The Lingering Curse of America’s Manifest Destiny

In high school, I skipped out on physics to study history and specialised as an art student for two years. I then did history courses for another two years, while obtaining my art degree in college.

Needless to say, I learned a lot about how the world used to work, and how it still works today. To do this, we covered the political dealings of countries over the millennia; and of all the countries we studied, America has to be one of the most interesting.

To be honest, this hasn’t always been for good reasons. More often than not, America and other World Powers are painted as villains in a never-ending, always-unfolding story of life, lies, and politics.

And what you believe often depends on what side of the fence you’re standing on.

History of the Manifest Destiny

In the 19th century, when America really began to gather itself together as a nation of wealth and power, an ideology took root. They termed it The Manifest Destiny.

How well the Manifest Destiny was accepted and embraced in society as a national ideology is hotly debated by historians and political academics today. Even so, one thing is certain: with or without national consensus, America carried it out.

So what was this Manifest Destiny?

Basically, America believed It had a God-given right to expand and to spread the republican democracy as the ideal form of government. It also believed that in doing so, it was fulfilling its Christian obligation; much like the Spanish during West Indian genocide, and the British during slavery.

If this sounds a bit existenialist to you, then it probably is – all mixed up with a bit of spirituality and good ol’ Christian Faith.

Democracy versus Republic

To understand what a republican democracy is, we must first understand the difference between republican and democratic political ideology.

A democracy allows citizens to elect their leaders and to influence the governing of their country. A republic allows only elligible citizens or representatives to have a say in the government.

Who are those elligible citizens? Well, the State decides. In America, one could say the Electoral College decides, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Executing the Manifest Destiny

As I mentioned before, historians – particularly American ones – have argued that the Manifest Destiny wasn’t some overarching ideology, the way it’s been portrayed in academic literature for years.

But as we say, the proof is in the pudding, and one does not have to look far to see America’s expansion and a permeation of American ideology – political, social, and economic – into other territories.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few examples.

Forced Relocation of Native Americans

During American expansion – even before the Manifest Destiny became a thing, one of the greatest obstacles was the presence of Amerindians.

American Indians, or Native Americans, were spread out across the United States and sought to defend their lands as best they could against immigrants coming in from Europe.

Despite putting up one hell of a fight, the Indians lost the war to guns and smallpox. The end results were the Indian Removal Act; and the Trail of Tears, where thousands of Indians were marched off to reserves against their will.

America essentially decided:

Fine, fine, fine. Yes, we know you were here first, but we’re taking this anyway. Here. You can have this little piece we don’t want for yourself. And we won’t kill anymore of you, as long as you stay out of our way.

Now, the people who first colonised America are at the bottom of the barrel in American society. I wonder: Is this what xenophobes fear will happen to them if the U.S. continues to accept immigrants from abroad?

Cuban Revolution

Another example manifests itself in the Cuban revolution. When Fidel Castro took up arms to remove the US-installed puppet from head of the Cuban government, he didn’t just rebel against local Cuban rule. He rebelled against America.

Thus, one of the primary reasons America gave for its disaproval of Cuba is that the island was a threat to democracy. Castro, after all, had not been voted in. He seized control via a coup d’etat. Naturally, this was against the republican democratic ideologies America sought to spread via the Manifest Destiny.

So what did It decide to do? Why, attempt Its own coup d’etat, of course! This resulted in the Bay of Pigs: probably the only known case of a failed US invasion known to man.

U.S. Invasion of Grenada

At least one other Caribbean country was not so lucky. As the story goes, in 1983, when Grenada began to rub shoulders with Cuba, who was rubbing shoulders with Russia… who happened to be America’s mortal enemy, America disapproved again.

She showed her disapproval by invading the tiny Caribbean island to restore democracy, and defend the Americas from communist ideology. How? Why, with a coup of course!

This show of force mostly frightened the rest of us into compliance, though Jamaica has continued to share an amicable relationship with Cuba; much to America’s dissatisfaction.

The Panama Canal

Another time America showed the lengths It was willing to go to secure Its expansion and economic security was during the building of the Panama Canal. To be fair, America did not cause political unrest or instability in Panama. But boy did It make good use of it!

