The wealthy Indus Valley cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, built in the third millennium B.C., stood for nearly a thousand years, bolstered by expertly planned street grids, baked-brick structures and elaborate drainage systems with almost every house. Of the four ancient civilizations – Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China – the Indus Valley was the largest, occupying a space as big as Western Europe. It had a script so sophisticated it has yet to be decoded.
But Iowa Congressman Steve King apparently wasn’t aware of that. The Fourth District Republican thinks civilization began with European Christians.
King declared recently that non-Westerners and non-Christians have contributed minimally to civilization as we know it.
“I’d ask you to go back through history,” he said on MSNBC, “and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
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Done, Congressman. Do you know that the Syrian city of Aleppo, a trading center known for its military proficiency, was built in the 6th Century B.C., making it the oldest continuously inhabited one?
Or that government, plumbing and language, some things you rely on in your daily life, came from outside the Christian West?
So did the gunpowder many of your constituents and contributors hold sacred. It originated in China. The beer you might crack open at the end of a hot day developed in ancient Iraq. Even the soybeans and corn that provide livelihoods in your district had their roots elsewhere – soybeans in China and corn in what is now Mexico when it was in the hands of native people.
I’m sorry if your education failed you in these areas of basic knowledge. And I’m sorry that being deprived of such a historical context has led you to a white supremacist view of history and the world. But since you’re out there in the nation’s capital, introducing bills and making claims that affect all of us, it might help you to have a better understanding of how civilization evolved.
So I called on Facebook friends to help enlighten you. I asked people to submit their favorite examples of non-Western people’s contributions to civilization.
Here is some of what they shared:
Algebra. The number zero. Peanut butter. Accounting. Cotton. Gunpowder. Fireworks. Meritocracy. Language. Law. Government. Philosophy. Building construction. Wine. Food. Religion. Philosophy. Corn. Agriculture. Silk. Plumbing. Tools. Jazz. Blues. Beer. Pasta. Paper. Arabic numerals. Books. Writing. Gandhi. Buddha. Astronomy. Chess. Herbal medicine. Bread. Soap. Surgery. Ayurveda. Math. Wireless (Bose). Silicon Valley (largely Indians). Sanskrit. Banking. Money. Insurance. Lacrosse. Music. Hospitals. Optics. Voting. Woodblock type. Stirrups. Art. Philosophy. Farming. Human rights. Blood transfusions (African-American Dr. Charles Drew). Blood banks. Aqueducts. The compass. Porcelain. Massage. Tea. Rock ‘n' Roll. Chocolate. Coffee. Architecture. Philosophy. Athletics. Tai Chi. Carnatic music. Bharat Natyam dance. Papyrus. The modern state. The public library. Gynecology. Universities. Acupuncture. Sewer systems. Engineering. Democracy. Original thought. Clocks. Maps. Yoga. The Sabbath.
Lucy, the first known precursor to a human, was traced to Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago.
You’ve defended your words by saying leftists have declared an “open season on white people,” so “somebody needs to stand up and defend the contributions that have been made by Western civilization.” Please note that the majority of answers cited above came from white people.
You say America is an exceptional nation and the front-runner of Western civilization, and that: “If we disparage our roots, if we disparage what makes this a great nation, then we'll lose the formula for being an even greater nation. I stood up for our foundation, for our history for our Western civilization.”
It’s clear from how you choose your words that non-white people and those of other religions don’t count toward this greatness. Nor do the Native Americans who populated the land before your ancestors arrived, count among our “roots.” Or the African-Americans who arrived as slaves and helped build America’s economic foundation. Or the Chinese people who helped build the transcontinental railroad. Or Mexican-Americans who harvested the crops. Or Indians who built Silicon Valley. The list goes on.
The open season is coming from you, against what really makes America exceptional: Its rich overlay of cultures and contributions and peoples. You, who wax poetic about civilization, aren’t civil enough to put away the Confederate flag on your desk, or to acknowledge Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
But one can rely on ignorance for only so long to stir up bigotry and pit people against one another. Some truths cannot be denied. As several on my Facebook feed also pointed out, the Christianity you hold above all other religions, and Christ Himself, had non-Western, non-Christian origins. Think about it next time before you speak.