A System of Convenient Truths

By: Leena Maria Beddawi

Something which may come as a surprise while going through Mary Rowlandson’s narrative piece about her time in Algonquian captivity, are the many ways in which the native people and herself get along, even with her being an English colonizer, she was treated with humanity and even made relationships with some of the natives themselves. The narrative itself acts as a journal of her time in captivity, and this becomes one of the few examples of an “accurately” portrayed relationship which goes beyond the war in which the Algonquian people found themselves in with the English colonizers, due to their abhorrent lack of respect and dignity.

Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation. The question, in brief, is…this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.”

― Noam Chomsky

However, that being said, the themes of genocide and sexism raised in Thomas Pham’s earlier blog post portrays almost entirely too well the reality in which we are in today, where the ignorance, misconstruction, or a purely imaginative version of history is easier for future generations to digest, therefore the watered down versions are given platforms to explain the past, and a whole generation of people are remembering and learning history based on entirely false accusations. This was how the American public would grapple with the many atrocities they placed onto innocent people, and how we currently allow ourselves in the age of technology to believe falsehoods because they are simply easier to deal with. Going to war with another group of people merely for something as quintessentially useless as power and land is the history of the world post-Anthropocene.

No matter how much easier it is to paint a perfectly sweet story about the” city upon a hill”, corroborated by evidence among the likes of Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, the history itself should not be erased, glossed over, or romanticized. As depicted in Dryden and Winthrop’s pieces as well, we see this manufactured folksy image reappear as if to show just how tolerant the natives were upon getting colonized, this is unsurprisingly a complete exaggeration of the facts which accurately define how Indigenous and English colonials treated one another. more people saw the success the false narrative genre was receiving and capitalized on said phenomenon. What is equally as successful is the number of counternarratives we see today which push past the propaganda like this and tell a story earnestly and honestly, but this “accuracy” has sadly become so muddled, most of it is subjective, but we believe what we want to believe, nonetheless.

 

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Humanistic or Sympathetic Compassion?

For as most as wanted to agree with most of my peers, it was very difficult to fluently feel guilt to what occurred to Mary Rowlandson and her loved ones. It may seem barbaric to be able to give the benefit of the doubt to those that caused such wreck in their lives, but it’s something I can’t simply deny that she had it coming. There’s a saying that lives on to this day; a dog that barks doesn’t bite. For more I want to feel compassion for Mary Rowlandson, I can’t. She was a colonist that knew her power stance amongst the natives and it came countering her back amongst her family as well for it.

Similar to us, the natives too felt compassion for Rowlandson and maintained her health and well-being in check before encountering King Phillip. She still felt the sensation of threat, but the natives were quick to reassure her to never worry for that would never occur. She expresses her gratitude as it, “was more worth than many bushels at another time”. This contradicts the notion that she pursued throughout her work, that native only inflicted pain and violence to those unknown, but that was never true. Perhaps Rowlandson restrained herself from including more details in order to protect her Puritan chastity, but it’s probably for the best that we restrain ourselves to be more lenient with her character against the Algonquian people. As similar as my peer, I would agree to incline that Mary Rowlandson eventually developed compassion towards her captors.

BUT!

For as more I cannot feel compassion for her wrongdoings, there was one of my classmates that was able to compel to me that he too did not feel compassion for her whatsoever, but realized it was simply because he and I both knew her mischiefs beforehand in comparison to the natives. Today, in the 21st century, we students are more familiarized with her personal background than the Algonquian people ever will. And I had an epiphany because of we, as students are more knowledgeable of Rowlandson today in contrast to people back then, we can’t sympathize with her, but we could feel compassion for Mary Rowlandson in a more Humanistic approach. Never would we want to see anyone is harmed in such a matter that she endured. Being held captive for weeks on end, the torture of her family and the death of her baby; makes us be more endearing towards her. Humanistically, we sympathize for her.

– Stephen Muñoz

Ignorance: The Strongest Fuel

It’s ultimately common knowledge that indigenous people, along with other people of color have always been victims of intolerance both in past, and in present. And before I even read Mary Rowlandson’s “History of Captivity”, I was ready to be bombarded with dehumanizing descriptions of native americans and unsurprisingly that’s exactly what I got. Within The First Remove, Rowlandson describes the natives as “barbarous creatures”, and says their actions make her English town “a lively resemblance of hell”.

