Thursday, November 06, 2003

Haiti and the Louisiana Purchase

Today the U.S. Mint announced the creation of a new nickel to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. The announcement made me wonder if Americans are aware of the role that the Haitian revolution played in the transaction that doubled the size of the United States. This site is for kids, but it works for adults just as well. The loss of Haiti deprived Napoleon of the port of entry he planned to use for his American empire. It also deprived him of cash and forced him to take the money and run.

It is important to remember that the Louisiana Purchase encompassed not just Louisiana, but parts or all of present day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, an area of more than 800,000 square miles. Of course, if the land hadn't been purchased we would have found a way to go to war and take it from France, but it wasn't theirs to claim either. They stole it from the Indians before we had the chance to do it.

It is ironic that the Louisiana Purchase came about because of a slave revolt. In the end it hastened American expansionism which always meant the conquest of Indian lands and the further spread of slavery. Haiti's role in the history of the United States is one of many things I was never taught in school or college either for that matter.

It is too bad that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company weren't taught the history of Iraq. They would have known that it was created by Winston Churchill and others who redrew the map of the Middle East after World War I. Can you imagine?

"Um Winston, do you think it's a problem putting the Sunnis in power when most of the people are Shiites?"

"No, don't worry about it. Put the lines there anyway."

I don't know if the conversation went like that but you get the idea. Ignorance of history has caused and will continue to cause great damage to our country.

Then again, they probably do know the history of Iraq. It just didn't matter to them.

Thou Shalt Think for Thyself, Part II

In an October 13th post I noted an increase in the levels of ignorance, intolerance and just plain stupidity among the faithful. Well, the situation appears to be getting worse. Christians are helping atheists make their case that religion is the opiate of the masses. In Passaic, New Jersey crowds are visiting a vacant lot because they claim to see the Virgin Mary in a tree stump. (You may have to register, but you can read the story for free.) I recently joked that I could start my own religion and have members within one week. If people think they see the Virgin on a piece of wood I am probably right. If I weren't afraid to mock the Lord I would do it just to prove a point.

As a Protestant I don't fully understand the veneration of the Virgin, but I do know that the way to go about is to attend mass, not hang around a tree stump in a parking lot. The Catholic church is apparently no longer in the business of declaring that the Virgin was seen as in Lourdes and Fatima. Americans declare for themselves that they saw the Virgin only to be told by a Diocese that it isn't true. Protestants can't laugh too much. We recently experienced worship of a piece of stone in Alabama because the Ten Commandments were written on it. I guess the worshippers forgot that idolatry is seriously frowned upon in the bible.

As I said before, I don't know why people think they have to suspend common sense and the thought processes they use every day when religion enters the picture. Unfortunately, religious belief is still inspired by fear at this late date in history. We hedge our bets when it comes to religion. We don't really see the Virgin in a tree stump but what the heck. If we say we do we are covered. We know that forwarding an email promising blessings is really cheapening religious belief, but suppose it works. Better not chance it. Send it anyway.

If we call ourselves believers we should remember that God knows all about us and is still merciful. We don't have to be perfect. He loves us in spite of our foibles. If you don't go to heaven it won't be because you deleted a chain email or admitted you didn't see the Virgin in Passaic. Jesus brought us Good News, not delusion in vacant lots.