Posted on Leave a comment

No Civilization is an Island

Dear Congressman Steve King, in response to your remark, “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where these contributions that have been made by these categories of people that you’re talking about; where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?” …

Well, to cite just a single example, and rather a large one at that, these non-white, non-‘Western’ “sub-groups” you’re referring to gave us the Bible. Or did you think that was written in England?

We could also, if we wanted, mention:

  • the invention of chess in India
  • the invention of beer, mathematics, and the calendar by the Egyptians
  • rock and roll, jazz, blues, southern gospel, r&b, and most American music genres by African Americans
  • gunpowder and movable type by the Chinese
  • the Sistine Chapel, the Universal Suffrage movement, the conquests of Alexander the Great, and the breaking of Germany’s WWII codes by LGBT individuals
  • the establishment of secure American WWII codes by Navajo translators
  • algebra, modern astronomy, and the horseshoe arch from the Arabs
  • modern love poetry, the romance, the “courtly love” tradition that led to the re-imagining of the King Arthur story as a love triangle, the troubadours, Shakespeare’s poetry of romantic courtship, opera, Hollywood love stories, and every romcom, romance novel, and date movie in the modern world, from the Moors
  • the Pony Express, descended from Genghis Khan’s postal riders

… and I’ll stop there so I don’t completely drown you in examples, because I would still be listing them at dawn tomorrow. As would any history professor in the nation. Good grief. Western civilization without contributions from the world’s other civilizations or from LGBT people would be a Western civilization in which your house would include no books, no gun, no 4th of July fireworks, no Bible, no chessboard, no music other than classical and (some) country western, no voting rights for your wife and daughters, no word of romance or love in your marriage vows, no math, no mailbox, no beer, no happy memories of a space program or Neil Armstrong on the moon, and no democracy (because our country would have neither cracked Nazi codes nor devised uncrackable ones in the war with Japan). So it would be rather a different house.

As the great Western poet John Donne said, no man is an island. And no civilization is, either.

And as you can tell, ridiculous remarks like that “figure out where those contributions” comment piss off this history buff. Hugely. How can any educated person make such an absurd remark with a straight face?!

Rant over.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply