Top 10 Shameful Events in American History
This lister realizes that he has posted several America-praising lists, and offers this list as a truce to all the foreigners out there. For the sake of fairness, shall we accept good from America and not evil?
Shameful Event: Bipartisan Politics
Not an event, but an aspect, out of which many bad events have derived. The U. S. has two primary political parties, the Democratic and the Republican. The current threat of the government itself to “shut down” in Washington D. C. has been caused by the two parties refusing to get along with each other. They cannot stand each other’s political ideas, and refuse to yield one inch of ground either way. As a result, nothing is getting accomplished by the American government.
Not that the bipartisanship should be abolished. There should be two sides to every issue, but there should also be something we like to call “compromise” between them. But the Senate and Congress routinely vote straight down party lines without listening to, or caring about, the other side’s argument on an issue.
The major issue at the time of this list’s composition is budget expenditures, which, if not resolved, will “shut down” the government, after which the Senate, Congress and President’s Cabinet will continue to be paid, but the families of active soldiers overseas will not receive any more paychecks.
Republicans believe too much money is being spent. Democrats want even more money spent in order to stimulate the economy. The Republicans consider this digging down in order to climb out of a hole, and around and around we go.
It has gotten so bad, that photographs have surfaced, from inside the House and Senate, showing Democrats playing Solitaire, Freecell and Minesweeper on their laptops while Republicans give speeches. The reason? They angrily refuse to listen and be swayed from their positions. Though there is currently no proof, the Republicans are likely just as guilty of such goofing off.
Shameful Event: The Scopes “Monkey” Trial
A notorious miscarriage of justice and a serious waste of legislation. Legislation is very highly thought of in America, to the point that laws are put on the books for some very strange, unjust and idiotic things. There are quite a few websites dedicated to stupid American laws, and just for fun, this lister, a fan of “How To Train Your Dragon,” here gives his favorite. Direct from Utah: “it is illegal to hunt, kill, take, trap, possess or have sex with dragons.” It’s on the books, or so the website says. This lister doesn’t doubt it.
The Scopes Trial, however, was a very serious affair and remains so, since at the heart of it was the Tennessee state law against teaching evolution. Creationism was the order of the day, and John Scopes deliberately broke the law in order to put the actual law on trial. The entire nation came down on top of him, for and against, and his primary defense attorney was Clarence Darrow, an avowed atheist. He was up against former 3-time presidential candidate William J. Bryan, an avowed Christian fundamentalist. It shaped up just like a boxing match.
The judge was John Raulston, a very conservative Christian who quoted the Bible often throughout the farce. He supported Bryan’s prosecution more often than Darrow’s defense, and all scientific examinations were disallowed from the proceedings. No fossils, no rocks, no scientist’s testimony. Dinosaurs were alive 4,000 years ago because Bryan said so. God created the Earth on October 22, 4004 BC, at 7:30 in the evening. That’s a paraphrased quote. Darrow immediately called Bryan to the stand as an “expert” on the Bible. Bryan knew what was coming, but was unafraid. Darrow questioned him on the concept of Eve coming from Adam’s rib. If so, “where the hell did Cain’s wife come from? Did they have another creation over in the next county?”
Then he questioned the date of Earth’s creation. “How long was the first day? You can’t measure a day without sunlight, and God didn’t make the sun till the fourth day.” Raulston actually allowed this charade to go on for 2 hours. The whole trial was paid for by tax money. In the end Scopes lost, as everyone expected would happen in Tennessee. Darrow appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, which overturned the verdict on a technicality, rather than address the real issue (which simply cannot be resolved, because neither side wants it resolved): Judge Raulston had ordered Scopes to pay a $100 fine, but he should have left this decision with the jury. So the fine was expunged.
Shameful Event: Medals of Honor at Wounded Knee
On December 29, 1890, near the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, in Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota, a detachment of 500 men of the 7th U. S. Cavalry, led by Col. James Forsyth, surrounded an encampment of 350 Indians. They were under orders to disarm the Indians, and when they attempted to do so, a deaf Indian named Black Coyote did not understand what they were saying and did not want to relinquish his rifle, because it was expensive, and the Cavalry had no right to take it.
In the ensuing scuffle between him and 2 or 3 soldiers, a shot was fired, either by accident, or as a warning for him to calm down. Instead, the entire 7th cavalry opened fire on cue, assuming that the Indians had initiated hostilities. Most of the 120 Indian men were armed, but had intended to surrender. Now they had to defend themselves and their families and fired back.
