I have to admit that preparing last week’s post on immigration depressed the hell out of me. When I do these posts, my goal is to take an unblinking look at our history, but with the awareness that while the “wars” may not have been won, battles have. While looking at our past attitudes on immigration, I had a hard time seeing our progress. So this week, I wanted something a bit more uplifting. One would think that imperialism would be the last topic I would choose, but this is one area where, as individuals, we’ve become marginally more aware, more sensitive, and occasionally more cautious. Whether or what we’ve learned as a country is an open question.
American imperialism is a racist ideology, based (more than a little) on white supremacy…
School Begins: This caricature shows Uncle Sam lecturing four children labelled “Philippines,” “Hawaii,” “Puerto Rico,” and “Cuba” in front of children holding books labeled with various U.S. states. In the background, an American Indian holds a book upside down, a Chinese boy stands at the door, and a black boy cleans a window. The blackboard reads, “The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact… the U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.”
…but it’s a burden we, as a country, were only too willing to bear.
We declared expansion as our destiny and assumed its welcome throughout the world.
We chose to “spread democracy,” because we declared that democracy leads to prosperity.
“What the United States has Fought For,” in Chicago Tribune, 1914. (Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Free_from_Spanish.jpg.)
Never underestimate the influence and role of capitalism…
…especially when it’s couched in the language of morality and Christian principles.
And yet, some saw all too clearly the dangers and inhumanity of our imperialistic ways.
“Civilization Begins at Home,” Literary Digest, Nov. 26, 1898
“The Harvest in the Philippines.” Frederick Thompson Richards, Life, July 6, 1899.
“‘Treason’ at the White House.” Cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt upset by a quote from Abraham Lincoln. The Public, 5 (January 31, 1901).
If we learn anything from our history, it must be, “Forward together, not one step back.”