5/25/06

Two Surprising Quotes

About a week prior to the slaughter at Wounded Knee, L.Frank Baum,
editor of South Dakota's Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer newspaper and author of the celebrated children's books including his most famous, The Wizard of Oz, advocated the extermination of all America's Indians: "The nobility of the Redskin is
extinquished and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The whites by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.(WHY NOT ANNIHILATION?)Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced, better they should die than live the miserable wretches that they are."

And from Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who kept his mind and spirit open though he lived in a world of pograms, starvation and was plagued by epilepsy, poverty and other health and mental problems:

"Love all of God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding universal love."

3 comments:

lynn said...

I was long a fan of the author of the Wizard of OZ until I stumbled
across his shocking and unblinking blatant and acrid remarks about Indian people. I was reeling and wondering how to separate the man from his works. How could I love the Wizard and and despise the man.
A dilemma which I've yet to solve.
How could someone who could write such well loved children's literature at the same time be possessed of such deep hatred and malice? It boggles the mind.

As for Doystoevsky, I have long
been a fan and am not surprised
in the least by his joie de vivre
in the midst of such palatable
suffering. Like the poem
once shared "two men looked out
prison bars, one saw mud the other
stars"

Doystoevsky and Tolstoi (at least
in my mind fit together like
salt and pepper shakers), I can
rarely think of one without the
other and yesterday I was thinking
of Tolstoi's
"What Men live by". I stumbled onto it by happy accident and it
was like finding hidden treasure
in a field.

At the end, the angel Michael
tells what he has learned.

"I knew before that God gave life to men and desires that they should live; now I know something above and beyond that." "I have learned that every man lives not through care of himself but by
love...." from What men live by

Tolstoi also said "Love is life.
All, everything I understand. I understand only because I love".

With that. I could not agree more.

Jim said...

Great insight. I will remember these comments.

linda said...

Just stumbled across this. As a philosophical question, to what extent we owe it to Baum to try to understand his frame of reference? It is a horrid thing he said and a selfish point of view. When I read the full editorial (here:
http://www.history.ox.ac.uk/hsmt/courses_reading/undergraduate/authority_of_nature/week_7/baum.pdf) I saw that it was actually in "praise," if you will, of Sitting Bull. Which is more than I can say for my middle school social studies textbook.

Please don't get me wrong - I am totally not advocating the selfish and horrid. I'm just inquiring about a certain frame of mind in 1890 in which races were SO separate in so many ways -- marriage, economic sphere, etc. How much do we try to understand where he came from that led him to suggest a "better off dead" mentality? It's strangely akin, I think, to the way a lot of fired-up "American" patriots talk about "Islamic fanatic" terrorists right now. With no clue how to proceed, they resort to annihilation.

In the complete text of Baum's editorial the "nobility/curs" line conveys a different meaning because the "nobility" is a direct reference to Sitting Bull and his fight for what had been taken from him and his people.