was to say as an understatement, enmity between the clashing nations. Fast forward after all the political mumbo jumbo, a bit after the American Revolution, and you can see that America did indeed become a blooming center of liberty and justice for all (well not all, more like all white males, but we fix that up a bit later).
But where did all the natives go? Yes, many were subjects to the horrible diseases, and many were killed in attacks, and a lot died because America needed their land, but they were still there. And, yes, they are still here. These peoples lived in America for years before any english speaking person thought of coming to America, and years before the absolutely gallant ideas like those of Manifest Destiny which was of course, the undeniable destiny of the white Americans. They were in the most logical sense the founders of America. It’s hard to write about the foundation of America when the very founders and natives were shut tightly into pages of history books, to be forgotten and shunned, as the definition of America was scratched and written new by people claiming to have found it themselves.
Chapter 1 of The American Pageant