It’s a shame that Linda R. Schaeffer, who identified herself as the “chaplain” of the Westport VFW Auxiliary, politicized the announcement of the “9/11 Walk” in Westport in her Sept. 8 letter to the editor.
She called the terrorist attacks a “slap in the face of our heavenly Father, God,” then went on to press a simplistic, deluded version of U. S. history.
We should thank “God” for our freedoms, Schaeffer wrote. The U. S. flag, she claimed, “represents all of the godly principles on which this blessed country was founded!,” and that “God” was “the author and preserver of all the wonderful freedoms we enjoy here in America!”
Where to begin? God did not write the Constitution. A group of bourgeois, fallible, wealthy white men — real estate speculators, merchants, slave owners — the richest men in their states, wrote the Constitution. The document contained several important progressive provisions for its time and place and keeping in mind the class background of the men who wrote it.
Mindful of the terrible slaughter in European history, perpetuated in the name of state religion, the predominantly deist founders did not mention “God” in the text of the Constitution and prohibited a religious test for holding office in the United States. The first Congress, many of the same propertied men, then furthered that progressivity by adding the First Amendment freedom of and from religion building, as Jefferson said, a wall of separation between government and religion.
The document also contains some decidedly vile provisions as well, especially those that protect and promote the original sin of the United States: slavery.
Perhaps those were the “godly principles” which Schaeffer had in mind.
Schaeffer’s version of history begins, she states, when “it all started with a band of travelers who came here in ships. When all of them set foot on shore, they dropped to their knees and dedicated this land to God Almighty!”
I assume Schaeffer is referring to Pilgrims and Puritans in New England. But, “it” started long before those interlopers stumbled on to shore.
Schaeffer neglects 15,000 plus years of North American occupation by Original Peoples and Asians, Africans and other Europeans who also predated the theocratic invasion of the early 17th century.
One understands that construction though; it’s terribly inconvenient to acknowledge the holocaust perpetuated in the genocide of First Peoples and Africans by the original Europeans and their descendants.
Those good Christians whom Schaeffer praises deliberately sought to wipe out the indigenous population. “One of the most chilling images in early American history is the deliberate firing of Fort Mystic during the Pequot War of 1637,” according to one historian. “Five hundred Indian men, women, and children died that day, burned alive along with their homes and possessions by a vengeful Puritan militia intent on doing God’s will. ‘We must burn them!’ the militia captain famously insisted to his troops on the eve of the massacre, in words that echo the classic early modern response to heretics.
Just five months before, the Puritan minister at Salem had exhorted his congregation in strikingly similar terms to destroy a more familiar enemy, Satan; “We must burne him,” John Wheelwright told his parishioners.
While we do not know the exact number, well into the millions, of Original People who lived in North America in 1492, we do know that by 1890 only 250,000 remained. That genocide is certainly one of history’s great holocausts. Perhaps genocide is the “godly principle” to which Schaeffer refers. Certainly it was for the Puritans.
Other good Christians engaged in the African slave trade for hundreds of years and the British North American colonists and their descendants held slaves until forced to relinquish them by the 13th Amendment. In that holocaust more than 30 million perished and millions more spent every living moment in horrendous slavery.
Perhaps Schaeffer counts the genocide and enslavement of Africans among those “godly principles” in her interpretation of history.
Schaeffer would be better off engaging in some serious study of U. S. history rather than attempting to mold and distort history to her dogmatic religious beliefs.
The organizers of the “9/11 Walk” might have had a larger attendance too if potential participants didn’t suspect that they would be subjected to a religious harangue instead of a tribute to those who died on a day of national tragedy.
Gary Murrell lives in Hoquiam