The soldiers slaughtered at least 150 men, women, and children, most of the latter two unarmed and running for their lives or cowering. The Cavalry was so savage in its assault that crossfire killed some 30 soldiers. 4 Hotchkiss (Gatling) guns were also used on the crowd. The cavalry, on horses, chased down wounded Indians in the snowy plains and shot them down from behind.
As horrible as the act itself remains, it seems even worse to add insult to injury, and the Army awarded twenty men the Medal of Honor. That is the highest American military award for combat bravery. The criteria for receiving have become much more stringent since WWII, but that is not meant to discredit the actions of the soldiers who earned it in the Civil War or later.
It is, however, quite atrocious to award it to soldiers who were not in very serious danger of death. Half the Indian men who had rifles were shot down before they could get a shot off. Estimates, though we will never know for sure, place the cavalrymen killed by Indians at 5. It is believed the other 26 were killed by friendly fire. And the definition of valor, a word inscribed on the medal, does not include running down and killing wounded, fleeing non-combatants.
Shameful Event: The Civil War
It ranks so low because there were a number of mitigating factors in its origin, one of which you will see later in this list. John Q. Adams called this the last battle of the American Revolution, and he died 12 years before the Civil War began. He saw it coming. Everyone knew it was coming.
The tensions of racial superiority/inferiority were only going to rise until the problem was solved. The United States was “dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal,” except, of course, for blacks, Indians and women. White men were perfectly fine. Thomas Jefferson understood that slavery was wrong, but did not free his own until his death.
The South, populated by a lot of wealthy white landowners, refused to give up its “honorable institution” without a fight, and inexorably, the fight happened. Great credit should be given to Henry Clay, Sr., for his Compromise of 1850, which delayed the Civil War by a decade. There were other issues at hand besides slavery, of course, including states’ rights as opposed to federal rights, but the only right the South cared to keep was the right to own, buy, sell and trade slaves.
As a result of everyone’s refusal to compromise, over 600,000 Americans were killed, about 2% of the nation’s population at the time. If the same were to happen today, 6,000,000 Americans would be killed. Only about 416,000 died in WWII.
Shameful Event: Organized Crime
Organization of crime became possible largely because of the progression of firearms technology. From Postbellum until the 1960s or so, criminals possessed the very same weapons as the police. Today, fully automatic firearms are illegal in the United States for civilians to own, operate or possess.
In the Roaring 20s, however, anyone could buy one in a store, and the gangsters did so. The Thompson Submachine Gun was the most sought after, by far, followed closely by the Browning Automatic Rifle (a fully automatic 30-06). The police had them and the criminals had them, and the police’s communication system was woefully inadequate.
No one knew where the criminals were until they robbed a bank and made their getaway. Then the chase was on, and running gunbattles quite frequently erupted in the streets, killing innocent bystanders. Once the police gained technology’s upperhand, the criminals took to surreptition more than force in their enterprises. The FBI was founded just to hunt them down.
It was not until John Gotti was brought down that the back of the New York crime families was broken. But organized crime still goes strong in America, especially in the southwest, where Mexican drug gangs are invading big cities like San Diego and Los Angeles. And they have much the same weaponry again: fully automatic rifles and rocket launchers, heavy demolition, and an intense hatred for American law enforcement.
Shameful Event: Preston Brooks’s Assault on Charles Sumner
On May 22, 1856, Congressman Brooks, Dem. from SC, walked into the floor of the Senate to confront Sumner, Rep. From MA, over a speech Sumner had made three days prior, in which he humiliated Andrew Butler, Dem. From SC and Brooks’s cousin.
Brooks thought twice about his actions and asked fellow SC Dem. Laurence Keitt how he should go about dueling Sumner. Duels were illegal by then, but this rarely stopped anyone from traveling to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls where dueling was no problem. Keitt, a burly man of well over 6 feet, considered that because of his coarse speech, Sumner was beneath Brooks and therefore did not deserve the honor of a duel.
Brooks then made up his mind that he would simply beat Sumner with his walking cane. Everyone had canes back then, many with swords or muskets hidden in them. Brooks’s was just a cane, slightly over 1 inch thick, made of gutta-percha hardwood from SE Asia, with a 10 or 14 karat gold pommel.
The Senate Chamber was fairly deserted at the time, the day’s business having adjourned. Sumner was a big man of 6 feet 4 inches, to Brooks’s 5 feet 6 inches, but Sumner was seated at his desk working on a speech. These desks were, and still are, bolted to the floor, and the chairs did not have wheels at the time. Brooks informed Sumner that his earlier speech was libelous against his cousin, and proceeded to beat him savagely over the head with his cane.
