(remembering Monseñor Romero2)

A dangerous man is afraid of what he doesn’t understand. Reagan3 is afraid of communism and wants something that is not his. He accuses of President Ortega of strengthening ties with the Soviet Union as he shakes hands with Secretary Gorbachev. We have been afraid. In 1565 King Philip of Spain ordered Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to drive the French Protestants from La Florida by whatever means you see fit. After Menéndez’ troops killed hundreds of the French at Fort Caroline in Florida and at an inlet named Mantanzas (the “slaughters”), sparing only a dozen who professed to be Catholic, King Philip recorded, As to those he killed, he has done well. In San Elena in South Carolina the town officials dreamed of riches to fill the Spanish treasure fleets, furs from the Indians in distant and fertile wildernesses. So Jesuit missionaries arrived to teach the faith to the Indians, but it did not go well. The Indians made sport of what I said, reported one priest. They kept asking questions of a low order such as Does God have a wife? During the spring of 1567 among the foothills of the Appalachians in Kentucky, Sergeant Moyano was in Indian trouble. He and a chief of the Chisca were exchanging insults. The chief threatened to eat not only the sergeant but also his dog. Moyano took the offensive and killed more than a thousand Chisca burning them from their homes. In 1570 the king ordered Don Luis returned home to Virginia. This was the son of an Indian chief whom the Spanish had picked up in 1561, taken to Spain, and converted to Catholicism. So the saintly Jesuit Juan Bautista de Segura and a small band of fathers took Don Luis into the north and resolved to live with his little community where there would be no white men to give bad example, and built a small church of timber and thatch on a bluff not far from the village of Chiskiac. But when father Segura was ill, he sent for Don Luis. And Don Luis and his warriors came and cut down the fathers with axes. In 1576 the long-feared Indian rising erupted along the whole Spanish coast, from North Carolina to Georgia. It began when the Guale tribe killed a chief who had been baptized, and Captain Alonso de Solís led troops from Santa Elena to the Guale village, killed two chiefs, and cut off the ears of a third. In four years the Indians were quelled. But Queen Elizabeth was greedy. In 1586 Sir Francis Drake sacked Cartagena, Santo Domingo, and San Augustín with forty-two vessels and two thousand men, killing the Spanish and burning their settlements. The New World is embittered with blood. A dangerous man’s understanding is limited by his desires. Reagan is afraid of communism and wants something that is not his. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand our history. He doesn’t call it killing; he calls it fighting for freedom.

24 March 1988

  1. Borrowed liberally from “Exploring Our Forgotten Century,” Joseph Judge, National Geographic (March 1988), 330-363.
  2. I have never been to Central America, but much of the trouble in Central America is the trouble in the United States. We can learn from our own history. I think the problem arises anytime we don’t understand, anytime we want something that is not ours.
  3. Reagan is not merely Ronald here. Reagan is allegorical, representing characteristics of the country that elected him.