the dreaming tree

in restless dreams i walk alone…

Manifest Destiny and the “Greater Good” December 9, 2009

There is a topic which has dominated the comments on U4Prez for the past few days – cloaked behind words like “nation-building,” “globalization,” “responsibility…” I spent the better part of my day yesterday arguing with Hawk about the inherent “goodness” of America. There are those here who believe that the United States can do no wrong… Or that, at least, the good that our government does in the world far outweighs the bad… I sometimes wish that I, myself, were able to adhere to this viewpoint, for as they say – “ignorance is bliss.” I am not such a cynic that I can’t remember the days when I, too, believed that our nation was a source of light in a dark world… But I was naive then – I believed what my high school history books told me. The facts, however, the things that they leave out of those books – the information that I had to go looking for on my own, tells me that this is not true… That the widespread vision of America as a “Beacon of Light” is nothing more than illusion… Sleight of hand.

The phrase “manifest destiny” was first used by John O’Sullivan, an American newspaper editor, in 1845. It portrayed, in 2 words, the idea that the United States was destined to stretch across North America, “from sea to shining sea.” This concept, while not an official government policy itself, encouraged westward expansion – leading to the passage of legislation such as the Homestead Act. Many Americans embraced the idea – not only did it expand land use opportunities, but it broadened their horizons, so to speak – gave their children a wider range of choices for their futures. “Manifest Destiny” was promoted in newspapers, splashed across posters, and even supported by influential figures of society – such as famous poet Rudyard Kipling. And it was not a new concept – even then. The United States was already engaged in westward expansion long before the term “manifest destiny” was born. One of the first steps our government took to expand their borders was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. The words, however… that simple little phrase – “manifest destiny” – provided the United States government with precisely the catch-phrase they needed to garner support from the American people. Over the years, this school of thought has had a negative impact on many – from the Native Americans, Mexico, and various countries in South America to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan… The concept of Manifest Destiny, and how it was presented to the American people, may well be the most successful propaganda campaign the United States Government has ever waged on its own citizens… It has grown, evolved… we no longer simply seek to control all of the land from one ocean to the other – rather, much like a small white mouse named “Brain”, we have the idea that it is our god-given right to control the rest of the world. However, unlike Brain – we are not so honest in our approach… We hide behind deceiving phrases like “spreading democracy” and “bringing freedom…”

The Native Americans were the first to suffer at the hands of westward expansion. The Cherokee Indians protested the attempts of the state of Georgia to force them from their land in the early 1800’s, saying “We wish to remain on the land of our fathers. We have a perfect and original right to remain without interruption or molestation. The treaties with us, and laws of the United States made in pursuance of treaties, guaranty our residence and our priveleges, and secure us against intruders.” However, between 1820 and 1850, the Cherokee, Choctaw, and other tribes were pushed off of their homeland in the South and forced to march all the way to a reservation in Oklahoma. As a result of the many Native American deaths caused by disease and starvation along the way, these marches became infamously known as the “Trail of Tears.” A New England woman condemned the actions of the government at the time, writing “In the whole history of our government’s dealings with the Indian tribes, there is no record so black as the record of its perfidy to the Cherokee Nation.” In 1864, approximately 8,500 Navajo Indians were removed from their homes and put in a confinement camp in New Mexico. The relationship between the United States government and the Native Americans only worsened when, in 1887, the General Allotment Act gave the government the power to take what was once the Native Americans’ land and parcel it out as they saw fit, giving the Native Americans only small areas to live on. Even today, they are still fighting to get back what was taken from them – such as land, water, and mineral rights.

