This is my first attempt at trying to write something like this and get some of the thoughts out of my head. I’ve tried to make it focussed but I definitely lack in the planning area and will try to improve upon that in further pieces. This is more catharsis than anything else as I think it’s important to talk, discuss or at least let out things that bother you. I’m sure I’ve got some things wrong and would love to be corrected if that’s the case.
This isn’t an attack on the American people at all as you can’t tar everyone with the same brush yada yada. This is mostly an attack on Trump’s claim to “make America great again”. America, as we refer to it now as a national body, is incredibly young. In its incredibly short history I feel it is predominantly covered with atrocities, abuse of power and an overwhelming greed that seems to be born from capitalism and manifested in their organisation of themselves. So I’m wondering, what period is he referring to, which ‘great’ part of America’s history is he going to attempt to replicate. Slavery? Chemical warfare? Persecution of minorities? I’m not a history scholar, nor am I very good at articulating myself very well as I get easily riled up and once that happens you generally tend to lose control of your argument.
To add to this I want to point out that I’m not saying Britain is any better. I am ashamed of Britain’s history too which is covered in religious genocide, the raping and pillaging of multiple cultures throughout the world and more currently the systematic deconstruction of anything resembling a forward thinking nation. I have very little love for my country as an identity and the way it is, has, and probably will be run.
With that out of the way I’m going to move on to some key points I want to look at with regards to American history. Note, I am focussing on the negative here as I feel most of the positive aspects of America’s history comes from its people and not its administration. Civil rights movements etc were a protest AGAINST the way things were by the people, not the state. Ok eventually bills were passed in an effort to create a more equal America but I question whether this ever would have happened without the peoples’ immense bravery and strength in fighting an oppressive regime.
So I’m going to cover a variety of points and will try to do so chronologically. Again, please note I am not saying America is only responsible for bad things, but that the state has committed a terrible amount of atrocities infringing on the people’s constitutional and human rights. Here goes!
1973 Siege of Fort Pitt
There is speculation as to the legitimacy of this claim but the theory is that British gave items such as blankets from a smallpox infirmary to the indigenous people of Northern America with the hopes of spreading the disease. Early biological warfare in the guise of a gift, just like a Trojan Horse. Now I make the point of saying the British, because these are the people who committed the act and proceeded to populate Northern America along with the French and Spanish. All these people immigrants, but more accurately, invaders, because the intentions were to displace the original inhabitants and seize the land for themselves. This is NOT what most immigrants do. So first things first ‘America’ is a country of immigrants, it was built on immigrants from Europe and slaves from Africa. Whilst it wasn’t ‘Americans’ who did this, this is one of the first terrible things to happen in the name of the new country.
1870s Bison Hunting
As with most history and the prior point, there is question as to who is to blame. Whether it was the indigenous people of North America or the Immigrant (now) Americans, they all played a part in driving an entire species almost to the point of extinction within North America. The amount of waste that arose due to commercial hunters slaughtering the animals for their skins and leaving the carcass to rot just makes it an even more atrocious crime.
A Country Built by Slaves?
I’m not saying America is alone in this. Most empires and nations have been built off of slavery in one form or another. Be it through overt slavery, the shackle and chained variety, or through oppressive economic slavery where ‘sub-class’ citizens perform the bulk of manual labour.
With that out of the way there is no doubt that America has a sad history when it comes to slavery. There are arguments that say racism caused slavery or slavery caused racism along with other random claims such as the American form of slavery was worse than others and I’m not really concerned with that as I see no difference between the oppression of people regardless of the rationale. Slavery is slavery, some more violent than others which is bad, but the violence is another issue.
This topic is contentious as most people wouldn’t want to admit that their country was built on the backs of suffering, violence and oppression but as I said before I would argue that most nations are built on that. The fact is that plenty of cotton (the oil of the 19th century) was farmed during the 19th century which became a major part of the economy. Being easier and cheaper to produce than wool it quickly helped increase spending as well. Before cotton the main use of slaves was tobacco, rice and indigo farming, the former of which is still a massive industry to this day.
Now there are arguments that will say that slavery itself didn’t contribute to national wealth but it definitely aided many individuals in amassing a small fortune. Also the amount of force available to the slave masters it what made it an incredibly cruel form of slavery, similar to the slave drivers of Egypt I guess.
Although slavery and capitalism are diametrically opposed, it almost seems impossible for the capitalist dream to have been achievable without the backbreaking labour of slaves.