 

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However, as her story progresses, she doesn’t seem to necessarily take a liking to them, but she does seem more tolerant of them. This is evident with her use of native vocabulary. She begins to use words like “papoose” and “squaw”, which, in a way, were endearing words and I found myself imagining an ending where she would return home and recount the truth about her time with the natives; how they treated her like family, even how she got to hit the pipe with King Philip. But then I snapped myself out of it, and I realized that this wasn’t possible because she had an image to uphold, and admitting to herself, and to the townspeople, that the natives were humans, and deserved to be treated as such, wouldn’t resonate well within the town. She was after all, the wife of a renowned reverend, and she had a duty to fuel the racism of the Puritans.

Rowlandson’s story complicates the history of intolerance against indigenous people during the English colonization because we get an in depth look at somebody who is extremely racist, yet that racism doesn’t feel genuine. You almost feel sympathetic for Rowlandson, not because of the fact that her children died (although that is definitely an adequate reason to) but because her racism is fueled by ignorance. She spews off hate towards the natives, in such an unnatural way that you feel that she’s trying to cover up the fact that she also seems to feel empathetic towards them at some point. It seems to me that the prejudice she has towards the natives is simply from what she’s heard from the Puritans around her. Although I was expecting a narrative of a woman spewing hate towards natives, and some would argue that this is what I got, I feel that I more so read the narrative of an woman who’s racism is fueled by ignorance, and eventually becomes attached to the natives, once she gets to know them at a personal level. Yet, she cannot admit this to herself or to the other Puritans because societal pressures to uphold an image prevent her from doing so. This is what complicates the history of the intolerance of the indigenous people.

– Arturo Raudales

Fueled Hate

The history of intolerance against indigenous people during the English colonization of eastern North America is neither confirmed nor contradicted through Mary Rowlandson’s captivity account, if anything, it allows one to see how this exchange can complicate the way in which we see history.  Damage was being done on both sides, even though the English colonist were who started the conflict initially. The Native Americans who held her captive are what she had heard them to be. The Indians killed her children and showed no respect for her religion thus confirming that they were in fact savages. Yet later Rowlandson sounds like she might be sympathizing with the Indians which she tries to hold back on doing because of the position she plays in the society in which she lives in, both as a pastor’s wife and Christian woman. Racism seems to play a part in both Mary Rowlandson’s narrative and Dryden’s The Indian Emperour. In both stories there seems to be something “wrong” with the Indians, for example in both stories the fact that the Indians do not practice or have respect for Christianity seems to be what makes them inferior. There was a lot of back and forth damage done on both sides and none of it was right. What was ultimately done to all Native Americans was horrible and this is just one account from one person who experience what she experienced within the Indians who captured her during the time in which Native Americans were being extinguished. It is interesting that the colonist were Christian people who believed in God and had to abide by certain moral standards, yet these “Christians” tortured and killed many Native Americans. The idea that a person or a group of people can serve to generalize a whole population of people is ignorant, and this ignorance is what fueled the hate that fueled the wars.

Karla Nichols

Two Sides to Every Conflict

Rowlandson’s narrative complicates the history between the natives and the English. Rowlandson accepted her faith, after a while, she believed God had it planned out for her and she would let everyone know what happened once she was okay and no longer suffering. But that is not how many people who had gone through that saw it. These individuals were afraid and scared for their lives, they most likely didn’t believe this is what God wanted for them. This only made it worse for the colonizers, they knew people or were aware what individual had to go through the same faith they had put Native Americans through. There had to be some understanding that they had it coming, they did it first, they caused so much pain and death.