And then, of course, there was the Mexican-American War. “The belief that the U.S. basically had a God-given right to occupy and ‘civilize’ the whole continent gained favor as more and more Americans settled the Western lands. The fact that most of those areas already had people living upon them was usually ignored, with the attitude that democratic English-speaking America, with its high ideals and Protestant Christian ethics, would do a better job of running things than the Native Americans or Spanish-speaking Catholic Mexicans.” – Roger A. Lee. (http://www.historyguy.com/Mexican-American_War.html) From 1846 to 1848, the United States and Mexico were involved in a conflict over the state of Texas. Mexico refused to give up ownership of Texas despite the fact that Texas had successfully seceded from Mexico in 1836. Our government saw this dispute as an opportunity to claim the sovereign state of Texas as its own. Ulysses S. Grant, a participant in the war, wrote “I do not think there ever was a more wicked war than that waged by the United States in Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not the moral courage enough to resign.”

With the gain of Texas came a thirst for more land – and in 1898, with tensions high between Cuba and Spain – opportunity came knocking. Harboring expansionist ideals, fueled by the yellow journalism tactics of men such as William Randolph Hearst, and operating under the guise of saving the people of Cuba from themselves – the United States went to war with Spain. There were many who spoke out against the actions of the government – and a group of “Bourbon Democrats” who believed in limited government formed the American Anti-Imperialism League. One of the most prominent members of the league, Mark Twain, condemned the war, decribing it as “a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater.” Of the American invasion of the Philippines, he wrote that the United States had gone there “to conquer, not to redeem.” Eight months after the war began, the Treaty of Paris was signed, giving the United States control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.

Need a few more examples of how the United States has overstepped its role in global politics? From 1959 to 1975, the United States lost almost 60,000 soldiers in its attempt to turn Vietnam into a democratic nation against their will. The word “communism” still has the power to strike fear in the hearts of Americans, a leftover effect of the Cold War and McCarthyism. Today, America finds itself squarely in the middle of a conflict founded upon the principles of Manifest Destiny, but hiding them behind the more popular term – “nation building.” Using “weapons of mass destruction” as a scare tactic, and under the delusion that “America knows best,” the U.S. invaded Iraq, resulting in the deaths of over 6,000 American soldiers, journalists, and contractors, and an estimated 1,366,350 Iraqis. And now, we’re sending more  troops to Afghanistan.

And all of that is still only the tip of the iceberg. To elaborate – let’s talk debt forgiveness… The G8 (the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia), has made the decision in recent years to forgive the debts of Third World nations – a move which, on the surface, appears to be a selfless act of generosity designed to help those living in poverty throughout the world. But what so many fail to see is that this is not about debt forgiveness at all – but about opportunity and greed. We must remember that those debts were accumulated without the consent of the majority of the people in those countries and served to make the corporatocracy of America and its allies – and a very select few Third World families – even richer. Large corporations would send “economists” to research the nation’s economy and its natural resources, and to creatively form an evaluation which would justify a loan from our government for the industrialization of that country. Included in the terms of the loan agreement would be a requirement that the recieving nation would hire specific American companies to complete the designated projects – thus funneling the vast majority of the loan funds back into the pockets of wealthy American CEO’s. Due to loan terms that were based on very optimistically exaggerated economic growth reports, the borrowing nation would be unable to make good on the loan, at which point, the United States – wanting its “pound of flesh”, so to speak – would take payment in the form of political and military support, as well as access to natural resources – primarily oil. The economy of the borrowing nations would sink rapidly, throwing the middle and lower classes into poverty.

