People's History: Spanish American War, 1898-1902 (Chap 12)

Music: Claire de Lune (Debussy, 1905)

We spoke of freedom: every foreign land
should have it. But our efforts to expand
preempted others' rights: the ways and means
would come from Cuba and the Philippines.

A lethal combination: companies intent
on foreign markets, and a future President
committed to expansion. Teddy Roosevelt, face
of conquest, said "the greatest race? a fighting race!"
The Post in Washington could recognize "a taste
of Empire in the people." Business, not in haste
for war, preferred a route to China ("open door")
and full control in Cuba. But the guarantor
of foreign commerce is possession of the land.
With Cuban liberation we began to understand
that Spanish rule was giving way to rule by blacks.
So when The Maine exploded all of Spain's attacks
on Cuban freedom fighters were attacks on us.
But now it seemed that no one wanted to discuss
the freedom issue, for this "splendid little war"
soon ended, and the plans for peace would quite ignore
the Cubans. So Americans assumed control
of timber, mining, rail, and sugar, as the goal
of "open trade" was satisfied. We kept our vow
(no annexation), if the Cubans would allow
us to "maintain" its government and "intervene"
as needed. Now McKinley turned to Philippine
concerns. He couldn't give the islands back to Spain
or France or Britain. "Savages" could not sustain
a government themselves! So he'd democratize
the helpless Philippines: "uplift and civilize
and Christianize." The Senate said, conveniently,
that just beyond the islands was the China Sea,
with markets limitless. The Philippines had coal
and wood and coffee. The Pacific was our goal,
and we achieved it. Notably, to those who deem
our actions harsh, we haven't lost our self-esteem -
they're only "Orientals"! So uncertainty
divided Labor: FOR the opportunity
for trade, AGAINST imperial intent. And blacks
were working now as soldiers, but against attacks
on colored people. War endured three years, the dead
in thousands for America, and torment spread
throughout a gentle land, a hundred thousand who
were just defending homes against the soldier's view:
to "kill the niggers." Prompting, thus, the wit of Twain:
"Benevolent Assimilation" his refrain.

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