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“Haunted America,” by Patricia Nelson Limerick shows how there is always two sides (or more) to a situation. Limerick uses a factual story of the Indian Wars to show how both sides, the English and the Indians, viewed what had happened. The whites said they were the victims and that the Indians were savage creatures. On the other hand, the Indians said that they were the victims and the English were the savages.
I really enjoyed “Haunted America” because it was well researched, well written, and gave a whole different perspective on history. Instead of just seeing and hearing one side of the story, Limerick shows both sides. The organization of her essay was also well constructed. She had twelve points that were the pattern that white-Indian wars usually followed. She connects each of these twelve points with parts of the story of the Modoc War of 187. This strategy and organization made it easier for me to see the connections between her points and what has happened in history.
One of Limerick’s main ideas is that when a person reads history from a textbook or paper, there is always a feeling that there was unethical behavior being done by one of the parties involved. Limerick uses the example of the white man treating the Indians unfairly, killing and raping women and children, and vice versa. After reading that concept for the first time, I had to stop and think about my past experiences reading history. I concluded that, yes, I did have a sense that some people’s behavior towards others was unethical. However, I always gave leniency to the white men and viewed them as the good guys, the hero’s, because history textbooks, as Limerick puts it, can be classified as texts in which “narratives of great complexity become simple stories of adventure and heroism and triumph with, perhaps, just a tinge of melancholy” (45).
A second argument by Limericks is that written history does not explain all the facts of both sides, giving a skewed view of what actually happened in reality. To fully understand the makings of history, one must dig deeper and get all the facts in order to see what really happened.
Many times, history books are bias because the author(s) is using information that only he wants to include because it will make his position or viewpoint right. Many history books give only the basic facts and tend to leave out important information. However, when reading history, a big question should pop into our minds. Who is really carrying out this unethical behavior? We cannot entirely blame one group because both were in the wrong. Limerick uses the example of the English coming in and taking over the Indian’s land, using and abusing Indian women and children. Of course, the Indians retaliated in self-defense. Most History lessons have been taught as the whites being the victims. While most history books don’t dispute that the whites were the first to attack the Indians, they tend to gloss over it, making it seem unimportant.
On the contrary, other history books show the Indians as passive victims, who just stood by and watched the whites take over their land. This is not always the case. The truth is that the whites and Indians were both victims of each other’s actions. Both sides took part in bringing about a war, and they are both to blame. When reading history, we must be careful that we get all the facts on both sides before we draw our own conclusions of what took place in a specific moment in time.
This essay ties into other essays we have read so far, such as John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing.” The whole idea of reproduction distorting the original work of art can easily be transferred to history. All the reproductions of history textbooks and fact based sources can distort what originally happened in history. John Berger says have a conversation with the painting (asking all the right questions); let it show you it’s history. I think Limerick would say, have a conversation with history; let it become a painting. A true life painting where the viewer can see what is happening on both sides of the spectrum. Pictures allow the opportunity to see snapshots of a certain experience in a certain time and a certain place. We can’t erase the images in a picture, so it would be hard for the images to be skewed and the viewer could get the full effect of what happened in the past. Using facts, and different authors viewpoints of the subject matter, we could look a photograph and put together our own conclusion about what happened. What if we saw a real-life painting of a scene from the Modoc War? If we use John Berger’s method of asking the right questions, we might ask Limerick’s question, “who is too blame?” Having the full picture would allow us to see the truth and wouldn’t skew the facts of what really happened.
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