Their debt should be considered paid in full – after all, we got our payment – by exploitation and manipulation. However, the G8 decision only grants them “forgiveness” for their debt if they will agree to a number of conditions – cloaked in terms like “good governances”, “sound economics”, and “trade liberalization.” Enticing language – but also extremely deceptive. These policies are only “good” and “sound” if you’re looking at them through the rose-colored glass of a corporate office window. The countries that agree to these conditions are required to privatize their public services, including health, water, electric, and education – essentially selling them to the corporatocracy. They are forced to drop subsidies and trade restrictions that support local businesses – while at the same time accepting that the U.S. and other G8 countries have the right to subsidize certain G8 businesses and erect trade barriers on imports that threaten G8 industries. When Bolivia gave in to such “good governances” policies, it opened the door for multinationals to privatize its water supply system – prices of water skyrocketed and Bolivians claimed that service was suspended to thousands of people. In Cote d’Ivoire, the French firm that bought the assets of the privatized telephone company reportedly raised prices so high that many people had to forego connections to the system, including university students who could not afford internet access essential for their studies. In Tanzania, these policies led to the appalling situation where children have to pay to go to school, and, many of them being too poor, fail to do so. Similar stories abound in countries across the globe that have accepted the conditions that come as a prerequisite to what is being inaptly called debt forgiveness. The Third World is well aware of what is going on – and they are angry. The resistance in 2005 to the G8 meetings in Scotland was, to a large degree, an expression of anger against the deceptions. Many people believed that Bush and Blair were simply playing “good guy” “bad guy” in an attempt to legitimize a highly exploitative system that is balanced heavily in favor of multinational corporations at the expense of the poor, starving citizens of Third World nations around the world. “Debt forgiveness” should be as good and generous in actuality as it sounds on paper.

“In its twenty-first century incarnation, Manifest Destiny has disguised its racist rhetoric but still wears proudly the garb of self-righteousness and arrogance. In a State of the Union speech, President Bush declared: ‘Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation… America is a strong nation and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.’ tell this to the Native Americans, the Puerto Ricans, the Filipinos, and the Central Americans. Tell it to the Mexicans who had populated the Southwest since the sixteenth century. Tell it to the vast majority of their descendants whose legal and economic rights have been denied systematically since 1848. Tell it to the families of hundreds of Mexican immigrants who have died at the militarized border simply because they sought a better life.” – journalist Jorge Mariscal.

The United States has a long and sordid history of trying to force its system of government on other nations… Politicians hide behind the assertion that the only goal is to improve the lot of the backward masses, that it is all for the “greater good,” as though we – an infant of a nation in comparison to some – are better able to make policy decisions for them than they are able to make for themselves. We live in a nation where lobbyists have a louder voice than the constituents, with a government owned by corporate America. Our politicians lie to us, selling promises of lower taxes and healthcare reform like the ShamWow guy selling us overpriced bits of fabric. We have corrupted our system here at home, we’ve sold our liberty for a false sense of security, and we’ve discarded all of the principles that our nation was founded upon… And yet, we think that we know better than the rest of the world? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – you cannot impose freedom upon someone… it’s an oxymoron. As George Santayana said – “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” History tells us that our interventionist policies bring nothing but harm to those who we claim to be freeing… And yet, here we are… making the same mistakes over, and over, and over again – Simply because the vast majority of us refuse to look beyond our government-censored educations to find another, less biased viewpoint. Do you honestly wonder why radical terrorist groups hate America so much? I look at our history, and I wonder that we’ve made it this many years relatively unscathed… If someone did to us the same things that we have done repeatedly to nations all over the globe – how do you think we would react? You speak of the American government as though it were Santa Claus on Christmas morning, bringing joy and happiness wrapped in shiny paper and tied with a bow to the rest of the world… I, for one, refuse to leave the blinders on. And despite what you say Hawk, I don’t believe that means that I hate my country. On the contrary – I love my country. I speak out against my government because I feel that my government is failing me, failing my fellow Americans, and failing the principles that it has sworn to uphold. I love my country too much to sit idly by while that happens.

Well then… I thank those of you crazy enough to read that whole thing… And look forward to the biting remarks that will inevitably spring from it.

