The paradox of America



Mary Rowlandson’s life story confirms the history of intolerance and genocide central to the English colonization of Eastern North America. John Locke when discussing slavery first states “The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of men but to be ruled only by the law of nature.”, but he finishes his issues on slavery with “What I have been discussing is the condition of complete slavery, which is just a continuation of the state of war between a lawful conqueror and a captive. If they enter into any kind of pact—agreeing to limited power on the one side and obedience on the other—the state of war and slavery ceases for as long as the pact is in effect. For, as I have said, no man can by an agreement pass over to someone else something that he doesn’t himself have, namely a power over his own life.” This quote from Locke which is so vital because of his immense influence and role on colonization, is important because he begins with the natural rights people are born with but then finishes supporting slavery contradicting both ideas. I think demonstrates the contradicting attitudes people have about intolerance and genocide. Although we are against intolerance as a society there is always something we are intolerant about that we eventually come around to. Mary Rowlandson in her narrative refers to the Native Americans as savages and ruthless people but as soon as she gets to know them her dialect and observations cause the audience to notice the similarities between ‘savages’ and the colonizers. For example, the important women spend large amounts of time getting ready just like the high society women of class in the colonies or even back in Britain, the mother have endearing terms for the children, and they have their own customs and religion, as well as a democratic government amongst themselves in a way. At the time it was okay to see the Natives as this way because that’s how any ‘civilized’ society saw them, but now we regret the way we treat them because we realize the Native Americans were no different than us. This ties into John Locks quotes because to me, it seems that he is presenting the natural rights of people but also making it sound like he supports slavery, so he is essentially saying that slavery is okay and that to have slavery its not for the people we view as not having those rights. When Mary Rowlandson was captured she herself was not treated the way Locke describes true slavery, she learned the language, she was given a horse when she needed it, she became apart of them and that isn’t the formal definition of slavery Locke is describing. Because people have these rights we do need to accept them and most the time its hard for us to ignore them so we alter true forms of slavery. It’s also significant because I think this also demonstrates how we as a society has developed our attitudes toward slavery. We recognize these alienable rights and as we grow and become more and more accepting it gets harder and harder to have formal prejudices against anything. In our history we have over came prejudices with race, culture, sexual orientation and more and Locke and Rowlandson do a great job demonstrating just how we are prone to wanting to have prejudices but we also respect alienable rights and as we become more accepting we find something else to have prejudice against. To participate in Locke’s version of true slavery it would be against all the rights that the colonizers would eventually fight for so to me these examples just demonstrate the contradictory nature of prejudice in America.  This ties into the previous blog post because its so crucial to understand that America is supposed to be this “City upon the Hill’ and lead by example, but we are such a contradictory society that makes so many mistakes in regards to prejudice and genocide that it is truly ironic. America is symbolic of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ but it truly has always been limited to the majority with the people who are in some form different struggling to have the same recognized rights.

(still revising)


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