-Various strikes such as 1914 Ludlow Massacre and Battle of Blair Mountain 1921 where strikers were killed
-1920-1933: Prohibition (echoed by the War on Drugs)
Prohibition and the War on Drugs are very similar, an attempt to control a substance that people use leading to increased crime around the substance and an immense misuse of government funding (which also happens to be wasted). Kurzgesagt has a really good video on this topic so check it out if you have time. Also I’ve noticed I can get carried away and type a little too much so from now on I’m going to try and make points short and sweet!
As a result of prohibition many people became lawbreakers. As so many people are breaking the law it makes the law itself seem arbitrary and creates a disrespect for the law which is a very dangerous thing. Organised crime flourished as they were providing people with a service they wanted, creating criminals that were adored by the people as they were giving them what the state wouldn’t. People who were previously employed in a legal position lost their jobs. Potency became more important as it allowed you to store more of the product in a smaller place leading to increased consumption of higher percentage drinks also putting people at more risk of sickness (see Kurzgesagt video).
The following points I feel apply to both prohibition and the war on drugs more directly than the previous points. Bribery of officials was inevitable with prohibition and is becoming increasingly apparent in drugs trafficking which creates a corrupt legal system leading to a lack of faith in police. An incredibly negative thing when we are supposed to feel safe in their presence. The justice system becomes overburdened with relatively small offences leading to overcrowding of prisons, unnecessary spending in court cases and police raids. The lack of regulation of a product leads to less control over the substance leading to impurities and possible dangers within the product that will later be consumed by the public. Due to the illegality of substance abuse it makes it incredibly difficult for those with problems to seek help for fear of reproach.
Finally referencing the Kurzgesagt video again there are other methods to tackling substance abuse. More reparative measures rather than aggressive sentencing have been seen to be more effective in helping people and also more fiscally responsible.
1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
War is terrible. We all know this yet everywhere around the world people continue to fight in the name of justice, freedom, or any other bullshit reason they claim to be fighting for. WWII I would argue is a war that probably was, in a way, for the right reason. Standing against intense hate and genocide I think is generally a good thing I just wish we could solve it without violence.
Regardless of the merits and reasonings of any war there are different ways to fight them and this is the crux or my argument against it. What weapons you use, who you kill, there are so many rules in war it’s crazy. Unfortunately a lot of laws come in after the fact, nuclear weapons being a good example.
On August 6th and 9th of 1945 America dropped two bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. There two bombs were so devastating that they played a very big part in bringing the fighting between America and Japan to an end. A positive result but the cost was unacceptably high. Between the two events approximately half a million people died, the majority of whom were civilians as neither site held any particularly strategic military benefit.
America has no idea what the effects of these bombs would be as weapons like this had never been used before. They were testing out these new munitions, at a time when the war was already coming to a close, on a predominantly civilian inhabited location. These bombs, as most, are indiscriminate in who they kill. The separation from the people you are killing is one of the most poisonous things within war. Detaching the murderer from his victims. When all that’s left behind is an ashen silhouette how bad can you feel?
Further to this you have all the related aftereffects of the bombs. There is still debate as to how much the bombs affected the environment and increased rates of cancer etc. but given our knowledge of how dangerous radiation can be to living things you have to expect that it has in some way damaged the surrounding area.
The belief is that this exposure to radiation could be the cause of increased rates of cancer, hair loss, blindness, delayed development, thyroid problems and many other things. As I said, some people dispute the figures and whether this is an exact cause and effect but I feel we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least consider there is a high likelihood that these things are connected.
Alongside this there is also the long-lasting environmental aspects to consider. Radioactive fallout will have contaminated water and animals making them unsafe for consumption. This contamination would not only be within the immediate area but being that the bombs were detonated in the air, some 600 meters above Hiroshima for example, the wind and anything else will have spread the radioactive dust further, spreading the effects of the bomb.
This wasn’t the last time America would use such devastatingly inhumane weapons.
It looks like as was they way, with McCarthyism and all the associated fear of the ‘red threat’, that the main reasoning for going to Vietnam was the communist threat. Fearing the domino theory that if one country fell so would neighbouring countries and the threat to the capitalist way would be greater. Just like in WWII the American army didn’t just use weapons with a direct impact i.e. shooting and killing someone, they also used weapons with long-lasting, devastating effects on the environment and people. Considering the impact of nuclear weapons they couldn’t do they again so this time they decided chemical warfare might be better suited to their needs.
A series of chemical agents referred to as “rainbow herbicides” we rained down upon the Vietnamese countryside, most infamous of these would be Agent Orange. Not only was it used for deforestation to reduce cover for Guerrilla troops, its intentions were also to decimate crops in an attempts to starve them out in a war of attrition. The problem here is that this damage wasn’t temporary and it was indiscriminate. Some reported 4.5 million acres of land were destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people were wounded, and contaminating soil whose effects are still felt today in heavily sprayed areas. This was all fairly terrible but in a foreshadowing of Iraq the American army also engaged in the arrest and torture of members of the Viet Minh. My Lai, a small inoffensive village in South Vietnam. Home to another of America’s regrets where hundreds of civilians were murdered by American soldiers.
