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Manifest Destiny Rides Again

by CHARLES SULLIVAN

American history was built not only upon actual events; it was also built upon an idea that became known as manifest destiny. The phrase ‘manifest destiny’ was coined by an influential editor, John L. O’Sullivan in 1845. It reads in part:

“…the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federalitive development of self government to us. It is a right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth.”

The seeds of manifest destiny arrived on the shores of North America with the landing of Christopher Columbus. Since then it has been the ruling principle behind American imperialism, capitalism and ultimately world domination. Manifest destiny is the creed of capitalistic expansion that is responsible for armed conflicts around the world. It is the unquestioned religion of America that also bears a strange resemblance to the ideology of the cancer cell.

The history of the US has been an unbroken chain of events that is carrying us into a future of unspeakable violence and misery. The doctrine of manifest destiny was then, as now, essentially racist and bigoted in its world view. Let’s not forget that it was this paradigm of superiority in the eyes of a god made in their own image that not only permitted, it provided the spurious moral authority for the genocide of the American Indian, the plunder of the land for its resource value, the theft of the land from its original inhabitants, the enslavement of the Negro, subjugation of women and endless war on the poor. What manifest destiny has done to America it will, if left to its own devices do for the entire world.

It is this same essentially religious spirit that is behind the spread of capitalism to all parts of the planet. If we allow this unjust and inhumane conquest to move across the world, we can expect the continuation of the mass murders that America has always purveyed, the continued theft of land from sovereign nations, destruction of biological and cultural diversity, slavery, and the wholesale conversion of other religious sects to one world religion–that of manifest destiny, Christian fundamentalism, and capitalism. This is what is really meant by the New World Order extolled by George H. Bush at the onslaught of the first Persian Gulf War. Thus, the terms manifest destiny and capitalism are interchangeable. They mean essentially the same thing. Christian fundamentalism has too often provided the bogus moral authority behind the precepts of manifest destiny and capitalism.

What we are witnessing in Bush’s rush to war with Iraq is a continuation of manifest destiny. The rich white men who are running the American government—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Rove, and the corporations that own them believe they are superior to the brown-skinned Iraqi people; just as the early puritans and missionaries thought themselves superior to the American Indians they slaughtered by the thousands. As seen through the wide angle lens of American history, this is not strictly speaking Bush’s war–it is capitalism’s war. We’ve seen the same thing happen again and again, regardless of who was occupying the Whitehouse; whether Republican or Democrat; Progressive or Conservative. Endless war is necessary to feed the insatiable engine of capitalism. The assumption of moral superiority and therefore greater worth is dangerous, because it sanctions and rationalizes the slaughter of innocent people and the theft of their land. Under such religious authority these atrocities are, in effect, the will of God and therefore right and just.

So deeply imbedded in the American psyche is the precept of capitalism and its twin—manifest destiny that few of us even bother to question it. But the more we buy into these lies the harder it will be to extricate ourselves from them.

As a society we are so ashamed of our own history that we cannot give it an honest rendering in our schools and in our history books. We tremble to face it. It is for the same reason that the president and his henchmen go before the world and tell lie after lie; they are too ashamed of what they are really doing to publicly admit it. They are living in constant denial of the truth; but the world knows what they are doing.

Violence stems from ignorance and fear. We have bitter, conniving, gluttonous, clutching, fearful people who are running the government. They are a danger not only to us but to the whole world. Most importantly, we must understand that capitalism is inherently unjust and undemocratic by nature.

However, if we insist upon treating only the symptoms of disease rather than the underlying causes, we will earn a future that is no better than our past and almost certainly much worse. As the world’s supplies of fossil fuels are depleted, the iron fists of capitalism, with its fantastic array of weapons of mass destruction, will be unleashed upon the world with ever more devastating results. The death toll is mounting. Our day of reckoning is at hand. As a people we must put an end to this madness before it puts an end to us. Economies, and governments, based upon greed, gluttony, conspicuous consumption, and waste; the exploitation and enslavement of working people; the rape and plunder of the land, sea and air–has never been in the interest of the working people.

If there is ever to be peace in this world, social justice, equality and environmental health, capitalism has to go. In the mean time the malignancy is spreading. Let’s not deceive ourselves about why it’s happening.

CHARLES SULLIVAN is a veteran wild forest activist, writer and cabinetmaker who resides on twenty acres of land in the rural countryside of West Virginia.

He can be reached at: cesullivan@stargate.net

 

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