Robby McMurtry – Review of Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia
“Statesmen are memorialized for their words: “Ask not …” (Jack Kennedy); “I have a dream!” (MLK); “Remember the Alamo!” (Sam Houston?). They are often haunted, too, by less gracious words captured on video or paper.
In Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia, vehoae uses quotes from primary sources to compile a record of conquistadores, governors, kings and presidents whose careers spanned the conquest of North America. Using their own words, the author chronicles the process of appropriation of our continent by European elitists and their progeny.
Most people, American and otherwise, are aware in some vague sense that white people “stole” the land from the red people. Conscience reveals the politicians and very documents who facilitated the process. And to read aloud the words, written by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc. as they came to terms with the “Indian Problem” is to realize that the more we study these statesmen the less we truly understand them. Whatever humanitarian, philosophical, or economic justifications these men use to explain their acts seem to blend seamlessly into the grand sweep of inevitable history; but as real words, they are uncomfortable threats giving voice to that history as it moves through diplomacy to war to subjugation.
Conscience goes further, though, by revealing some of the ways Native family life was deliberately dismantled as a step toward de-tribalization as it played out in the words of politicians who had the power to implement sweeping policies that separated children from parents, citing arrogant notions that “government” knew best.
Ultimately, vehoae’s book seems to stand as a warning against government itself, and it is no great leap to apply the lessons therein to modern American society: that government unchecked grows hungrier; that government tends to think it knows what is best for people.”
Robby McMurtry, Award Winning Author & Graphic Illustrator; Gunplay: The True Story of Pistol Pete on the Hootowl Trail; Native Heart: The Life & Times of Ned Christie, Cherokee Patriot & Renegade; The Road to Medicine Lodge: Jesse Chisholm in the Indian Nations.