Remedy the Alamo? – It Happened Today, February 23, 2017

Back in 1836 the Battle of the Alamo began on February 23. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Mexican government, because after a 13-day siege they stormed the Alamo Mission and killed everybody inside, prompting outrage, a surge of enlistments in the "Texian" army and a decisive victory for the latter at San Jacinto in April that secured Texas independence. And a lot of people are still bitter.

There are seriously people in the United States who dream of restoring much of the southwest to Mexico, to say nothing of Mexicans who want back what they believe was "stolen" from them in 1836 and then in 1848. Germany even used it as bait to try to lure Mexico into World War I in the middle of its own brutal civil war, which Mexico's government at the time was at least too intelligent to fall for. But I cannot understand the appeal of getting Texas back inside Mexico.

In the first place, can anybody seriously claim that Texans would be better off if the place had remained Mexican, that they would be freer or wealthier? And the United States as a whole would have been diminished without Texas, even if it did fight on the wrong side in the Civil War. But on the whole both Texas and the world are better off for the outcome in 1836.

Ah but, say some, these "Texans" were interlopers, white people who moved in in large numbers after 1821. Which may be true, but they were invited in by the Mexican government and if they then decided they did not like that government, anyone who believes in the consent of the governed must concede that they had a right to do something. And anyone who believes their discontent with the Mexican government was unfounded knows little of the history of Mexico. (Though it must be conceded that the Mexican government did prohibit slavery, something many immigrants flagrantly ignored.)

There’s another point here, even more fundamental. If we are to deny Texans the right to inhabit Texas in 1836, we must surely also deny Mexicans the right to inhabit Mexico, which was acquired from the "indigenous" occupants by Imperial Spain in a manner even less attractive than the settlement of North America. Now it would be quite a feat to undo that injustice, particularly as a large part of the population of Mexico has both European and aboriginal ancestry and you cannot really tell someone their left leg can stay but the rest of them has to go "back" to a place their last ancestor left in the 17th century. And then… and then… it gets worse.

You see, the Aztecs who occupied much of Mexico when the Spaniards showed up were warlike, aggressive and in many ways horrible including their ritual human sacrifice of their enemies on a spectacular scale. They too have no right to the land which they stole, even if it’s very hard to return it to the descendants who were never born of people whose hearts they ripped out of their living chests and sometimes then ate their flesh and made their skin in to ceremonial robes.

The same problem arises, if slightly less starkly, with almost every revisionist attempt to undo some particular injustice in history real or imagined. It triggers a domino effect that only stops once records are not available, in which in any case we are compelled to take from the blameless to give to the nonexistent.

To say so is not to excuse injustice or aggression. But it is to say that our duty is to try to prevent them in the present, not to seek to remedy the real past in imaginary ways.

So yes, remember the Alamo. But do not try to put it back into Mexico. It does not belong there.