2019-03-24 ne-trailoftears

A sign explaining the Trail of Tears at the Cherokee Heritage Center just south of Tahlequah. MICHAEL DEKKER/Tulsa World

Nick Alexandrov reminds us that Thanksgiving is the time for serving up liberal helpings of virtue signaling alongside the yams (“Remember the bloody reality of Thanksgiving,” Nov. 25). He suggests that perhaps we should change the name of our national holiday to “Native Genocide Day.” And, if that’s not subtle enough, compares America’s treatment of the American Indians to Hitler’s murderous regime.

This is an adolescent and inaccurate condemnation. As a teacher, Alexandrov should assign himself William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” then compare and contrast that wholesale evil with the complex history of American Indian policy documented in S.C. Gwynne’s “Empire of the Summer Moon” and Stephen Ambrose’s “Crazy Horse and Custer.” America has its sins, as any great civilization does. But we never set up extermination camps on the order of those in Auschwitz or Buchenwald. Ambrose wrote that it would be “totally irresponsible” to state that the United States pursued a policy of genocide toward the Indians.

Good historians caution us not to judge the past by the standards of the present. In spite of that, too many Americans take satisfaction in casting themselves as moral superheroes in an imaginary time machine. They suggest that if they had lived in 1800s America, they would have been much more sensitive to the plight of the Indians than those uncouth “racist” frontiersmen like Daniel Boone or Kit Carson. But that’s an expression of vanity, not compassion.

Letters to the editor are encouraged. Send letters to letters@tulsaworld.com.

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