~The Sparkler

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9/11 February 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 12:04 am
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if it hadn’t been 9/11, it would have been something else. i firmly believe that certain members of the “powers that be” were waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity to present itself that would allow them to advocate going to war in the middle east. when 9/11 happened, they had that opportunity. they took advantage of the fear that had taken over the entire nation and used it to fuel their cause… and we went to war. 9/11 happened in the beginning of my senior year in high school. half of my friends joined the marines before we even graduated. they were angry, and they wanted to do something, anything – and here was our government, telling them that they can take up the noble and righteous cause by serving their country – that they could help take down the terrorists… all for the greater good. when we were 17, 18… in the months after 9/11 – going to war seemed to be the only viable option. and we were fed just the right kinds of lies – or omissions of truth – to get us there… but in the end, we’re mired in a war that has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with greed, globalization, and idiocy. we haven’t done what every one of those boys that i knew in high school wanted to do – we haven’t caught bin laden, or thwarted al-qaeda, or put an end to terrorism. rather – we have lost bin laden – most likely forever (if he’s not already dead of old age), al-qaeda still operates, sneaking out like a poltergeist that we have no hope of catching, we’ve managed to further destabilize an already unstable nation, and terrorism? well – we’ve just given the terrorists more fuel for their recruiting efforts. this is why i am really angry about the war in iraq – because my government, the government that at the age of 17 i still had some faith in – lied to me and to the people that i loved, and used a monumental tragedy that shook the foundations of every house in america – to serve their own purposes – purposes that had nothing to do with that tragedy. and i know, i know – there are those who would say to me that it no longer matters why or how we got into iraq, what matters is that we’re there, and what we’re going to do now. i agree with part of that – that we need to look at what we’re going to do to get out of iraq in the best possible manner… the key words being get out. as for the why and how – if you care at all about the integrity of our government, if you care at all about the type of nation that your children and grandchildren and generations to come will grow up in – then the why and how matter.

as for 9/11 – yes, it was a tragedy – i can’t even begin to deny that. 7 years later i can still remember exactly where i was when i saw the second plane hit on the news…
but we act as though it’s the worst thing to happen in the history of the world – as though pain and suffering can only be felt by we americans… as though we’re so much more important than the rest of the world. and yet – terrorist attacks take the lives of hundreds of people all across the globe. genocide takes the lives of millions – darfur, rwanda, sierra leone… wars are waged and in them – there are children carrying automatic rifles, or machetes, or merely throwing rocks… there are families being torn apart by bombs… people dying every day – for our greed and the greed of those whose philosophies we condemn in public and yet secretly harbor ourselves.

 

where is my mind??? January 30, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 11:42 pm
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you know… every night i sit outside smoking cigarettes and staring at what few stars i can see from the center of town. sometimes i think i’d give anything to live out in the middle of nowhere… some small town… where you look up and all you can see are millions of stars and stories of constellations told long before your existence was even dreamt of. but when the sky is clear and i can see the stars, i sit there and think… how thousands of years ago my anscestors were able to look up into the night sky and see the exact same stars that i’m looking at now. over the years the earth has shifted – mountains have crumbled, skyscrapers built and roads paved… and there’s very little here on earth to connect us to a time long since forgotten… but those stars are the same… they connect me to my history – what little is known of it… and it makes me feel like maybe it all does matter…

one of my mom’s best friends – kristen – who i’ve known all my life – used to have a younger brother. just over a week ago he died in iraq. our most high ruler wants to send 20,000 more troops to hell, and i wonder how many of them will never feel american soil beneath their feet again… never see their family again… i wonder how many americans will mourn. as for the rest – the ones who come home… i wonder how it will change them… my cousin jesse came back from it all a different person. there are things, inside of him… that stayed the same… but the things that changed weren’t for the better… and once a year when i see him at christmas, i find myself missing the cousin i once had – the one who always played big brother… my protector… he left a piece of himself in that desert sand. i wonder how many have died over there in this war… this “operation iraqi-freedom.” 3 years ago i stopped checking the death toll. 3 years ago it made me sick to my stomach. i don’t want to know what it is now. i wonder how many children have died… how many families have been ripped apart… but i suppose i shouldn’t sound so naive. if it wasn’t this – it would be something else. war will never end. world peace will never happen. i’m sorry to disappoint you miss america – but your platform is obsolete. but you know… i still have a little hope left in me for the fate of mankind. if i didn’t – what would be the point? and honestly – clinton could have let monica lewinsky suck him off on top of the presidential car in front of a catholic elementary school – i’ll take a democrat any day.

