Again on the relationship between genocide and settler colonialism: Michael Bryant, ‘Canaries in the Mineshaft of American Democracy: North American Settler Genocide in the Thought of Raphaël Lemkin’, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 14, 1, pp. 21-39

13May20

Excerpt: We all want to think well of ourselves. This truism applies to societies as well as to their individual citizens. In the United States, belief in American exceptionalism has sometimes produced outlandish assertions, as when the US solicitor general, in blithe disregard of centuries of slavery and the annihilation of Indian tribes, proclaimed in 1952 that “genocide has never existed in this country. Under our form of government, it can never exist.” For rosy optimism, this verdict far transcends even Whiggish history, which for all its faith in the march of progress nonetheless concedes the existence of evil, if only as a minor pothole along an improving road. The Panglossian cheerfulness of the solicitor general is not unusual in US history. Similar attitudes abound in every era of the American past, nourished by a “bardic tradition” of historical writing that glorifies European expansion across the North American continent while ignoring or minimizing its human cost. Thus, two of the leading historians of the USA, George Bancroft and Arthur Schlesinger, each writing at moments separated by 158 years, could extol the country’s settlement as a victory over “feeble barbarians” (Bancroft in 1834) and “primitive tribes” (Schlesinger in 1992). In 2008, former US officials in the Clinton administration, including ex-Secretary of State Madelaine Albright, wrote with eyes firmly clenched shut on American history that genocide “threatens not only our values, but our national interests.”



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