two responses to war: book report - Mayflower part 5

Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage, and War, presents the arrival of the Pilgrims to the shores of Massachusetts, their accommodation by a local tribe chieftain, Massasoit, their failures with their sponsors in England, their adaptation to North American life, their success, their failure at being a biblical "city on a hill", the falling away of the 2nd generation from their parents' religious convictions, their history with the local tribes, the conflict their expansion into tribal lands caused, and eventually the was with Massasoit's son, Metacomet, aka, King Philip. The war was engaged by pirates such as Samuel Mosely and by farmers who only wanted to live peaceably with their native neighbors, Benjamin Church. Philbrick writes to our generation and our crises now in his conclusion.

There are two possible responses to a world suddenly gripped by terror and contention. There is the Moseley way: get mad and get even. But as the course of King Philip's War proved, unbridled arrogance and fear only feed the flames of violence. Then there is the Church way. Instead of loathing the enemy, try to learn as much as possible from him; instead of killing him, try to bring him around to your way of thinking. First and foremost, treat him like a human being. For Church, success in war was about coercion rather than slaughter... p.358
Church's successes, although not slaughters, often led to slavery for the captives, delayed slaughter, despite his protests. Was he much better than Mosely because of his means if the ends were equivalent?

I enjoyed Philbrick's work. The characters are all portrayed with depth. There are no all-good characters, nor are there any that are pure-evil. Like people today, Indians and Pilgrims in the 17th century, did not always live up to their own ideals, and usually fell short. They also wanted to dehumanize their enemy but that, in turn, dehumanized themselves.


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