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A family had lived in their home all their lives. Before them, their forebears had lived in the same home on the same land. The family, their ancestors and members of their tribe had inhabited this space for more than a thousand years. They had prospered and lived in relative harmony with other people and other tribes that lived in the same region.

The family, and their tribe lived differently than their neighbors. Their language was different. Many of the tribe learned two languages to relate to those outside of the group. Likewise, their customs and religion were different from those around them. In past generations no one seemed to notice or care. They were different but there was a reciprocal respect, or at least, tolerance.

A new political will and reality swept through the world outside their tribe. Others, with whom they had lived peacefully, were now hostile. The tribe, and the individuals in it, were blamed for the hardships that had happened to those outside the tribe. They were scapegoated and soon military authorities armed with dangerous weapons and official legal papers stood outside the family’s door demanding that they leave.

Eventually, the entire tribe was forced to abandon their home and land of their ancestors. They were coerced into living in a new place; one that was selected for them and all of their tribe. There was no legal help to be had. A democratically elected government had issued the orders and allowed armed men to force out the tribe members.

They cried as they left homes, land, possessions, and memories. They were in disbelief that duly elected politicians would allow this to happen. Many tribe members died on the journey to the new location. The conditions there were harsh and many died there as well.

This forced removal is a stain on the civilized world. Who were these people who were evicted?

Were these people the Cherokees who were forced by the United States onto the Trail of Tears and reservations?

Were these people Jews living in Europe who were forced out of their homes and into death camps by the Nazis?

Were these Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II?

Were these people Palestinians who are being evicted from East Jerusalem and the West Bank by the Israeli government?

Does this parable apply to all of these scenarios listed above? In my mind, it does. It saddens me that the “good guys” acted the same way as the “bad guys” in each of these circumstances. I hope we take some time to contemplate this

Mark Ennis

Mark William Ennis had his first book, "The Circle of Seven: When His Servants Are Weak," recently published by Deep River Books. An ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America for 35 years, Mark served as a chaplain at the opening of the National 911 Memorial Museum in New York City, ministering to survivors, first responders and their families.  


  • mstair says:

    And yet – instinctively, rationalization occurs that attempts to justify a slightly “more-gooder” group of “guys”

    The trail of tears was a land-grab
    The holocaust was attempted genocide
    The Japanese internment was a fear-reflex
    The eviction of Palestinians is an inability to discern terrorists from citizens

    Disturbingly thought-provoking today … thank you (I think)

  • Jim Payton says:

    Thank you for this. As I read it, my mind bumped around to a few of the “options” you mentioned … stuff, though, that was never taught in the sanitized, “we’re the good guys” versions of history that have predominated in North American schooling for far too long.
    As a retired history professor, I know that if the history you’re learning makes you glow with pride but doesn’t also unsettle you, then it’s not history you’re learning.

  • Jim Schaap says:

    In the news this morning, I read that our former President got huge applause this weekend when he tore into “critical race theory.” I couldn’t give you a textbook definition of what that phrase means, but neither could he. What it has to do with, however–or so it seems to me–is how how we tell the stories of events like you’re referring to here, the story of President Jackson and the Trail of Tears. Thanks.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    Professor Schaap,

    You are correct that CRT does affect how we tell our stories. But it is so much more than that.

    You owe it to yourself to find out what CRT is and isn’t. I’m a little surprised that no one here has addressed the topic (unless I missed. it). It’s a topic in every one of our communities and schools.

  • Thank you, Marty. I appreciate your attention and wisdom.

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