The war itself came under attack from the American people, who rightly I feel, didn’t really understand why their troops were even in Vietnam. No matter how negative your view of one army might be you can’t ignore the fact that they too will have casualties and those people also have families that suffer the unbearable pain of loss too soon. Nixon, recognising the negative view from the public and the increasing American casualties, decided to withdraw ground troops. Not to say he was finished as this just meant an increase in aerial bombing. He was ‘allowing’ the South Vietnamese forces to focus on the ground fight, how generous he is to put them in the firing line.
My main beef with this kind of war is that it is an internal conflict. We argue that we shouldn’t get involved in many internal conflicts, unless we can benefit of course and it’s in the name of ‘public safety’. Communists are a threat and oil belongs to us is the crux of it in my eyes.
Another terrible war. All war is terrible but this war being more recent is what makes me worry as we are meant to be moving forward. Ok yes, less people die in international wars now than they previously did and the majority of war related deaths fall to civil wars, but just because that fact is true doesn’t mean we can justify our unnecessary involvement. I go a bit off point here on the focus of America as an identity and do look at some individual cases which aren’t reflective of the country as a whole but I think should be mentioned as they are too horrific not to deserve note.
Starting with the reasoning, the initial purpose for entering Iraq was a fear that they harboured WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) alongside this America also had the added retaliation to 9/11. Both these claims were later found to be inaccurate in that there were no weapons and 9/11 was seen to have no link between Saddam Hussein or Al-Qaeda. Now I don’t know if what I’m reading is true as obviously lots of things are doctored and changed, all I can do is report it the way I feel with what’s available to me.
Through the toppling of the regime that was in place, America created a power vacuum which is never going to help. This led to lots of civil unrest as people fight for control and puts the general public at risk during the turmoil. On the topic of media coverage there are cases of great misrepresentation of information and propaganda. There is a story of Jessica Lynch who was a great ‘war hero’ who later insisted that what the media had portrayed was grossly inaccurate. The fear here is that this information came from the Pentagon and the press. This is becoming an increasing issue across the globe where people are uncertain which sources of information to trust OR are too willing to trust without questioning the information.
Along with My Lai and the torture of prisoners in Vietnam, Iraq also had some controversial issues including the events that occurred at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah. What makes Abu Ghraib such an intimidating piece of history is that what they did wasn’t to gain intel or in an attempt to help the war effort. It was clearly just an abuse of power and shows how toxic it can be. Whilst prisoners were tortured they were also the personal play things of these soldiers. Some of these things included;
- arranging prisoners in sexual positions
- forced masturbation whilst being videotaped
- jumping on detainees
- raping a female detainee
- placing them in dog collars and posing for photos
That’s not all but as you can tell it was pretty horrible and is just despicable. Fortunately many soldiers were charged of the crimes they committed and others reprimanded. But who knows if this was all the cases or whether an army can ever be found truly accountable given the secrecy they are afforded by their governments (I’m talking about military in general here not just America).
Fallujah starts with a march that ignored the curfew imposed by the US military. During the march the US military opened fire of the protesters claiming self-defence killing and wounding many civilians. The military say they were returning fire, the protestors say they were not armed, independent observers say the protestors were unarmed. Without being there it’s a little bit of a ‘he says, she says’ issue. But given that none of the US military were injured during the incident it certainly seems dubious. Following this there were various bombings within the area, again subject to further inspection as to the origin of the attacks. Regardless, in March 2004, there was a later attack on an American transport convoy where 4 contractors were killed by a group of insurgents. This was the spark.
In April 2004 a siege commenced as a response to the killing of these 4 Americans. The siege lasted a few days involving aerial strikes and pressure from the ground. As with every statistic these are subject to speculation depending on where you get your information but it seems to average out at around 500 Iraqi deaths, of which a large proportion were non-combatants. Eventually, after much complaint from the Iraqi Council about the amount of civilian deaths, the American’s agreed to a ceasefire. However a few days later the American’s were attacked again by insurgents, responding by later bombing the entire northern district of Fallujah. This kind of thing happened again until in May the American’s withdrew.
