A Merciless Judge Essay Example

As first noted by George Santayana in 1905, history is doomed to repeat itself. Because of this, hate and cruelty against people are recurring concepts throughout humanities past. When looking back through history, these stains are painfully obvious, and the suffering they inflicted is apparent. While writing Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann observed this, causing him to write “History is a merciless judge” (Grann 277). This idea is not only evidenced by Killers of the Flower Moon, but also by current events, and by the history of the United States.

History is a record of actions and does not turn a blind eye to those in power. This can be witnessed in Killers of the Flower Moon. Chronologically, the first event in David Grann’s piece of literary journalism is the displacement of the Osage Native Americans. The Osage Nation once stretched across a large portion of the United States; however, as Europeans began to travel west across North America, that land was swiftly and forcefully taken. “[The U.S. government] announced… a settler would be able to claim one of the 42,000 parcels of land” (53). The Osage People were driven out of their homes, and their land was seized by European settlers. This injustice was recorded by both the Osage and the Europeans. As a result, this wrongdoing was not misrepresented and tainted with biased perspectives. Instead, it has been documented for future generations to witness. Despite this, the hardships of the Osage People did not end with the seizure of their land. According to Grann, the culture of the Osage was eventually taken as well. “The white man’s road was inevitable… the only way for the Osage to survive was to follow it” (48). The Osage culture was forcefully and strategically destroyed by the European settlers. Osage youth were made to attend distant Catholic schools, reservations were flooded with white immigrants, and the Osage were taught to be embarrassed by their culture and identity, which was once a source of pride. Until the Osage discovered oil, they had nearly nothing. Even after becoming overnight millionaires, the Osage were still subject to unequal treatment. Their finances were managed by white consultants and were handicapped by extremely large annual withdraw limitations. This was deemed acceptable because “an Osage adult is like a child 6 or 8 years old” (85). The blatant racial profiling and inhumane treatment of the Osage was well documented and compiled by Grann alongside countless historians. Because of this, the actions of the U.S. government have been documented for the public. Regardless of one’s power, history will judge without mercy.

This theory is not local to Killers of the Flower Moon. The idea that history is a merciless judge extends even into current events. Harvey Weinstein is a former American film producer who is facing ninety different allegations of sexual assault. Although he has denied all allegations, his history, and the history of his victims suggests otherwise. History is nothing more than a collection of facts, and even powerful Hollywood executives are not shown mercy by facts. Harvey Weinstein is not the only person facing trouble due to their past. OJ Simpson, a former NFL star running back, is also being judged by history. In civil court, Simpson was found liable for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. At seventy years old, OJ Simpson stills owe the families of Nicole Brown Simpson, and Goldman a combined fifty-eight million dollars, and has had his income seized. Although he lives with friends in a gated community, Simpson is only retaining money through social security and has been completely defamed in the public view. His name has become inseparable from ideas of murder, violence, and robbery. This is because history has presented facts of his past to the public. Facts are indisputable, and consequently, history is a merciless judge.

History has always been a merciless judge. By observing facts and events in America’s past, one can find many instances of injustice and the judgment that has followed. One of these transgressions is slavery. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the United States practiced slavery in many states. Slaves were treated worse than animals, given different, inferior, rights, and were often abused physically, mentally, and sexually in order to keep them powerless. The inhumanity and cruelty was documented, and slavery has since become one of the darkest times in American history. Slavery bred mistrust and divided groups of people, which inevitably hurt the United States, and its effects can still be felt today. Through this mistrust, among other things, segregation emerged in the Southern U.S. after slavery. Although proclaimed “Separate but equal”, minority schools and neighborhoods were drastically worse than their white counterparts, which is a fact proven by history. Minority schools were underfunded and understaffed, leading to high rates of dropouts and baffling low rates of college attendees. This fueled a cycle of poverty that kept minorities out of positions of power. This made the United States government and top one percent very uniform and caused a lack of diversity. America, a land founded by immigrants, lost its core beliefs of freedom and equality through segregation and would be judged by future generations. The United States would also be judged by their decision to create internment camps. During World War 2, the United States, fearing a Japanese attack, uprooted Japanese-Americans from their homes and relocated them to temporary camps, encompassed by barbed wire. These camps would later lead to heightened racial tensions in the United States. As history presents this information to future generations of Americans, the U.S. government is judged for their racial profiling and cruelty.

Many people do not agree with David Grann’s assertion that history is a “merciless judge”. Many prefer the words of Winston Churchill, who claimed: “History is written by the victors”. This is true in some instances. For example, the people of North Korea believe that the United States is at fault for their poverty and the divide between the Koreas. They believe this because they have been taught this misconstrued truth. In this case, history is not a merciless judge, they North Korean people are not given the full truth, and thus, draw off-kilter conclusions. Churchill’s words ring true in the past as well, even in the Civil War. Although the Confederacy was fighting in order to keep slaves, the Confederacy was mainly fighting for political power. After Abraham Lincoln was elected, the Southern States had “zero [political] influence” (PBS). They went to war so that they may have representation (representation would be used as a platform to, among other things, keep slavery legal). This aspect of the war is overlooked by a large majority of Americans, proving Churchill’s theory, and demonstrating that history is not always a merciless judge. Although the truth of history can be obscured on rare occasions, David Grann is still correct in saying history is a merciless judge. In our post-modern society, with the invention of the internet, nearly all information is obtainable. Digital firewalls like those in China and North Korea can be bypassed, previously unknown documents can be published, and said information is completely free. Because of this, Grann’s theory still holds true.

History is nothing more than a compilation of facts and records. History encompasses various perspectives and consequently, does not show preferential treatment to any person or people. This is evidenced through Killers of the Flower Moon, current events, and points in the United States’ history. David Grann expressed this idea best when he said: “History is a merciless judge.”


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