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Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

Founding Fathers (p. 170)

From chapter "Redemption and Failure"

As well as hating and fearing blacks, decent white men have always hated Indians, because the savages have always wanted nothing less than to destroy civilization. Unfortunately, it has not only been the directors of dime-a-dozen Westerns who have believed that whites were inevitably the victims in conflicts between the cultures. It has also been men with guns. Recall the reason William Tecumseh Sherman gave for telling his subordinates not to let “charges of cruelty and inhumanity” stop them from slaughtering Indian men, women, and children: so that the “Indians, the enemies of our race and of our civilization, shall not be able to begin and carry on their barbarous warfare.” Sherman failed to ask the crucial question— whose land is being stolen?—because to ask that question would have been to question everything he’d built his life on. White men were— and are—entitled to the land. No questions asked. No questions allowed.

Killing redskins is as old as the European presence on the continent, and it is, as Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall made clear, “the law of the land, and must not be questioned.” So Indians have been killed for reasons large and small. No reason is ever too small for those so entitled to feel victimized, no offense too slight to demand extermination of those they despise, those they look down upon. In July 1586, after months and years of relying on and mistreating the land’s inhabitants, an anonymous European made the following revealing entries in his journal:

“The 13. we passed by water to Aquascococke.

“The 15. we came to Secotan and were well intertayned there of the Sauages.

“The 16. we returned thence, and one of our boates with the Admirall was sent to Aquascococke to demaund a silver cup which one of the Sauages had stolen from vs, and not receiuing it according to his promise, we burnt, and spoyled their corne, and Towne, all of the people being fledde.”

Of courseif someone steals your cup—presuming the cup was stolen, which of courseit must have been—you destroy their home. It’s natural. You must not allow them to victimize you, not in the slightest.

If Jews were hated for causing women to wear their hair short, Indians were hated for causing men to wear theirs long. In 1649, John Endicott, the governor of Massachusetts, declared, “Forasmuch as the wearing of long haire after the manner of Ruffians and barbarous Indians, hath begun to invade new England contrary to the rule of Gods word, which saith it is a shame for a man to wear long hair, as also the Commendable Custome generally of all the Godly of our nation until within this few yeares Wee the Magistrates who have subscribed this paper (for the clearing of our owne innocency in this behalfe) doe declare and manifest our dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long haire, as against a thing uncivil and unmanly whereby men doe deforme themselves, and offend sober and modest men, and doe corrupt good manners.” Because the Pequot Indians, who so riled Endicott by their long hair, committed, according to the Pilgrim John Mason, many an often-unspecified “sin against God and man,” and because the Pequots were especially “treacherous and perfidious,” making them, according to the most Reverend William Hubbard, “the Dregs and Lees of the Earth, and Dross of Mankind,” whites killed those of the Pequots they could find. They burned their villages, burned alive the men, women, and children in these villages. One of the commanders in charge of killing the Indians, John Underhill, stated that those who escaped the fire, “our soldiers received and entertained with the point of the sword.” God Himself, said John Mason, “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven: Thus were the Stout Hearted spoiled, having slept their last Sleep, and none of their Men could find their Hands: Thus did the Lord Judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!”

This nation’s Founding Fathers were themselves victims of perfidious Indians, as can easily be seen in the present-day power balance between the two cultures. Indians control everything, right? They’ve got the land, they’ve got the resources. And of course they’ve got the casinos. But we don’t even have to trust our own senses. We can take the Founding Fathers’ words for it. John Quincy Adams said that “Indians are known to conduct their Wars . . . entirely without Faith and Humanity. … To let loose these blood Hounds to scalp Men and to butcher Women and Children is horrid.” What’s more, according to Adams, the Indians were ungrateful for the generosity and kindnesses shown them by decent white men: “What infinite pains have been taken and expenses incurred in treaties, presents, stipulated sums of money, instruments of agriculture, education, what dangerous and unwearied labors, to convert these poor ignorant savages to Christianity! And, alas! with how little success! The Indians are as bigoted to their religion as the Mahometans are to their Koran, the Hindoos to their Shaster, the Chinese to Confucious, the Romans to their saints and angels, or the Jews to Moses and the Prophets. It is a principle of religion, at bottom, which inspires the Indians with such an invincible aversion both to civilization and Christianity. The same principle has excited their perpetual hostilities against the colonists and the independent Americans.” Because Indians will kill us if we don’t kill them, the logic goes, and because Indians are as ungrateful and intransigent as Mahometans, we have no choice, it seems, but to exterminate them.

Thomas Paine argued that we—that is, I suppose, decent white men—needed to rebel against England because “that barbarous and hellish power . . . hath stirred up the Indians and Negroes to destroy us.”

In 1779, George Washington sent instructions to Major General John Sullivan, in Alexander Hamilton’s handwriting, that Sullivan was “to lay waste all the [Iroquois] settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrunbut destroyed.” He continued, “You will not by any means, listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.” The reason he gave, and we know it to be true and accurate because Washington could not tell a lie, was that the whites were scared of the Indians: “Our future security will be in their inability to injure us . . . and in the terror with which the severity of the chastizement they receive will inspire them. . . . When we have effectually chastized them we may then listen to peace and endeavor to draw further advantages from their fears.” Evidently the “chastizement”—which included skinning the bodies of some Indians “from the hips downward, to make boot tops or leggings”—worked, because for this and many other actions George Washington earned the name “Town Destroyer” among the Indians, ten years later causing an Iroquois to tell Washington to his face that “to this day, when that name is heard, our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers.”

Thomas Jefferson, considered by many historians a friend of the Indians, was another who spoke of their extermination as “necessary to secure ourselves against the future effects of their savage and ruthless warfare.” He even at one point suggested invading Canada— much like Streicher suggested invading Russia, and for much the same reason—only because “the possession of that country secures our women and children forever from the tomahawk and scalping knife, by removing forever those who excite them.”

This fear of Indians by the decent white men who were exterminating them is immortalized in the most sacred of United States documents: the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson carried language in his draft of the Virginia state constitution over to the “original Rough draught” of the Declaration. This language survived the edits of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and the rest of the Committee of Five in charge of the document, and with one minor addition and one slight cut survived the debates of the Continental Congress as a whole to enter the final draft we all know so well: that one of the reasons to rebel against the English is that King George III had “endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.”


This seems as good a time as any to debunk the notion that the “merciless Indian Savages . . . known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions,” which in the end is a falsehood no less absurd, indefensible, and self-serving—albeit more beautifully expressed—than the notion that black-haired Jew-boys lurk waiting around every corner for ignorant girls to defile. The only reason the former lie still has currency while the latter does not is that the Thousand Year Reich lost the war, while the decent white men have won all of theirs, at least so far.

And a primary—if not theprimary—reason whites have consistently defeated Indians in war is because of the cultures’ different understandings of war’s purpose and conduct. The purpose of war for white culture is to conquer, to subdue, to take, to win (and one could argue that this is the purpose not merely of war within white culture but of white culture as a whole). Whites will do anything to win. They will lie and cheat, and they will murder noncombatants. They will destroy foodstocks, and they will destroy the environment. They will pretend to be friendly, keeping in mind always the wisdom of John Hay, private secretary to Abraham Lincoln, later Secretary of State responsible for the treaty providing for construction of the Panama Canal, and poet laureate of the late nineteenth-century Republican party: “In reality, the White Man was not a philanthropist: he would treat the Black, Yellow, or Brown Man humanely if it was convenient, but if the dark-skinned resisted, the White Man would destroy him. Biology, according to the scientific cant of the day, required no less, in order that the Fittest might survive.”