Flipping the Script: The Tragedy of Mary Rowlandson

In the blog, “A City upon Intolerance and Genocide,” we are reminded that this “shining” city ideal was not used in the way it often is today. John Winthrop’s idea of this utopian city was a fanatical religious one, and certainly did not embody the tolerance that we try to foster in our society today. This attitude was not his alone, and can be seen throughout history. Historically, it is hard to look back at our history without cringing, the Europeans that came over here claimed this land as theirs with an attitude of ownership and superiority that is shameful. Who cares if people already lived here, besides they are just savages anyway (this was a common imperialist/colonial idea). Calling someone a savage, reducing them to an animal or a devil, certainly makes it easier for people to kill them (easier on the asshats doing the killing I mean). It is a tactic used in war times, dehumanizing the enemy. This European colonial/ imperialistic attitude caused so much pain, sorrow, and death. It is almost impossible to look at an account from this time, that is made by a European, without a bias. When I was reading Mary Rowlandson’s personal account, I admit that I had a flippant thought in the beginning that went a long the lines of: that what you get for being rapers and pillagers.

Yet, I think we need to step back a minute in order to understand and appreciate this tragic tale. First off, let’s talk about Locke. In writing about equality Lock states that, “no-one has more power or authority than anyone else; because it is simply obvious that creatures of the same species and status, all born to all the same advantages of nature and to use the same abilities, should also be equal,” (3). It is all well and good for Locke to write “creatures” as if he is applying this to all humans (and further more all the creatures of the earth), but he also speaks of status, and “born to all the same advantages” so let us be clear when John Locke says “creatures” he really means white (well off) men. Woman who are obviously not of equal advantage or (considered at that time) equal abilities, don’t really fit the bill, and Native Americans (or other native species) also are not avowed of this “equality” which Locke speaks so eloquently about. We need to remember that as a woman Mary probably had little or no say as to where/how they lived, and while we only have her account of her ideal I highly doubt she was out there killing Native Americans. I am not saying that her ideals are ok because that is how everyone thought… I am saying we should pity her position, she was living in a hostile land with her children. Life in that time was dangerous, if your crops failed- you died. If your water source got contaminated- you died. Sicknesses that are now treated with no respect killed entire settlements. Hell, if you stubbed your toe and it got infected- you died.

I know, right now you’re probably wondering what the hell my point is and thinking I am a little to sympathetic to this European interloper. But I feel like there is some judgement going on here that is maybe a little unfair (I am not saying it is not justified or that it was ok what some Europeans did, but to put a whole cultures genocide on one individual leaves us in a negative place). Let us for a minute step outside of race and the terrible history that still hangs over us today. Let’s flip the script. Imagine a woman, who is minding her own business, when suddenly her home is under attack People are getting murdered and there is fire everywhere. She watches her sister murdered and her nephew (and various other family members and friends). In the attack she is wounded, along with her six year old child, two of her other children are alive but she is separated from them. Her child dies, and she receives no pity, no comfort. Her children are suffering and they are close by, but she cannot help them much or even see them very much. She demonizes her captives, partially because this is how her people see them, and partially because of the way she is being treated. She is abused, starved and lost among a people she does not understand. She turns to her religion because she has nothing else to turn too, some of her captors don’t like this because they do not understand her religion. I know what you’re thinking… yea yea yea we know what happened to Mary we all read the racist, religious story. But hold that woman in your mind think about her suffering and how you would feel if you were in her situation. Don’t think of her as Mary, instead consider how you would feel if her name was Maralah, and if she were a Native American being held by Europeans.

-Katie Oswald


One thought on “Flipping the Script: The Tragedy of Mary Rowlandson

  1. Pingback: If you’re going to be a hater, make sure you’ve done your homework. | From guestwriters

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