Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Response to Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America

In Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America, by Benjamin Franklin, published in 1784, the author shows the gap between how the Native Americans were thought of by the European settlers, and indeed, how they are often thought of today. Franklin points out that although the natives were thought of as savage and uncivilized, they in some ways were more civilized than the Europeans.

For example, after describing the custom of the native people never to speak when another person is, Franklin states, "How different this is from the conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes without some confusion, that makes the speaker hoarse in calling to order; and how different from the mode of conversation in many polite companies in Europe, where, if you do not deliver your sentence with great rapidity, you are cut off in the the middle by the impatient loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffered to finish it!" (Franklin 228).

Franklin also highlights the racism against Native Americans by including the anecdote about the native coming in to town to sell the beaver skins, and the white people in town meeting in order to agree on the lowest price they would pay for the skins; and the native's point of view on the lack of kindness and hospitality toward the "Indian dog[s]" without provocation (Franklin 230).

Franklin's insight into and openmindedness about the native culture is sorely needed in today's world. Today's America is filled with ignorant people who mindlessly shut out any possibility of understanding another's culture. A relevant example is present when discussing American attitudes toward Middle Eastern countries. Many Americans do not try to understand, as history teacher Carole Winter puts it, "why they hate us," instead villianizing middle-easterners without any insight into their worldview. If today's Americans lessened their xenophobia and took a leaf from Mr. Franklin's book by attempting to understand other cultures, they would find it much easier to work out their differences.

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