Sumner tried to fight him off and get up, but his desk hindered him long enough for Brooks to incapacitate him. He beat him so horribly that Sumner ripped his desk out of the floor trying to get away. He staggered up the aisle, bleeding profusely from his head, and fell, blinded by his blood. Brooks following, beating him the whole way and then stood over him swinging until the other senators heard something crack. Brooks had broken his cane just below the pommel.
Sumner was unconscious and lying in a pool of blood. No one could come to his aid because Laurence Keitt had accompanied Brooks and brandished a revolver at them. Brooks walked out and resigned his post, after the House failed to vote him out. Almost every single person in the entire southern half of the United States cheered Brooks and mocked, scorned, ridiculed, and spurned Sumner for the rest of his career. Brooks was sent over 1,000 new canes by citizens all over the South.
The North criticized him, especially Anson Burlingame, Rep. From MA, who spoke so vehemently that Brooks challenged him to a duel. He didn’t think Burlingame would accept, but he did and chose Kentucky long rifles as the weapons. He was one of the finest hunters in the North, and Brooks quickly backed down. Brooks died of severe bronchitis the next year. This event has often been cited as one of the primary polarizations of the Antebellum period, over slavery and racial tensions, a spark to ignite the Civil War.
Shameful Event: Racism and Its Crimes
In the same vein of two other entries on this list, but significantly different. Especially Postbellum to about 1970. The famous Civil Rights movement is thought of as particular to the 1960s and Martin Luther King, Jr., but politicians, black and white, had been arguing for equal rights under the law since at least the founding of the country.
“All men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, etc.,” does not include a proviso against black people or Asian people, or any other “race.” But the reality around the country could not be ignored unless out of hatred or impudence, and this is precisely what the majority did until the Civil War compelled a change of government. And though the government changed, and blacks were given the rights to vote and hold office, racial thought would take much longer to right itself.
From Postbellum until the 1970s, blacks were treated monstrously by a lot of white mobs in the South. The Ku Klux Klan was formed “in order to protect white rights,” as its members claimed, but was really just an outlet for their rage, as they banded together and beat, tortured and lynched black people for what was perceived as the slightest infraction of the law. Never mind that this was, itself, breaking the law. And those in power did not seem to care about stopping these crimes. Including any specific example might be too lurid, but consider one of the most notorious instances, that of Willy Brown:
He was accused of raping a white woman, who identified him as the rapist. He was held in protective custody in the Omaha Courthouse from September 28 to 29, 1919, until the entire city had degenerated into a full-scale riot. A mob of over 4,000 white men, women and children besieged Brown, the mayor and his police in the courthouse, looted gun stores for over 1,000 firearms and began shooting the courthouse windows out.
They set the building on fire and demanded Brown be given up. The mayor went out and allowed them to hang him if they would leave. They promptly did so, then went back at the courthouse. The sheriff and his deputies drove through them, breaking people’s legs and arms, cut the mayor down, and drove him to a hospital. He survived.
The courthouse garrison finally relinquished Brown, who was hanged within 5 minutes from a power line. The mob shot at him for another 5 minutes, then cut him down, tied him to a car’s wheel and dragged him through the city, then doused him in lantern oil and set him on fire. They photographed him. Then dragged him through the streets again. The rape victim later retracted her statement and told some friends she just wanted to see a black man die.
Shameful Event: The Salem Witch Trials
In winter of 1691-92, in Salem Village, Massachusetts, outside Salem proper, four girls, Ann Putnam Jr. (12), Abigail Williams (11), Elizabeth Parris (9), and Mary Walcott (17), apparently began to suffer seizures, screaming fits, bursts of gibberish, general fear and violence against others.
It is now theorized by most that Parris and Williams, the two who started the craze, were simply looking to get attention for themselves. But once they were suspected of “indwelling by the Devil,” a crime which might have gotten them executed, they immediately blamed various people throughout Salem Village, and even neighboring towns of possessing them with their spirits, witchcraft and communion with Satan.
The entire area was paranoid about Satan in the first place, and was thus a powderkeg waiting to go off. Putnam and Walcott are believed to have started doing the same thing just for the fun of joining in, but Putnam’s parents saw her “possession” as a convenient means to get rid of some local enemies they’d made. Walcott is thought to have been involved for the sheer pleasure of causing others’ deaths.
It would take too long to give all the particulars here, but in the end, 19 people were hanged in public for witchcraft, and one man, Giles Corey, at about 80 years old, was crushed to death beneath heavy stones for refusing to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The local magistrates even indicted and imprisoned a 4 your year old girl named Dorothy Good and aggressively interrogated her as to whether she was a witch.
