Monday, February 29, 2016

Rights? Whose?

What are 'rights' anyway?  Webster takes a crack at an answer with; "Conforming with or conformable to law, justice, or morality.  Being in accord with fact, reason or truth."  So one might assume that those who purport to be Christians might have some sense of morality, justice and truth.  History suggests otherwise.

My major work in progress, a historical novel set in the late 17th century in Ireland, the Caribbean, and America, revisits the denial of rights to the native born people of those lands. From the endless schism between Catholic and Protestant in England and Ireland, to the impact of European invaders to the western hemisphere, denial of rights to the indigenous has been rampant. 

From even before Strongbow and the Norman invasion, through Oliver Cromwell and his new model army to continuing strife in modern Ulster, Irish Catholics have been denied rights.  Early laws set by invaders denied Irish ownership of land that was already theirs for generations, or even the right to sell a horse for a fair price. They could neither govern nor vote for or against those who did govern. The planting of Scottish protestants in Ulster started rebellions, civil wars and diaspora of Irish Catholic population.  'Adventurers', as they were called, financed many of the wars of the English Kings, (and 'Lord Protectors if you include Cromwell), were repaid with grants of Irish land and dwellings.  Rightful owners were evicted.  Resistors were imprisoned.

Cromwell demanded the eviction of all Irish Catholics to the rocky land west of the Shannon River.  Refusal led to enslavement.  The Irish had no rights in their own land.

Concurrently across the sea in the Americas, similar tyranny was happening.  Land generously given to white settlers was never enough.  Indigenous people were ultimately driven from their lands.  some times by force and sometimes with empty promises disguised in treaties that were usually broken. Native people lost control of their own existence as more white invaders flooded into America to escape tyranny in Europe.  And true to form, Andrew Jackson followed Cromwell's lead, ignored all previous treaty promises and banished Southeastern woodland tribes to west of the Mississippi.

Again, indigenous people had no control of their futures.  And the inequities continue even today.  Some tribal people are to this day struggling to gain even the basic rights that we who call ourselves 'Americans' take as a given.  Native people were not even considered citizen of the country until well into the 20th century.   The rights granted by treaties have been violated again and again.  Poverty stricken Reservation communities still campaign for donations to keep their families fed.     Basic human rights should not be denied to anyone, but particularly the people we invaded, stole land from, and lied to over and over.

America should be ashamed.