Our manifest destiny, our duty
While substituting for a U.S. History class, I began musing through the textbook. Upon browsing through the section that covered America’s expansion into the West, I came across an old term that I had not considered in a while.
The term was “manifest destiny.” Manifest destiny was a term coined in the 1840s during the height of America’s desire to expand west.
The textbook explains the term this way: “Many Americans believed that their movement westward was predestined by God. The phrase ‘manifest destiny’ expressed the belief that the United States was ordained to expand to the Pacific Ocean and into Mexican and Native American territory.”
Many Americans also believed that this destiny was manifest, or “obvious and inevitable.” While this belief may not have been the direct cause for our expansion west, the movement that it tried to justify remains a dark stain on our history. The glory of our expansion west will forever be tainted by the massacre of thousands of Native Americans and the complete obliteration of many Native American tribes.
This era will always be spoiled by the deceit, the lies, and the broken promises our country used to exploit the Native Americans and their land. Stories of “The Trail of Tears,” “The Flight of the Nez Pierce,” “The Fall of the Sioux Nation,” and “The Last Stand of the Apache Warriors” will forever haunt the conscience of America.
Even though the ugliness of this period is etched in our brains, we must learn what caused the ugliness to disappear from the eyes of the people that created this history. When one stamps “the will of God” upon the entire movement west, people can become comfortable accepting any actions that fall under the movement as “God’s divine plan.”
The massacre of innocent women and children is much easier to accept and reason with in one’s heart when it is called the divine will of God. The people found a fancy name and a righteous concept to place upon their evildoings so that they could live with themselves and the true nature of their actions. For who can argue with the will of God, even if it involves the annihilation of an entire people, their land, and their way of life?
We can lament the failures of our past; however, we cannot escape the harsh realities of the present and the history that we create today. I cannot help but fear the eerie similarities between manifest destiny and the doctrines used today to justify our malicious actions.
We, too, are guilty of beautifying the ugly realities of our actions in order to ease our consciences and convince ourselves that we are doing what is right. It seems that we have learned the wrong lesson from history. We have learned to justify our actions at any cost rather than face the true nature of our actions.
How else could we support the invasions of another country based on flimsy accusations? How else could we justify the destruction of Iraq’s entire infrastructure with our “shock and awe” bombing rampage? What better way to wash away the blood of over 100,000 dead Iraqi citizens and over 1,200 dead American soldiers from our hands than to simply define it as “our duty to defend and promote freedom”?
However noble this cause may seem, when applied to our current war, it is hollow. For Iraq never posed a threat to our freedom, and their people had little influence in the decision to promote their own liberation. Freedom is not free, but it is also not simply a card to be played when all other reasons for war have run out.
Unlike our ancestors who desensitized themselves to the cruel realities of their malicious ways by calling it manifest destiny, we must not explain away our inhumanity by convincing ourselves that it is our inherent “duty.”
Shane Valdez is a resident of Grass Valley. More of his articles can be read on his Web site at http://www.thetruthsayer.com
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