Without even considering the atrocities that occurred during this war with how some soldiers conducted themselves, it was never going to be helpful (as war rarely is). Nobody every thinks they are in the wrong. It takes someone to put an end to the cycle by not retaliating, not reacting, to ever have a chance of stopping this. By attacking Iraq all we managed to do was justify the actions of the radicals by offering them fuel and more evidence that these forces from the west are evil. I don’t know, but I reckon there were probably a lot more Iraqi residents that probably sympathised with the American people after the attacks of 9/11, now it’s much easier for them to say ‘you deserved it’. Whilst that thinking is still wrong, and I’m sure there are still plenty of good people who would never think that, it makes it harder to sympathise people who react like this and allow so many innocent people to die in the process. You give martyrs an excuse, you justify their actions, you create a bigger problem by reacting in this way.
Like I’ve said previously I find it hard to articulate myself sometimes as it’s very hard to separate yourself from your emotions and that leads to a lack of clarity of thought. This is why I find discussion a much better way of investigating these issues as you have people to challenge you on your views and encourage you to strengthen your argument, so long as you maintain a cool head. So I will be making a post in the future about morality, good and evil and all that jazz where I will hopefully be able to express my point of view better than I have here in the penultimate paragraph of this section.
Modern Slavery, Class Oppression
This will be a long one and something that I feel in endemic of most ‘advanced’ nations.
When I talk about oppression I am not talking about gendered/racial/ethnically provoked inequality. What I mean is that the majority of people are oppressed by a system that prevents them from making a difference and having any real influence or power. It happens to be more prevalent amongst minorities but again my problem is with it’s general presence in most ‘developed’ countries. I guess it’s a more Marxist definition of oppression.
The system we are part of relies upon keeping people uneducated, unable to attain, limiting possibilities due to financial, social and political shackles. Through creating a curriculum that doesn’t promote critical thinking you hinder people’s chances to progress. The excuse being that this is because working class people don’t need those skills to be a cashier.
Consumerism is largely to blame as well. We judge ourselves a lot by what we can afford, what labels we wear, what brands we use. This is how we create an identity, believing that because we can use the same laptop as a business exec or celebrity, then we are of the same standing. A lack of true identity replaced by our identity as a consumer, that works as a sedative to disguise where we really stand.
All this isn’t to say that the elites aren’t slaves, because I’m still certain that many of them are. Slaves to the idealogical vision they’ve been sold through generations. A false impression of success that has been dictated to them rather than defined on their terms.
These systems make people believe that they are the fault and it’s their problem, not the states responsibility to protect, educate and care for its people. These systems lead to the personalisation of our issues. We blame it on local sources that we can see. Lazy co-workers, our children taking our time, or we choose scapegoats, immigrants, funding overseas aid. All of this plays into the hands of the elite as it misdirects our feelings of ill will towards others rather than the source of the suffering.
One positive is that with the ever increasing availability of information and educational tools more and more people can inform themselves without the aid of the state and challenge them on their own grounds. It’s still difficult, but easier today than it was before.
Us Prison System
As with most of these topics there is debate as to the true source of the problem but one thing is certain. America has the largest population of incarcerated citizens. Just to throw a few statistics in that are fairly accepted. America has less than 5% of the global population and more than 20% of the global prison population. This next quote is very loaded and I’m not saying anything about what it means but it is scary nonetheless. “There are more African-American men imprisoned, on probation, or parole than were enslaved in 1850.” Some pretty shocking stuff, what the problem is I couldn’t say, but there is definitely a problem.
Not only is the overpopulation of their prisons a problem but also the burden it puts on the people of the country. Most states spend more money on prisons that they do on education. So rather than money going into helping people make more of themselves, giving people a chance to get out of the hole they’ve been placed in, it’s going towards keeping them in chains, yet again. There are people in these jails serving life sentences for non-violent crimes. Whilst I haven’t got enough information as to what the crimes were, I would argue that keeping people locked up is hardly going to help them repay their debt to society.
It’s a bit of a minefield, many people blame the War on Drugs but then there are others who say that if you look at the statistics that’s not so. Some say the reason is that more arrests lead to felony charges now than they previously did, regardless of the type of crime. So I don’t really know what’s to blame but just like with healthcare I can’t help but think that preventative measures would be more beneficial both economically and socially.
Ok that was heavy so to balance things out let’s go on to highlight some of the cool things America has done!
-If you believe, they put a man on the moon (man on the moon)
-They are making changes with regards to equality for many (not perfect but who is?)
-Some of their constitutional rights are pretty solid (so long as they’re followed)
-Its people have fought for their right to equality (ok not representative of the institution of America but the tenacity of some of the public with regards to their rights just HAS to be mentioned)
I’m sure there’s more, but I’m really tired.
To follow this I’m writing something with a more positive note, that being said I’ve already spun out of control on it a little and have ended up ranting…I promise its intentions are to point out a good thing though!