I’m not saying it is okay but what these pieces hide or hint at is racism. Dryden’s The Indian Emperour was full of racism, making it seem as if colonization is actually okay by romanticizing it with Cortez and Cydaria. Dryden makes it seem like colonization is the only way to help the natives and it needs to be done. While Rowlandson makes the natives appear as the bad ones in this situation, shooting at her and her family, and not providing her with food. Although what the natives did was wrong they were not the bad ones from the start, the colonists put themselves in this situation, they were put in a situation where they had put so many natives in before. I believe this makes the natives look worse, maybe they wanted the colonists to feel the same way they felt but getting them in that same situation was a mistake. It shows them as individuals who had no empathy or understanding, it is inhuman to do the same thing that was done to them. Both, colonists and natives, were in the wrong and appear to be racists towards each other. They seem like children trying to blame one another, neither taking responsibility for the things they have done, especially the colonists. They blame the natives when really they ‘started it’ and won’t own up to what they did. It all appears to be more complicated and contradicting to the colonists but the natives should have known, ‘fighting fire with fire’ was not a good thing to do and was not the only option.

-Sandy Morelos

The Complication With Falling in Love

Out of all of the emotions, love by far is the one that is the messiest and most complicated of them all. So when looking over at Dryden’s piece we can expect that love will be no friend of ours. At first glance, taken by the title, we can guess that the work is a typical takeover story where the weaker man only becomes weaker and the stronger man only gains more power. In a sense we get that but we also gain much more, the evident affection between Cortez and Cyndria being one of those things. However we are left to ponder on what could have been for them. Like the ending of Romeo and Juliet we are left to wonder what the love could have become if the two had live, in this case we are left to wonder if times were different what could have been of Cyndria and Cortez’s love.

Now while Dryden makes Cydndria and Cortez’s feelings for one another evident to audience, he also makes Cortez’s feelings for doing what is “right” in a sense evident to. As we know he chose what was “right” serving his country, upholding his honor and gaining power. There is no accident showing both of these emotions and leaving audiences to wonder but rather for the time it was produced it showed how regardless one had to do what needed to be down to bring power, glory and honor to your own home nation. To viewers at the time being, and even readers now we know that their romance in a sense is frowned upon and it is this very idea of forbidden love that just makes viewers want them to be together even more. Dryden romanticizes the idea of conquest and power showing viewers and saying, yeah he fell in love but between clashing cultures and ruining your honor or gaining power and wealth which would you be better off? You can always find love again in someone else but if you miss your opportunity  at great power and wealth you are the real fool here.

 

Diana Moreno.

 

 

Just a Tool

John Dryden specifically made The Indian Emperor for one sole purpose; to use as a piece of nationalistic propaganda. Throughout the play, Dryden illustrates Cortez as an honorable man with an immense love for his country, and willing to make the tough decision between his honor and his love interest. Yet the decision to include a love connection between Cydaria and Cortez is merely a tool to make Cortez a better protagonist. In a way, Cydaria serves as Cortez’s Achilles’ heel and this “weakness” is what makes him a more likeable figure to the English public. He could’ve chosen to personify Cortez as a money-hungry conquistador similar to how he illustrated Pizarro, but that wouldn’t have worked as well for his heroic drama. Because at the end of the day, he needs to sell tickets right?

hernan-cortes---mini-biography

By choosing not to have Cortez and Cydaria end in matrimony at the end, it gives some insight into not only the mindset that Dryden possessed, but also the mindset that Britain had during the restoration period. Since this was a piece of nationalistic propaganda, it’s purpose is to illustrate the grandeur of the country, and if Dryden had decided to have Cortez and Cydaria end up in matrimony, it would defeat the purpose of the play. For the audience to completely eat it up, Dryden had to exemplify the importance of Cortez deciding to fight for his country than for his “love interest”, and by doing so the audience would feed into the purpose of the play and find themselves believing that their country was more important than love.

Obviously, we now know the reality of the Spanish Conquista, and how Cortez committed mass genocide among the Mexican natives, however during the Restoration period, it was simple for Dryden to make a dramatization of real life events like the Conquista and illustrate it into what he deemed fit.

– Arturo Raudales

The Social Equilibrium, Never Set in The Indian Emperor

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From any angle that we tried to see it, John Dryden’s, The India Emperor was a satirical overview of what society tended to be during his time. Yet, we see such blasphemy to this day with gender inequality within most countries of the world, especially in the United States amongst others. To many, this was considered to be the defining work in the sub-genre of heroic drama, but there was merely any joyful scenario to even categorize it as such. We undergo through the conflict of love and honor, and the Emperor of Mexico Montezuma was the primary character to influence with such beliefs that love is much more important than whatever status he has in place;

“But of my crown thou too much care dost take;  

That which I value more, my love’s at stake.”

