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Susannah Kroeber '11: 20-year-old octogenarians

I write this with all due respect to my former colleagues at the Brown Spectator and for my friends among the Brown Republicans. Despite my exceedingly liberal background, I find myself agreeing with their complaints about the dominant liberal discourse that pervades student discussion at Brown. I am entirely sympathetic to the Republican minority, which at Brown numbers in the single digits, and their experiences with a less than friendly environment in which to express their views.


What I find increasingly difficult to justify is why I should remain sympathetic. It is hard to take seriously a group that decided to make Columbus Day (or rather, the replacement of Columbus Day with Fall Weekend) its rallying call. Moreover, it did so in a way that seemed aimed at alienating the student body rather than creating a platform on which students of various political and ethnic backgrounds can agree.


Keith Dellagrotta '10 led a Brown Republican-sponsored rally in protest of the name change last week. Perhaps I was wrongly in the "ambivalent" camp on this issue until after I read about his comments. I know I am not alone at Brown in objecting to his comment that "American Indians knew not Christianity, and thus lacked the bedrock to construct a great United States of America as we know it today" ("Rally against ‘Fall Weekend' takes on U.'s name change," Oct. 13).


I will be the first to recognize that Dellagrotta's comments were most likely an attempt to further debate on an issue that he considers important, in which case, I am taking the bait. I am in favor of rhetoric to electrify constituents, but I take umbrage at the insinuation that Christianity is the "bedrock" on which this country is based and is the reason for its greatness.


I would first like to recognize that though history would have inevitably been different had the Europeans not colonized the American continents, I am not arrogant enough to offer judgment on how great an America excluding European conquest would be.


I am also not interested in a debate about the greatness of America. To quote one recent Republican president, our "flip-floppy" record on humanitarian issues and our all-too-recent preoccupation with unilateral force does not hold the U.S. up as John Winthrop's vision of America as beacon to the world.


Instead, I argue that the bedrock of Dellagrotta's great American nation, a nation built on credit, is in fact the scourge of the Puritan American's existence: the Jew. The Catholic Church's abhorrence to loans with interest, initially a horror shared by some of their Protestant brethren, would have rendered America in its current incarnation unattainable. The United States' contemporary borders were defined only after the removal or extermination of the Native American populations in those territories, and the ability of settlers to buy land depended on credit from banks and the United States government.


Without the medieval Jewish loan shark, we might not have seen a progression toward the general acceptance of loans and interest among the Christian population. It is upon these loans, both foreign and domestic, that America and Americans have paid for their exploits, for what has made America "great."


In fact, the definition of what makes America "great" is changing. Part of Republicans' recent defeats must be attributed to the party's inability to appeal to an increasingly globalized youth population, most of whom do not want to view themselves as the elite of the world but as a part of the greater global community.


Voters under thirty want to envision a world where the U.S. is a player among nations rather than the leader of nations. Advocating a narrow view of history that champions just one sector of our uniquely heterogeneous society does not appeal to voters coming of age in this decade.


Christians — specifically, propertied male Christians before and up to the foundation of the American republic — did not constitute the entirety of the population, not even a majority. Slaves from Africa and the Caribbean largely contributed to American agriculture, and poor Asian, European, Latin American, Jewish and Muslim immigrants — not to mention women — worked in manufacturing to build American industry.


America wouldn't have been the same without Christians. Eliminating any group of their size would drastically alter the trajectory of the nation. That does not mean America wouldn't have been a great nation, nor does it negate the crucial impact that non-Christians had on where America stands in the world today, for better or worse.


Republicans today need to recognize the changing demographic when trying to appeal to a newly reformulated version of their base, not repeat slogans offered by their grandfathers. Ignoring past contributions of groups that make up more than half the population does not further the expansion of Republican ideas and values.

Susannah Kroeber '11 is a Slavic Studies concentrator from Beijing, China, and proudly admits to learning about the joys of earning interest while in elementary school.



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