 

Politik October 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 11:30 pm
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god, where do i even begin… our country… our government… is a joke. we’re supposed to be able to count on our leaders, and even though i’m a democrat, and strongly opposed bush’s first election “win”… i held onto a little hope that maybe he wouldn’t be such a bad republican president. it’s not like we haven’t had halfway decent ones… but i have to say… i’m disappointed… and ashamed. i’m ashamed to call george w. bush my president. it’s not just that the man’s an idiot who makes up words and is making his right-wing cronies proud by perfecting the conservative art of giving the most vague, nonsensical speeches in political history… it’s that he’s greedy, and stubborn, and proud… and i would expect more from someone who’s supposed to be the leader of the free world. oh, wait… maybe that’s the problem. we can’t honestly call ourselves the free world anymore. not since the patriot act. bush is a born and bred oil man. and for the few out there who still believe (or have been brainwashed into believing) that we went to war because of 9/11, or to free the iraqis from totalitarian rule… wake up. in 5 years, we’ve managed to… at last count get 2,804 of our boys (and women) killed… and more than 20,000 wounded. we haven’t caught osama bin laden. we had a chance to, when he was hiding in afghanistan, but we didn’t take it, and who knows where the hell he is now. yeah – we caught saddam hussein – starving and nearly dead in a military bunker. if we’d just given him a few more days he could have shot himself, classic hitler-style, and then we wouldn’t be watching him mock everything that we stand for, and everything that our troops think they’re fighting for, in nationally televised court trials. but there were no weapons of mass destruction in iraq. no, north korea’s got those. of course – we can’t do anything about north korea because all of our resources are tied up in the middle east. imagine that. rather than liberate the iraqis, we’ve managed to throw them into a state of civil war. the thing is… there has been war and fighting in the middle east for centuries. since the dawn of human existence. and it’s not a war fought over oil, or weapons… it goes deeper than that. to things that we, as americans, can’t even begin to understand. we’ve lost our history. for most of us, if we’re lucky, it only goes back a couple hundred years. but the people there… they have roots that go back thousands of  years. they fight for freedom – a thing that we’ve devalued in our self-serving attempts to bestow it upon others. they fight for religion – something few of us truly understand. they fight for honor, and for their own blood… how ignorant we must be… to think that we could save them from something that we can’t even begin to understand. but maybe if we cared about understanding it, if our true objective had been their freedom in the first place… maybe we could have done some good. but it’s too late for that. operation iraqi freedom isn’t about freedom at all. it’s about power. they have something that we want. and if it kills our men to get it – well, we justify it by saying that they knew they might die when they signed up. if it turns iraq into a bloodstained killing field… well… what do we care? we were doing it for their own  good, right? we want their oil. somebody high up in the government had the bright idea that if we could just bring down saddam, and get one of our own puppets elected to run the iraqi government, and give the iraqis our warped version of freedom… then we could control the country, and in turn, the country’s oil supply. and so, i am ashamed of my president. this war… it’s just a desert version of vietnam. when in the hell are we going to pull out? when we run out of resources? the right-wing politicians talk all the time about strengthening the defense budget… well then how about using some of that money to actually help our troops defend themselves? how about giving them updated gear? gas masks that work and aren’t missing pieces. humvees that are reinforced so they can stand up to the strength of a bullet. kevlar. we give our president that much. and what has he ever given us? certainly not freedom, protection, or honesty. if this was about freedom or weapons, we’d be in africa, or north korea… but we’re in the middle east. so that dubya can make his daddy proud by finishing something the first bush never should have started in the first place.