On this day in 1842 the second Seminole War came to an end, followed by the last forced march of Native Americans from the southeastern United States along the “trail of tears” to what is now Oklahoma. The relocations, which began right after Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, involved the resettlement of tens of thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands to federal lands west of the Mississippi. The motive was simple: the expanding population of European-Americans wanted the land; and the Act, which overturned the nation’s earlier policy of respecting Native-American homelands, legitimized decades of removals across the continent. Wars of conquest and the subjugation of native peoples are not confined to 19th-century America. They are how empires are born. But in America it is hard to square the historical reality with the principles on which the country was founded – we are, after all, both the land of the free and the home of the brave – and so we ignore the unpleasant parts of our past. Witness today’s self-proclaimed patriots, who trace their political lineage to the Boston Tea Party, when “Sons of Liberty” dressed as, yes, Indians, dumped English tea into Boston Harbor. They talk of “American exceptionalism,” the idea that America is a unique country with a special mission, a "city on a hill." And it is exceptional the way they hold high the torch of liberty in one hand, while papering over 100 years of genocide with the other.