Realistic look at our beginnings

To the editor:

In this season of patriotism (Columbus Day, elections, Thanksgiving), it is appropriate that we take a realistic look at European beginnings on this continent.

First of all, there were millions of people living in North America before seafarers from several continents arrived. The ancestors of these original people had traveled the Bering land bridge from Asia. Christopher Columbus was not a hero – check out the way he exploited and enslaved the people he encountered in the West Indies.

The Indians had elaborate systems of commerce, agriculture and self-government, but they lacked resistance to diseases Europeans carried with them. The immigrants were able to “settle” land that had been developed by people who were destroyed, both inadvertently and deliberately, by the newcomers. The superiority of European weapons added to the domination, and religion was often used to justify genocide.

It is time we face the truth about our past and welcome a modified self-image. Hooray for scholars and writers and the freedoms that allow them to share the truth with us. Rather than expect those who suffered to forgive and forget, we need truth and reconciliation. When we own our mistakes and suffer remorse, we develop the capacity for compassion and empathy. Then we become willing to listen to each other so that we can work together to solve problems.

This year, between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, we have the opportunity to vote in mid-term elections. What a great way to show gratitude for this common ground we call home and the freedoms we share! Knowledge about our past frees us from the burden of maintaining dangerous myths and inspires us to repair broken relationships, and the blessing of citizenship compels us to participate in directing our future.

Carolyn Peterson