The title of this episode of Outlander begs a question and as a result, I found myself trying to answer that question and thinking about my own small piece of America. I watched this wonderful episode and found myself asking, why? Why did the settlers believe that they had the right to this land? After watching, I spent the morning reading. The simple answer to my question is centuries of systemic racism and the belief that Christians had a manifest destiny to redeem the Old World and prepare it for the Biblical new earth and new heaven.
I found myself remembering childhood field trips to the Christian Indian settlements of Gnadenhutten and Schoenbrunn. The two villages were home to bands of Delaware Indians who had converted to the Moravian faith. Led by the missionary David Ziesberger, these Indians found themselves caught between the opposing forces of American colonists and the British both distrustful of these peaceful Christian Indians. They were of course starved, attacked, and eventually brutally massacred. When the group realized they had lost their plea for mercy they asked to be allowed time to prepare themselves for death. They spent the night in prayer. The next day every man, woman, and child was taken to a “killing house” where they were stunned by a mallet to the head, so that they could be more easily scalped.
The irony that these were “converted indians” is not lost on me, they were the very thing the Christians said they wanted.
I found this quote contributed to a member of the Pennsylvania militia that massacred the Indians of Gnadenhutten:
“…one Nathan Rollins & brother [who] had had a father & uncle killed took the lead in murdering the Indians, …& Nathan Rollins had tomahawked nineteen of the poor Moravians, & after it was over he sat down & cried, & said it was no satisfaction for the loss of his father & uncle after all”.
When I read this quote, I thought of Mueller who seemed genuinely surprised that God would allow his family, the ones who believed in God, to die and of his vengeance on an innocent. He was the embodiment of the racism and belief in manifest destiny that paved the way to genocide. It is to the show’s credit that I was able to feel horror and sympathy. I was as shocked as Claire and yet,… I couldn’t get the scene of gentleness and love he had for his family out of my mind. I then remembered the Nuremberg trials and how they sent psychologists to interview those on trial. They were expecting to find monsters. What they found instead were people like Mueller who in all but this one area seemed to be normal people, loving family men and women capable of monstrosity because of a deeply held belief.
The question in the title asks us …who were the savages.
When viewed in the abstract it’s easy to understand how it came about that the colonial English were without conscience in their mistreatment of the Amerindians, whom they labelled savages; most of the barbarities they used to crush them were first tested against Caucasians on their home turf: the British Isles. The Highland Scots and the Irish were the prime targets. They suffered unimaginable horrors while being subjugated. Torture, rapes, summary executions, property destruction and confiscation, etc. were the norm. First Nations History: We Were Not The Savages by Daniel N. Paul
I continue to be impressed with the show’s commitment to show us the complexity of what happened and allow us to see all sides instead of simplifying the blame. I’m still further impressed by the series’ foreshadowing and call backs. In contrast to Herr Mueller, who is quick to take up his gun and threaten violence, we see the Cherokee “savages” being reasonable and willing to change their ways to keep peace. Jamie reminds us while speaking to Gov. Tyron that savages can be found everywhere and about the connection between the natives and the Highlanders. They showed us that not all people of faith were the same in the person of Pastor Gottfried. They allowed us to see the Indians’ retaliation and the conflict between the colonists and the British.
Life on the Ridge brings Jamie and Claire Home
I live near an Amish community and through the years I have watched how they go about living “plain” in a very un-plain time. Everything they do seems to take time and effort. Nothing is as simple as hopping into a car for a trip to the store. I live on a lake and often see a group of Amish come fishing for the day. It is no small endeavor. First of all, they have traveled miles and miles in a horse and buggy often with a boat strapped to the top. It isn’t a light commitment to participate in what to most of us would be a leisure activity. They have to plan to be gone for hours and take care of their horses and fighting traffic takes on a whole new meaning when you are Amish.
However, despite all the extra time and energy they spend to wash clothes, heat their homes, grow and cook their food, there is a sense of simple well-being in their efforts that I find myself admiring. Their lives are about creating a place to call home that meets their basic needs. The Amish’s sense of community in my part of the world is strong. They care about and help each other. I’m sure their lives are not idyllic or without some of the social issues we all face, but their daily goals are simple and their days filled with concrete purpose. Each day is greeted with plans that have nothing to do with obtaining power or more and bigger possessions. Oh, they try to make money, no doubt, but the end goal is different. I often find myself wondering if their life is not in some ways better than mine. I sometimes wonder what would life be like if what I worried about and stressed over really were matters of survival and my sense of accomplishment and identity closely tied to the work of my hands. I suppose that the life we now live is a result of our trying to survive and our own genius, but I find myself nostalgic and fascinated by the ingenuity of those who lived without modern technology. There is something about that life that feels…real.
My focus on the Amish was my way of introducing how I felt about this episode of Outlander. One of the reasons I loved Diana Gabaldon’s books about Jamie and Claire in America was that look at life as a settler and the quiet purpose and sense of well-being they experienced in that life. They have finally found the sanctuary they have longed for, a place to be together being husband and wife. To me, this was when Jamie and Claire truly became the people they were meant to be. I was delighted to see that reality on my screen this week. The Claire and Jamie I saw this week were very close to the Jamie and Claire in my head. They are creating a life together, they are using their gifts, they are caring for others, they are living their lives and facing life’s struggles with integrity and intention.
All credit and admiration goes to Jon Gary Steele and Terry Dresbach and their departments for the world they created that allows us to be totally immersed. I delighted in seeing that cabin filled with the fruits of their labors and marveled at the world they had created for themselves. I recognized so many items Jon Gary Steele’s team placed there. The wooden bowls! I have a few!
He is the face of the Revolution
As much as I adore the books, sometimes the show adds to my enjoyment and understanding of the story. If Herr Mueller was the face of the savageness of colonialism, Murtaugh was the face of the revolution. I love that they did not make him subjugated to Jocasta like many thought. It would not fit who he was “a bold man who has been there before”. As I watched him rile that back room of men to action, I understood why the settlers rebelled. I understood who these people were. They were people hardened by circumstance and no longer willing to take whatever the British mete out. What more were they going to do to these people? Imprison them? Make them indentured servants? Chase them from their homeland?
In the tradition of ever complicated Outlander relationships, after a joyous reunion, Jamie and his god father Murtagh find themselves at odds. Jamie has given his word to quell any uprising by the regulators and Murtaugh is one. The scenes involving Murtagh with Jamie and Claire were glorious. Bravo to Sam Heughan, Caitrionia Balfe, and Duncan LaCroix they made me believe they were stunned and overjoyed. Jamie had so much to tell him and Murtagh wanted to hear every word. I loved that Jamie shared his joy of Claire’s return and pride in the child he has never met and Murtaugh being so happy for him. I kept thinking how grateful Jamie’s mother Ellen would be. We see the lure of family and Murtagh’s commitment to Jamie when despite his commitments in town he whistles his way back into our hearts on the ridge. This just keeps getting better.
A Few Added Thoughts
I got a another look at how strange it must be for Claire to live in this world with knowledge of the future. I remember when she figured out the Highlanders she spent everyday with would probably all be dead in a few years and I wondered how she dealt with the same knowledge about her indian friends and neighbors. I’m not stressing the bawdy lady coming on to Jamie and Roger’s overall frumpiness (I have faith he will become a frontier butterfly of sexiness). I love the mystical bend they are taking Adawehi sensing Bree’s presence, Jamie kissing Bree on her birthmark, the intersection on Grandfather mountain, etc