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Monday, January 30, 2006

By any other name....

Via TBogg, I see -- for the second time in three days -- that some right-wing clod has tossed out a statement of unimaginable stupidity. Behold:

Today's New York Times details a Japanese scientific on earwax and body odor in Asians vs. Europeans and Africans. There is actually an "earwax gene" in DNA that determines this.

But the paper glosses over the most important finding. The study found that Europeans and Africans tend to have wet ear wax, sweat more, and have more under arm body odor than Asians, who have dry ear wax and don't sweat much. But the study also found that "Native" Americans have dry ear wax and body odor similar to Asians, proving they migrated here from Asia.

So whom did THEY steal the land from? Somebody else, obviously. Yet, no "Dances With Wolves" and "Into the West" from Hollywood about that.


Hoo-boy.

What's funnier is that Ms. Schlussel is really upset that a bunch of "liberals" are stampeding over there to call her dumb in comments, so at the top of her post she appends a follow-up:

To all the liberal idiots who've left dumb, insulting comments on this entry, as directed by similarly intellectually-challenged lefty websites, I'm well aware Indians came here over the Bering Strait, which you'd realize if you actually bothered to read what I wrote below in this entry. I simply quoted the NYTimes that this was yet more proof. Yet, there is no proof they were the first here. And even if they were, this is yet more proof that they originated in ASIA. Hello? . . . This is yet more evidence that we did NOT steal THEIR land. It means it was not THEIRS to begin with.


The mind boggles in so many ways:

First there is the embarrassment of Ms. Schlussel's grasp of the science involved. While it's true that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, the truth is that -- so far as I know -- there is no evidence whatsoever of any civilizations of humans, or human ancestors, on the American continents prior to the emigration of the Asian peoples who eventually became the Native Americans. Ms. Schlussel is attempting to construct some kind of moral argument based on a hypothetical entity for which she has no evidence to justify supposing its existence. Her "argument" hinges on just making up stuff that sounds like it might work. It's the equivalent of all those times on Star Trek: The Next Generation when, with ten minutes left in the show and the Enterprise facing certain destruction, either Data or Wesley Crusher would start babbling about how they could save the day by using whatever sub-nucleic particle they'd been reading about earlier that morning.

But then there's Ms. Schlussel's moral argument, which fares even more poorly. Even if there was "someone else" here, and even if that "civilization" was displaced by the onrushing hordes of Asian invaders (maybe they were led by a distant ancestor of Genghis Khan) -- a supposition which, we'll again note, has utterly no backing in any anthropological science of which I know -- since we're talking about events that would have happened thousands of years ago. That means that those arriving Asians would have had millennia to establish civilizations that were in some cases nomadic (think of the Plains tribes of North America), and some that were distinctly city-based (think of the Anasazi, Olmec, and Aztecs). Therefore, the question becomes: even if the land wasn't "theirs to begin with", would it not still be the case that the land became "theirs" at some point?

And more importantly, does that even matter?

Let's perform a thought experiment here. Imagine a swing set on a school playground. There are no kids on the playground, and no kids on the swings. Out comes young Calvin, ready to swing to his heart's content. And Calvin comes over, sees nobody on the swings or even on the playground, and hops on the swing. So there's Calvin, just a-swingin' away, fantasizing about Spaceman Spiff and planning his revenge on Suzy and wondering how he'll get into the house without getting pummeled by Hobbes.

And then, along comes Moe.

Moe's our schoolyard bully, the kid with the beady eyes and the forearms the size of Calvin's torso. Moe could play on one of the other swings, and he could skip the swings entirely and head for the slides or the dodgeball court, but no! Moe wants the very swing that Calvin occupies. And the following transpires:

MOE: Get off the swing!

CALVIN: No! I was here first. It's mine.

Moe simply shoves Calvin off the swing and takes it over.


By Ms. Schlussel's moral logic, Calvin has absolutely no moral standing here to resist Moe. After all, the swing never belonged to him in the first place. He has no standing at all, according to Ms. Schlussel. I suppose that in her world, things belong only to those who are strong enough to take them, and that's that.

(And note that this moral argument of Ms. Schlussel's is unaffected by whether or not there were any pre-Indians here at all. All that is mere chimera; it has no bearing whatever on the moral logic at all. Such as it is.)

What's worse, though, is that Ms. Schlussel's "argument" doesn't just deny the Indians their moral stance; it affords a positive moral stance to aggression. If the "We were here first" argument is of no worth, and if ownership of land can only be ascribed to the very first people who were ever on the scene in the entire course of history, then why should aggression ever be opposed? If there was nothing whatsoever objectionable to the United States's treatment of the American Indians, then what can we say of other acts of aggression in history? Did the victims of all those wars of territory really have no moral standing at all? I'm sure that will come as news to the Jews -- after all, Israel wasn't theirs to begin with. And I suppose that the United States was wrong to oppose Saddam Hussein in 1991; after all, it's not like Kuwait was the Kuwaitis' to begin with.

Does any of that make sense? I suppose it all does to Ms. Schlussel.

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