This is an article by Rob Harper that discusses the differences in the amount of killing when there was state involvement and when there was not. He brings up the issue that when there was not state involvement the killing of Native Americans went down or stopped at the beginning but when there was state involvement for a good deal of time then it never stopped. This was interesting to me because of the idea that genocide has to become a norm for individual people and when the governments come in and create that norm then there is no moral repugnance for the people of the communities and they can freely kill the Natives because they feel that is the right thing to do. It seems like more and more the idea of genocide is something that is taught and not an inherent idea; however once it is introduced it is accepted easily which is quite scary. I do not know which is worse: a government that is willing to kill other societies or individuals who readily accept the idea?
Since the end of World War II, the term genocide has been closely associated with the Holocaust and applied to events like after. The term genocide, however, can be applied to other “extremely violent societies” that came before Nazi Germany, particularly Native America in the nineteenth century. The major difference is that genocide in the Americas during this time period was not expeditious. In fact it was a slow genocide even though the means to the end were the same. Many do not even constitute this event as a genocidal act. That is why the similarities between Nazi Germany, Rwanda and the Americas in the nineteenth century will show that they are all genocides in different forms committed by “extremely violent societies”.
Before explaining the similarities of these two genocides, “extremely violent societies” need to be explained. Christian Gerlach sets out “four characteristics—various victim groups, broad participation, multi-causality, and a great amount of physical violence” (Gerlach, p. 460). These different characteristics allow for the historian to focus of more areas of the violence instead of just one. Gerlach continues on by explaining that this term is in no way “less than ‘genocide,’ in any case” (Gerlach, p. 460). All of the characteristics are interrelated to form a cohesive understanding of each violent society. This allows for multiple groups to be involved in the atrocities instead of focusing on one state-sponsored group. Because societies are not constantly committing genocidal acts, these characteristics allow for the historian to look into the reasons for the atrocities; one of them exposing the behavior as taught and learned.
Committing acts of genocide does not come naturally. Those ideals have to be taught or expressed as a normal occurrence. Lee Ann Fujii described the Rwandan genocide by explaining, “Rwandans were neither culturally nor historically programmed to committing genocide…the labels Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa did not start out as ethnic categories” and was not part derogatory labels (Fujii p. 99). The government and radical groups in Rwanda taught these ideas. This same teaching can be traced to settlers in America in the nineteenth century. Rob Harper describes the conflicts in the Ohio Valley by showing that when state and militia support was lacking, there was a “de-escalation of frontier conflict” (Harper p. 234). This too can be seen in Nazi Germany in the novel “Ordinary Men”. Those groups too were regular individuals where were indoctrinated to commit atrocities against the Jewish people. Each of these three examples shows that genocide must become a normality before it can be effective. Once that happened, the genocide became possible for normally benevolent individuals.
Now that it can be seen how each of these examples came to be, it is possible to dissect each and show how the Holocaust and Rwanda are examples of fast genocide and Native America is an example of genocide over a period of time. This will show that genocide can have the same core characteristics while looking completely different from each on another at face value.
This is a work in progress…
An article I read by Karl Jacoby was very interesting because it discusses the issues with extermination of the Native Americans in the Arizona territory. Just the fact that the settlers that lived there compared them with wolves because of their lack of civilization was completely repugnant. While I am trying to be completely neutral, after reading this article I could hardly contain myself because of some of the sick comments that were in there. One comment was “the wolf is the enemy of civilization and I want to exterminate him”. The fact that a society can have that view is disgusting and makes the supposed “civilized” people look far less civilized. This article is one I am struggling with because I cannot comprehend how people can have that mindset.
This is an article I read by Wendy Hamblet. This was a very interesting piece because you really have to sit back and reflect after you read it and then read it again. The conclusions she drew were that because society is so obsessed with labeling things we create the racism and the atrocities committed that we are trying to abolish. While she does not discount or reject what has happened in history, she does make a valid commentary that societies have been putting labels on things they do know understand and that in itself creates the racism that we struggle to get away from. I am still struggling with this one and I have read it twice and will read it again tomorrow. She gets real deep at some points.
This article by Jeffrey Blick was very interesting because it discussed the possibility of Native Americans practicing genocidal warfare before they themselves were subject to a genocidal act. What Blick discussed however was that they were not involved in genocidal warfare but ethnocide which was directly caused by European involvement. Before the French, Dutch and English came and traded fur for guns, there was no mass killings between tribes. Once these peoples were given weapons of that proportion the killing increased drastically. They did, however, allow many people to live and adopt their ideals which can be considered Ethnocide. While this is just as devastating, it is not genocide like they were faced with later.
After World War II, in 1948, Dr. Raphael Lemkin and the United Nations gave the term genocide a meaning in the modern world. The Holocaust had become the definition of genocide and has become the anchor for examining all horrific events after. Genocide has become an accepted term in society but not all acts of genocide throughout history have been examined, nor has there been a way of defining different acts of genocide. There is a need to open the doors to genocidal acts that have occurred in history such as America in the nineteenth century. There is a difference between a fast genocide such as the Holocaust and Rwanda, and slow genocide such as nineteenth century America. Research on long-term genocide is small and there is a need to explore the reasons why this area of ethnic cleansing is not part of the wider definition of genocide. This paper will begin to look at long-term genocide that can look very different from the stereotypical form of genocide that is widely accepted today. The goal is not to demonize the American government or others who have been involved. Instead there is a need to expose the movement of the United States to the west for what it was. The western from became a genocide committed by an “extremely violent society” that was looking past humanity towards prosperity. This terminology can be used to interpret genocide because it can incorporate multiple contributing factors.
In an article I read by Christian Scherrer the question that kept running through my head was that how can a nation that may/may not have committed genocide try to stop it when they cannot even handle their own problems within their nation. Another thought was the fact that the most prosperous and powerful nations got to be the way they are from committing genocide and then these nations turn around and condemn the act of genocide. It does not seem appropriate of these nations when they are in denial about their own genocidal acts.