To contrast this, Cortez, the Spanish General, takes the complete opposite route and turns back on his love for the obedience of his king, more than willingly knowing that the order commanded to him were flawed. A power whore? Yes, but that’s something that subliminally Dryden tries to convey to the reader; no such power can overlap a strong bond of love. Unfortunately for Montezuma, he never ended with a happy conclusion, as his suicide was the end of all that’s pure in love when overseeing power amongst others.

“Already mine is past: O powers divine,

Take my last thanks: no longer I repine;

I might have lived my own mishap to mourn,

While some would pity me, but more would scorn!

For pity only on fresh objects stays,

But with the tedious sight of woes decays.

Still less and less my boiling spirits flow;

And I grow stiff, as cooling metals do.

Farewell, Almeria.”

Dryden excellently portrays Cortez as deviously high-minded and magnanimous, to show what sort of influence the Spaniards are as oppressive and cruel to never establish social equilibrium amongst all people. In today’s time, we emphasize the notion of current feminist movements and insinuates that patriarchal norms that we challenge in today’s’ society aren’t equal as we set to foresee them. Men and Women are never treated equally, even to this day, we will always have something that would stray us more apart than bring us close together.

– Stephen Muñoz

Stolen

I was walking around my beautiful streets looking at the greatness God provided for us, the palm trees, the alleys covered in graffiti. This night the whole block was going to have a barbecue. My whole block being my brother, his kids and a couple of other neighbors I grew up with. We had everything ready, the grill was sizzling with the crispy ribs. We had been planning this barbecue for quite a while, we had all been so busy working with not even a Sunday off. We were all sitting in our back-yard eating, catching up on all that we’ve missed. It was an amazing moment being surrounded by the people you love, watching the sun set, and seeing everyone’s smile. It quickly came to an end when the white Porsche drove into our alley, something we don’t see every day. The night only got stranger when four white men came out the car and started shooting. I saw them shoot my brother in the leg as he ran over to protect his kids. My brother had to witness his three-year-old daughter get shot. He crawled his way over to his little girl as she was bleeding from her abdomen. Tears running down all our faces, praying to God we would all be okay. There was so much confusion in the air, none of us understood what was going on. We didn’t know these men, we had done nothing to them. I was hiding under the table sitting still in shock only praying to god that nobody else would get hurt. Suddenly, I was grabbed from my legs and dragged into the car by two men while the other ones stood watch. I was shoved into the back seat of the car, I couldn’t understand why in God’s name they would do something as barbaric as shooting a three-year-old child. The shooting ended and the found men entered the car and drove away. These group of men had the audacity to hand me a glass of champagne, I was forced to drink it after refusing it. I kept asking them their reason behind all their actions and they just kept repeating “We’re helping you!”. We drove into a gated community in the Hollywood Hills and approached a mansion. They ordered me to get out the car and placed a crown on my head. The kept repeated “We saved you!”, I still didn’t understand what was happening but just prayed to God they would let me go soon. They lead me into the obnoxiously huge dining room, the kind you see in movies. They sat me down at the end of the table. They had the strangest set up, they had three spoon, two forks, and two knives, all in different sizes. They were forcing me to eat the lobster and Crème brûlée, their food was so strange but they insisted I needed to eat it. I was thinking of the things my family must be doing to find me knowing God will help me home.