She, of course, had no idea what in the world they were talking about and only wept for her mother, who disowned her to save herself. They finally told her to confess to witchcraft and she would be given back to her mother, which, of course, she did. She was released on 50 pounds bail and went insane from the ordeal.
The hysteria did not stop until the Governor George Phipps, who knew people were being killed, was informed that his wife had been accused of witchcraft. He immediately ordered the entire farce to cease.
Only five years later, every party involved in accusing or prosecuting innocent people repented, claimed to be ashamed, and begged everyone’s forgiveness. Except for John Hathorne, one of the judges. He condemned, or joined in condemning, most of those executed, rejoiced at their executions, and felt absolutely no remorse for the rest of his life, not even when several women suffered miscarriages in prison due to starvation and the atrocious squalor.
He called these dead infants, “righteous punishment from the Almighty. The children were not human, but born of the Devil, and now burn in the everlasting flames.” Abigail Williams disappeared, some say to New York, where she may have become a prostitute.
Shameful Event: Slavery
Tied in with more than one of this list’s entries, slavery is the heart of quite a few problems of America’s past. It’s over, but the resentment felt by blacks toward whites still exists. This country was founded by a bunch of white men with European ancestry, who touted the principle of universal equality. But at the same time, they imported slaves from Africa in order to tend their own property, rather than doing so themselves.
Quickly, slaves became a status symbol, just like any other property. The more you owned, the wealthier you were. Families of black people were broken up at slave auctions and never saw each other again. They were treated precisely the same as cattle. Whites defended this from Antebellum until the 1970s by quoting Genesis 9:27: “God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” Canaan was the son of Ham, and this is the famous curse of Ham passage. His name is “Ham” in Hebrew, pronounced “hom,” and means “hot” or “burned,” which seems to be a reference to a darker color of skin.
The uneducated whites of the general public from Antebellum to the 1970s always assumed that Ham referred to a black person because black people like to eat pork. That’s not a lie or an exaggeration. The verse was therefore extrapolated to mean that black people should be servants of…who else but the opposite of black? White people.
This was how slavery was defended as a divinely approved institution for centuries. Of course slavery was instituted in America by white people out of a desire for power over other humans, and a lethargy concerning farming. The true shame of it is inherent throughout: its origins are idiotic and cruel; its longevity is beyond belief and outside logic.
Shameful Event: The Usurpation of Land from American Indians
It was one of Hitler’s inspirations for the Holocaust. How to get it done properly. You don’t start with force immediately. First you pretend to strike deals with the race you want out of your way. Then you double-cross them when the time is right, but don’t make the double-cross obvious. Keep them confused as to why you would renege, and guessing as to whether you really have. Until it’s too late for them to stop you.
In order to “appease your own people,” as it were, and not have a rebellion, you inform them over and over, years after years, that the race whose land and property you’re taking is primitive and violent, and that you’re not really causing them any harm. The Holocaust isn’t the only time this has happened.
And although the United States certainly didn’t engage in wholesale slaughter of the Indians, of the degree of the Holocaust, the U. S. government did, for centuries, uphold the principle of expanding the nation’s borders until reaching an ocean, whether or not this expansion came at anyone else’s expense.
The most infamous instance of this is President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. The Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Seminole and Chickasaw tribes were forced off their lands in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, and required to move to what is now Oklahoma. Neither the President nor any other white person seemed able to understand why they did not want to leave. Some did of their own accord, but most were finally forced to pick up and move, and were forced to do so on foot. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was not subject to Georgia’s state law, only national law.
But nevertheless, the Indian Removal Act passed in Congress by a single vote. Abraham Lincoln opposed it, as did David Crockett, who argued that America had no more right to take the Indians’ land than the British had to take America’s land.
With the Act in place, the states in questions were allotted 7,000 armed militia to force the Indians out. 13,000 Cherokee were herded in concentration camps in the freezing cold, where 2,000 to 8,000 of them died from cholera, famine and exposure. This went on from 1831 to 1847.
All told, 19,500 Creek, 4,300 Chickasaw, 12,500 Choctaw, 2,833 Seminole and 20,000 Cherokee were forced to walk to Oklahoma, a distance of no less than 200 miles for the Chickasaw and Choctaw, and up to 1,000 for the Seminole. Thousands died en route. The practice was euphemized by white politicians at the time as “manifest destiny.” Hitler called it “lebensraum,” “living room.” No President has ever apologized for the Indian Removal Act. It is now called the Trail of Tears, and it is one of many times America forced Indians off their land.