Tuesday, July 4, 2017
The Myth of Manifest Destiny, Tragic Results, and the 4th of July
To understand the myth and tragedy of Manifest Destiny, read Bear Flag Rising:
BEAR FLAG RISING
by Dale L. Walker
What a historical tour de force!*
Walker gives us readers an amazing distillation of the U.S.'s invasion of western Mexico and manages to combine both extensive references to previous historians, plenty of facts and quotations, vivid metaphors and pictorial language, amazing and fun anecdotes, his own editorial perspectives, and, above all, riveting suspense.
The volume is never dry or ponderous. It reads almost as good as a suspense novel! (I actually stayed up over 3 hours past my bedtime last night because I just had to read a few more pages, again and again and again:-)
And now, having finished this excellent history of the Bear Flag Rebellion, I realize how drastically little I knew about the foundation of my own state, and, tragically, how even more immoral and unjust its founding was than I superficially knew.
Yes, I already knew that Abraham Lincoln opposed the invasion of Mexico, as did Henry David Thoreau, and many abolitionists and ethicists. It's just that I didn't know how thoroughly dysfunctional, immoral, and unjust the whole U.S. invasion was.
This powerful, vivid, biography-centered history of the conquest of California by the United States, shows how, mostly at the instigation of the new President, James Polk, the U.S. invaded and conquered, confiscating at the point of a canon almost half of Mexico! One of the first actions of the Bear Flag filibusters was the robbery of hundreds of horses. Remember, in the old West, horse theft was grounds for hanging!
What a travesty and tragedy of national theft and killing (though fortunately not nearly as many were slaughtered as in Texas).
And weirdly, how this evil of politics, this myth of Manifest Destiny, yet turned out in the long historical run to be for the better, since Mexico was such an unjust mess then, and has ever since up to the present not escaped from its own internal demons.
Historians state that the historical tragedy of Mexico’s dysfunction and injustice comes from the Spanish colonial system and worldview. So, again, as in other occasions of history, out of the U.S. evil actions, some good did come. Baffling how that works.
Walker’s lucid book documents the views of past historians, shares his own conclusions, and is packed with vivid historical vignettes, fascinating biographical details, and odd historical tidbits.
My own comment on the U.S. actions:
America can't be made "great, again" because, often in the past, it was unjust and immoral as in the cases of slavery, conquests, and national robbery and slaughter.
BUT on this 4th of July, we Americans, can seek to make America more good, just, and true, promising to stop supporting Muslim regimes, promising to no longer invade nations which haven't invaded us, etc.
In the Light,
*This short volume is even better than the fine histories and powerful biographies I’ve read recently on Texas and its leaders since returning from my historical journey through that state’s historical sites last month.
*Some of the Texas sites I visited included the grandiose San Jacinto Monument (taller than the Washington Monument), Sam Houston’s gigantic statue, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, the site of the last battle of the Civil War a month after Appomattox (!), and the first battle site of the invasion of Mexico by Zachary Taylor (ordered by President Polk).