Site icon Alexis Chateau

The Lingering Curse of America’s Manifest Destiny

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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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