 

Analysis

For the creative writing assignment, I wanted to make a parody of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative. When originally thinking of ways to create the narrative I wanted to use the same approach of a white woman going into a different environment and making it relevant to today’s time. However, I wanted to add a comedic approach by switching the roles. I decided to make the narrator an unwealthy male being taken into the different environment of the rich Hollywood Hills. There were many elements used by Rowlandson that I wanted to incorporate into my creative assignment such as imagery and over dramatization. I wanted to provide imagery to set the environment, I attempted to do this with limited space by describing what was surrounding. I emphasized olfactory imagery in “the grill was sizzling with the crispy ribs” to help build the environment. Rowlandson used over dramatization in her description of when she was given water is the moment that stood out to me the most. I wanted to recreate this moment and use this same dramatization in my work creating the moment the narrator is given the champagne. Another big aspect of my work was to create this same theme of God. Rowlandson used God to justify everything that was happing to her. I decided to emphasis this theme as well because I believe today this is still something that resonates with many people. Although my approach to this narrative was a comedic one I still wanted to emphasis some serious topics. In particular I wanted to emphasis the disconnect there still is within certain groups. I decided not to give the narrator a race so the reader can almost put themselves in his shoes but emphasizing the disconnect any minority feel with the upper class.

-Alondra Morales Aguilar

Cook’s Journal. First Encounter.

Monday, 12th. Yesterday complaints were made to me by two customers that John and James, employees, had refused service to them because they were speaking Spanish, and they felt uncomfortable. When confronted, John and James were sent home and I had to call in the next shift an hour earlier than planned.

Tuesday, 13th. Small crowds throughout the entire morning, but business picked up around noon. HR paid us a visit for an incident to-day. I told him I will watch his back if he watches mine. I gave him manager’s discount.

Wednesday 14th. Sometime during my lunch, between 2 and 4 o’clock, there was a group of protesters outside the establishment chanting some stuff, I can see the customers inside the store were very upset. The protestors had lined up against the Wall of the establishment, and by that means was Visible from the inside. John, who was in today, said the group had started to lurk around until the group eventually got bigger and they aimed some signs at the establishment. As soon as John send me a text that more vehicles had started arriving and were parking outside, I walked out passed the violently angry mob with a bat and yelled at them to leave or I would break the windshield of their cars. Not that I would do such a savage thing. I had just about had it with these people. All I could think was: they need to leave my country. I don’t care if I am not politically correct. Now, I am not a monster. I wasn’t going to call the police. No, that would only make things worse. I don’t need reporters coming ‘round here and messing things up. But I could if I wanted to, they probably all would have been deported. And a Christian can’t sleep on that. No sir. Plus, if I bring the Law into this, then they might get the ACLU down here causing a Huge mess for my business. I didn’t call the cops, that wouldn’t help me nor them. When I told them my company’s policy gives me the Right to refuse service for anyone I choose, they did not respond very well. I tried spelling it out for them the best I could, but there is only so much I could do. They finally left. I am an American, I have Rights. I was able to start my own business in My country, they should do the same. Or just, go somewhere else. # goddammit.

Thursday, 15th. We have been busy keeping out for more protestors. I asked John and James to text me if anything goes wrong. Next time, I will call the police. I’m starting to gather a group of some other business owners to try and make sure that our Rights remain protected. We are only doing what we think is right. We deserve protection, especially seeing how were confronted yesterday. I have high hopes that things will be looking up my way with My president in charge.

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

In Captain Cook’s Journal, First Voyage Round the World: Chapter 3: Tahiti, Captain James Cook is the narrator. Thus, Cook has the responsibility of reporting his new discoveries; and it sounds impossible to interrogate a primary source. However, Cook’s use of diction and capitalization of certain words reveals racist tendencies that speak to the larger project of colonialism. Cook’s visits to the Polynesian islands has a larger impact that ultimately leaves Polynesian people marginalized and voiceless. But during his visits, which we see accounts of in his journal, Cook is violent and racist towards Polynesian peoples. I wanted to capture that injustice by focusing on a passage from Chapter 3 of his journal. I utilize the same form: I begin each paragraph with the date and I use the same free-write prose that Cook utilizes. I also capitalize some words from the original work, like “Visible” and “[Lurk]” which are used to ultimately put a spotlight on the group being othered (in the case of the parody: Immigrants from Mexico in particular) and dehumanize them by using a word that can easily be associated with animalistic behavior. I also make sure my parody has capitalized words that really shape the tone of the piece: “Visible”, “Law”, and “Rights.” It really feeds to the nationalistic narrative that works to uplift only the White American experience by diminishing the experiences and life of people of color. I make the piece modern by focusing writing about an scenario that is very relevant in today’s society and that my community has to continue to endure.

-Israel Alonso