It chose one side wisely, struck a deal for the Panama Canal, provided support, and then kicked back and watched magic happen. Once the favoured side won, America got to work on the 48-mile structure.

The Etceteras

Some of you may say:

Well that was a long time ago. Things have changed.

Have they? If you’re looking for more modern examples of America executing its Manifest Destinty, you won’t need to look far. There’s the war in Iraq to “free Iraqis from terrorist rule”. And there was the Libyan struggle, where America helped to overthrow Gaddafi.

Just a normal day in the life of America: restoring democracy one sovereign at a time.

Us Verus Them

The biggest problem with the Manifest Destiny though, is that it creates a constant dynamic of Us versus Them.

It pits America against other countries, not only in violent warfare, but in economics, culture, and even on social media. Today, there probably isn’t a World Power as targeted as the United States – and consequently, none as paranoid.

But even worse, it pits Americans against each other. White Americans often see themselves as the new and improved Natives, and everyone else are immigrants – even African Americans.

I hear no cries to ship the Germans and the Irish back to Europe, but every so often the cry goes up to ship the “Africans” back. And never more so than during the Trump campaign.

Wielding Republican Power

In Independent America’s early history, when it first began to put its republican democracy together, this was a real issue. And at the time, Blacks were the Them America sought to control.

Out of this need, the Electoral College was born. Simply put, America employed the Electoral College to increase the political influence of the south without granting full suffrage to Blacks.

To do this, slave owners were allowed to count each slave as 3/5th of a vote. Whether directly or indirectly, this helped ensure racist interests had a strong political voice during and after slavery.

Even if we accept that this was a reasonable decision back in the 1700s and 1800s… maybe even the 1900s, it’s 2016 and the Electoral College still remains.

Only now is the Electoral College under real fire, when popular vote went to Hillary, but it brought us Trump. The irony in all this is that Hillary did win the north, but still lost the election. Virtually everywhere else reigned in Trump.

Thus, the Electoral College does exactly what it was meant to do: ensure White nationalist ideologies get a front seat at the political arena.

A Democracy in Crisis

This discrepancy – amongst others – has sent a split tearing through America. Toss in the fact that the CIA reported Russia “rigged” the elections to get Trump into office, and the split keeps growing.

And so a country whose reputation since the 1700s has been to expand and restore democracy, now faces real crises as it tries to restore its own.

Reading the news these days, I find myself doing double-takes. The script reads like a movie Angelina Jolie should star in. She can be Agent Salt all over again.

In fact, it’s hard to believe the headlines are about America at all. Headlines like:

America is (perhaps) more divided than it’s ever been before. Americans don’t trust the media, the banks, the politicians, the water, the climate, nothing.

The Threat of Stabilisation

Ironically, the threat no one is thinking of is what if someone else does what America has always done? What if China decides it’s time to stabilise America for a change? What if Russia provides arms to the militants behind Trump’s campaign to keep him in office by whatever means possible?

You can console yourself with the this is America talk. If it’s one thing this election has taught me, it’s to expect anything. Nothing is impossible. In fact, at this point, if we find out Trump is a Russian spy and Hillary heads the Illuminati, I promise I won’t be surprised.

We’re living through an interesting bit of history. But I suppose whether this is a step in the right direction or cause for serious concern, once again depends on the side of the fence you’re standing on.

All I know is this:

Trump doesn’t need to build another wall. He has already succeeded. And if I was Russia, I would get a kick out of electing him too…

=/

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19 Comments Add yours

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I too have studied American history. What you say is true. However, it is also helpful to study the dissenters throughout US history. They encourage me greatly as I live here amidst some very troubling events.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. America has definitely had a rebellious nature from day one, and truth be told we all admire it. I just hope that that nature helps to restore peace and social justice. We’re not in a good place right now. =/

      Like

  2. w1nt3l says:

    Having read and mostly understood the Federalist papers, I see how far we’ve diverted from the true course of democracy. It’s an interesting point in our history indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m beginning to wonder if America will ever find its way back. Whether Trump still sits in the Oval Office in February or no, all hell is going to break loose.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. dogotek says:

    Human history seems to repeat over and over again. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Humans make up causes like “Manifest Destiny” as an excuse to do the dirt they want to do and not feel remorse. Being less than 300 years old, America Is a young arrogant teenager on the world
    Stage. Some countries have documents older than that. Arrogant teenagers make many mistakes. You are correct to feel you would not be surprised no matter what happens next. Did anyone say aliens? LOL. Stay tuned. American history is about to take a wild but predictable turn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aliens would definitely surprise me. That goes far beyond just American politics. That’s intergalactic! Haha

      America is very young, but it’s come a long way. That’s impressive. But yes, it’s also definitely made some mistakes. It’s governed by people though, and therefore subject to human error. I think blaming the country and not the people kills the accountability

      Liked by 1 person

      1. MJF Images says:

        I so agree with you about blaming the government. The problems we have in this country are because of Americans, not the American government.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s because of both, because one is a product of the other. 🙂

        Like

  4. MJF Images says:

    Agree with everything except that Hillary did not win the north. She lost key battleground states like Wisconsin and Ohio, Pennsylvania as well. She lost in not only rural places but also in suburbs. Too many latinos voted for Trump and too many women as well. She won the popular vote because she won big in states like California and New York, and even bigger in populous urban areas like L.A. and Seattle. In short she won the coasts (big) and Trump won the middle. A contributing factor was the low turnout, especially among the young who supported Bernie. They would have turned out for him, and their apathy or outright dislike of Hillary meant by staying home they were voting for Trump. Interesting blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is true, but she won the nothern most states along with the coasts. I didn’t want to overcomplicate a situation people were already informed about. The election was there for context, and not really the focus.

      You are right about the voting though. I’m still confused as to why Latinos and women voted for Trump, and Blacks as well.

      But it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of Bernie supporters refused to vote. To them, Hillary and Trump were probably different sides of the same coin.

      Like

  5. Well said! Well said! 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Christopher. 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  6. cmoas says:

    This is very well written!
    Honestly it is refreshing to read some facts about this country’s HIStory. I love learning about the times before my arrival.. This hits home because I am indigenous to this land, but if you see me you would classify me as being African-American. My issue with that is because for so long (blacks) have been shoved into a general group, placed at unbelievable disadvantages, then are told to just get over it.. not realizing that folks of this nation are living in Post-Jim crow, Etc. Not realizing the psychological effects all of these conditions/events have on the brain. As you beautifully written I to wonder what would America would do if other nations tried the same underhandedness that they have implemented on others. I hear all the time how people in other countries do not like “Americans”.. which is their perception due to how the gov’t treats other countries.. I get it.. but that in no way reflects every person residing on the land. We could go on forever about this but I’ll keep it short! Again Thank you for this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi! You can go on for as long as you like in the comments. I read every word every time haha. I love seeing how people engage with the posts and what thoughts they prompt.

      I get lumped into the African American group as well because of my appearance. I’m Jamaican or West Indian and will never be anything but. When I become a citizen, I’ll be Jamaican America or something. My culture is surprisingly different from African Americans. We have very little in common outside of race.

      Did you mean you’re Native American by the way? I’ve always been curious about their practices, esp for those who live on reserves.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting. And for all our sakes, I hope no one meddles in America further to “assist” the democracy. If we’re being honest with ourselves though, Russia already has…

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Excellent post and this conversation needs to continue in order to bring awareness to the impending extinction of our race. Our millennials must be made aware of the underlying tone of this nation’s history. They are attempting to rock them to sleep, rob us of our heritage, and stop us from advancing the plight of our people by keeping our children “asleep” with social media and technology. Time to bring our attention to our CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS and stop distracting our children’s awareness with characters like “honey boo boo”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Extinction of which race, exactly? The Blacks or the Native Americans? I don’t know what your ethnic background is.

      Millennials have chosen ignorance over a lot of things voluntarily. No one really wants to know when the lies are often so much more palatable. Judging by who voted in Trump, so has the older generation.

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Both 😀. True, indeed.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Both 😀. True, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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