Here Thar Be Monsters!

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14.5.13

The Trouble With History


Let's imagine you live in a quiet neighborhood.  Everything is pretty sleepy, with the occasional skirmish between neighbors as they argue over a fence being out of repair or a tree limb hanging a bit too precariously over the back yard.

For the most part, though, it is an idyllic setting.  The kids play outside until long past dark and no one worries.  Everyone gets together every so often for a Bar-B-Q pot luck dinner.  The lawns are lush and occasionally a little wildlife wanders through unmolested.

One day, a new neighbor moves in.  With good manners, the neighborhood committee shows up with some fresh baked cookies and punch to welcome them.  They look a little different and dress kind of strange, but hey, to each their own, right?

After a couple of years, the new neighbors have some economic trouble, so the neighborhood committee gets up some donations and pitches in to help.  The new folks are so grateful, they set aside that day each year to remember the acts of kindness with a big feast...only they never invite the neighbors who helped out.

Over time, the new family grows.  On top of that, they start moving the property line inch by inch, taking over more of the neighbors' yards, but not enough that anyone would notice - at first.

Then, the new neighbors started a remodeling project.  They expanded the house to the very edges of the property.  It was then that everyone realized just how much the people had encroached onto the surrounding properties.  People complained and the neighbors apologized profusely and offered to compensate everyone.  They signed contracts and promises, but never made good on them.

Meantime, more folks just like these new people started moving into the neighborhood.  They started cutting down trees and building garish new houses.  They even brought in other strange folks to do all the labor, and these new people looked none to happy about it.  Rumor spread that the labor class was unpaid and that the original invaders held the opinion that they owned the new strangers.

The next thing anyone knew, these noisy and rude invaders had set up their own security patrols, only the security wasn't satisfied to just patrol and protect the invaders' property (which was really everyone else's property).  Instead, they would go out into the neighborhood and bully folks and take things from them.  The security forces stole food and trees and hassled anyone walking down the street.

By the time the original neighbors became alarmed enough to organize, the new folks had grown in number and their security patrols were well armed and trained.  The invaders started dictating how things were going to be and who could live where.  In fact, the invaders would simply take someone's home and offer a piece of paper promising to pay them for their trouble, but when it came time to pay, the invaders simply said no and walked away.

One afternoon, in the dead of winter, some of the original folks looked out their windows and saw their old friends being marched down the street, carrying anything they could.  They had been evicted from their house by the security forces even though they had a piece of paper given to them by the invaders that said they owned the house forever.

The old and young were dropping like flies from cold and hunger.  If anyone tried to help them, the security forces would beat them senseless if not kill them outright.

The next day, one of the original inhabitants happened on a scene of incredible carnage at the old Sandy Creek house.  The day after, the same scene up at the Wounded Knee house.  Though everyone knew it was the invaders, those violent people just shrugged it off and pretended like nothing important had happened.

Before anyone knew it, the invaders had swarmed all over the old neighborhood, stripping it of wildlife and trees and laying waste to the once beautiful setting.  Of the old neighbors, only a handful were left.  The others had been slaughtered by the security forces or marched off to useless sand lots at the edge of the neighborhood and summarily forgotten.

Then the invaders drew up another one of their papers declaring how everyone was the same and had all these rights granted by their god.  They waved this paper around and distributed copies to other neighborhoods around the area.  They claimed that their god had blessed them and given them the land they had stolen, and spoke loudly about how righteous they were for having thought up all the pretty words on the paper.

They felt so righteous, in fact, that they started invading other neighborhoods and doing the same thing they had done to the first.  They spoke long and loud about how their god was so powerful, while mowing down the locals with horrific weapons.  Pockets of invaders cropped up in dozens of neighborhoods and they proceeded to do much the same as they had done in the original.

All the while, the invaders waved their paper around showing how just and righteous they were for having thought up such great ideas, yet they even turned on their own if someone pointed out that they weren't acting in a manner consistent with the ideas on the paper.

Finally, all the neighborhoods had had enough.  They began talking among themselves and discussing how they could stop this wholesale slaughter.  At first, they sent polite letters of protest and tried to reason with the invaders, but that had no effect.  Some, in their frustration, took swings at some of the invaders, but that only infuriated them.  The invaders stood up on grand stands and wailed and lamented about how they had done so much good in the world, and how could anyone want to fight against them?

Growing weary of the long list of abuses by these strange and violent people, the other neighborhoods began to formulate a plan...

As for the invaders, why they just couldn't believe anyone would hate them and want to take revenge on them.  After all, they were protected by their god and had a piece of paper with pretty words all over it.  Who could hate that?

The moral of this story?

No matter how much you paint a tiger to hide its stripes, you can't turn a wild beast into a pussy cat.