Our 400-year history

Published in the Greenfield Recorder, September 10, 2020



In reviewing Recorder articles on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Jeff Singleton (My Turn) posed a closing question: “Is it really helpful to throw the treatment of Native Americans in the colonial era into the debate?” I say “Yes!” and invite discussion that leads to deeper understanding.

Since walking across the U.S. with “Walk for the Earth 1984”, I’ve continued to learn more of Indigenous peoples and their cultural/ spiritual connections with the land and living in balance with “web of life” that sustained them. As I learned more about humility, respect, compassion, generosity, gratitude, and reciprocity, I came to perceive the opposite in the “modern western” culture of extraction, exploitation, and pollution of Mother Earth.

Only recently have I been noticing people of many nations naming the problem of their own culture: “settler colonialism” and “white supremacy”.

Before Columbus “discovered America” as captains of European nations’ ships sailed the seas to explore other lands, the Catholic Pope/s ordered “Papal Bulls” (1450 through 1493), granting “discoverers” the right to enslave or kill “heathens”/ ”sarasens” (non-Christians) and claim their lands and property for their nation. This “Doctrine of Discovery” is the basis of white supremacy, racism, exceptionalism, and militarism that led white Christian European nations to colonize Africa, Australia, the “ Americas” and the Caribbean Islands.

Thus the British ships of 1620 and later brought settlers that began to colonize the land, even bringing invasive plants and animals that upset the native flora and fauna, and began the genocide of many native peoples who’d enjoyed thousands of years on their lands. The same white supremacy and settler colonialism led to the racist “slave trade,” stealing people from African communities, packing them into hulls of ships, to “sell” them to plantation owners to do the hard labor in the fields.

Such supremacy required weapons to maintain power and profit, which only become more lethal as “technology” developed more powerful machines and weapons, more “intelligent” computers to expand their control over systems and everyday lives.

As the horrors of World War II — both of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as well as of Japanese aggressionin other Asian countries — needed a response more powerful than the U.S. fire-bombing of cities and weapons plants, the U.S. developed and tested the first atomic (Uranium) bomb, not knowing if it would destroy the entire atmosphere. They went ahead three weeks later to drop a second A-bomb on the city and citizens of Hiroshima, and three days later detonated the first (untested) plutonium bomb over Nagasaki. The buildings destroyed were shown off to the world to show U.S. supremacy, but the human beings killed, burned, or radiation-damaged were hidden from the public.

Only a few photographers/journalists were able to document and eventually reveal the horrors. But the government went on with 67 above-ground nuclear bombtests from 1946 to 1958 in the Marshall Islands. U.S. nuclear tests to date number over 1,000, and N-weapons number over 3,000, while the latest budget adds more billions of dollars for “usable” ones.

Since 2017, when 122 nations signed the UN Treaty to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, 47 nations have ratified the treaty (50 are needed to make it International Law). Albert Einstein had warned us: ” The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” Ye t whites u p r e m a c y / settler-colonialism still moves us toward ever-increasing pollution of air, water, and soil, thus we are facing Climate Crisis and Nuclear Winter.

Our hope lies in deep understanding of our our interdependence across this precious planet, as we witness ever more people across all cultures creating and expanding movements toward survival through respect, compassion, equality, cooperation, and justice. Everyone is invited to join in the struggle to make this transfor mation.

Suzanne R. Carlson, a resident of Greenfield, is a board member of: Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, and Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition.