Anniversary Post: Seminole Wars

Seminole WarThis day in 1842 marks the end of the Second Seminole War. The Seminole were a native American tribe in modern Florida. When the Europeans first came to the new world, they tried to get along with the Seminole by wiping out large numbers of them with disease. When that wasn’t fully successful, they killed them more actively in the attempt to enslave them. By the first decade of the 18th century, there were roughly ten thousand Seminole slaves.

By the beginning of 19th century, the US became interested in Florida. Since the Seminole were in the north part of what would become the state, they were on the front lines of General Andrew Jackson’s invasion of the state. That was the First Seminole War, and it resulted in the United States getting Florida. The Second Seminole War revolved around the United States trying to move all the Seminole out of Florida to send them to Oklahoma. After that war, a couple hundred Seminole were allowed to stay in Florida on a reservation. But even that was too much, as westerners continued to encroach of their lands — eventually leading to the Third Seminole War.

I assume people think I’m too hard on the United States. Mistakes were made and all that. But I’m not really hard on the United States. France has done a lot of terrible things as a country, but I don’t dwell on it. The reason I do dwell on the United States is that I’ve spent my whole life around Americans who seem to think that we are misunderstood. That’s just not true. The rest of the world has a much better understanding about the United States than people here do.

What’s more, it’s all apologetics in this country. Rather than take responsibility for the past, we try to brush it aside. We are a country that learns really simple lessons the hard way every time. We had to kill off over a half million people to get rid of the institution of slavery, which was actually only benefiting a small number of people. But at least slavery is something that we admit to being wrong about. The genocide of the native peoples is still something that most Americans have never engaged with.

I have no illusions about the Seminole being some perfect people. But there is no doubt that by our conception of property rights, they owned their land. Our attitude has always been “might makes right.” So we killed them and enslaved them and moved them. We treated them like animals. But we were the true animals. We don’t play well with others. And I’m not sure we’ve learned a damned thing after all these years.

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