In a recent give and take on this page, Tricia Kline recounted the Penns Creek Massacre which occurred more than 260 years ago. In response, Ben Marsh wrote (Letter to the Editor, Oct. 27) that Ms. Kline neglected to fairly represent the Native American side of the event.
For how long are we supposed to rend our clothes and roll in ashes before we move forward? For how long does an injustice seen through a distant lens condemn modern peoples? History is violent. We, living here in the 21st century, are very lucky. It has only been a very thin sliver of our human existence where most of us can venture from our homes in relative safety. I suppose this is called civilization.
In general, and very recently, we have gotten pretty good at it. In his letter rebutting Ms. Kline, Mr. Marsh seems to condemn one “tribe,” in this case Europeans, of actions that took place, metaphorically, on a different planet. Historically the stronger “tribe” beats up the weaker “tribe.” If we infer that we, living today, are responsible and owe apologies for all humankind’s ancestral violence, each one of us is guilty.
If all of us are guilty, to whom do we apologize? Homo Neanderthal? Homo Erectus?
If we do owe apologies does it mean that going back to our tree-dwelling ancestors, all victorious aggressors must be condemned. If this were true, we’d still be in those trees. History is rife with injustice, but injustice is the catalyst of justice. What Mr. Marsh’s reaction seems to represent isn’t historical clarification but embarrassment or even self-loathing for being descended from aggressive winners rather than the aggressive, yet less capable, losers.
I understand that there are individuals and groups around the world aggrieved by recent wrongs or atrocities. These insults are raw and personal to the individual and their immediate kin but dredging up old wrongs and casting blame upon an ancient foe’s modern descendants is both easy and stupid. History should be a tool for learning, not a club to be bludgeoned with.