If you’ve ever paid attention in your high school history class, chances are you’ve heard the term Manifest Destiny before. For those who don’t know, Manifest Destiny is a term first coined in 1845, describing an attitude amongst Americans that, not only could the U.S. eventually stretch across to the Pacific, but that it was morally justified and ultimately inevitable. Now, if you aren’t wearing blinders of veneration toward our foreign policy today, that description should sound eerily familiar. Perhaps not as heavy handed as the 19th century, but the American belief ensconced in our culture that we have a moral duty to invade wherever we please in order to police the world and save it from “evil” is America’s 21st century rendition of Manifest Destiny.
An undeniable fact about America’s faith in Manifest Destiny was that it led to the justification of countless atrocities, including numerous conflicts and wars throughout the 19th century – none so popular as the genocide of the Native Americans.
Similarly, our modern-day conviction has us entangled militarily in more than half a dozen countries. Currently, we’re carrying out drone strikes that kill civilians at a shockingly regular pace, funding both sides of conflicts, and are at least somewhat responsible for the worst humanitarian crisis on the globe – the starvation in Yemen. Yet, if you asked the average American about our escapades overseas, they would overwhelmingly respond in a positive manner, as if we were upholding decency throughout the world. Just look at the backlash given to sports teams recently for kneeling during the national anthem. The very idea of not respecting the flag and the soldiers who are “fighting for freedom” gets under more Americans’ skin then a headline about bombing a hospital ever could.
This patriotic psychosis is more than just a double-edged sword though. We fail to grasp how someone could rationalize a suicide attack, even after witnessing two decades of the U.S. occupying their homeland; choosing instead to ship young adults off to fight these “extremists” in their far-away lands. Yet, here at home, countless Americans find nothing abnormal about sending an entire generation off to a war where they’re either killed, mutilated, or return home so mentally broken, that record numbers are committing suicide themselves. And we continue this trend, not with passive acceptance, but with nationalistic fervor. Meanwhile, anyone who dissents from popular opinion by not wishing to see their friends suffer through this agony is quickly branded the senseless one.
Is that not being an extremist in its own sense? Accepting the death of entire groups, including many of our own, for what is at this point, an obviously nefarious cause? Nevertheless, even upon reading this, those under the hypnotic blanket of jingoism will disregard this comparison of holding any weight whatsoever.
The underlying effects of this poisonous mindset don’t just harm other countries either. While our citizens may not be forced to withstand drone strikes as a regular occurrence, the financial consequences are deeply-rooted in our “defense” spending binges. Central banks fund these illustrious endeavors by inflating away our currency, borrowing unprecedented sums of money as well as a number of other reprehensible measures. Without which, the U.S. would surely be unable to carry on these never-ending campaigns.
Moreover, this prolonged acceptance of the rationale behind America’s 21st century Manifest Destiny has led to the withering away of innumerable rights here at home. The blowback we’ve incurred from our foreign policy has aided in turning the federal government into a leviathan; with dozens of executive agencies, each filled with unelected bureaucrats and their own militarized SWAT teams; in addition to a labyrinth of rules, made up of hundreds of thousands of pages worth of regulations, essentially making it impossible for the average citizen to operate without being in violation of one law or another. Add that to the massive spying programs and the relentless rhetoric of exchanging freedom for security, and we may look back in the very near future to find the Constitution and the principles of liberty this country was founded on to be only a distant memory.
Luckily, we have a plethora of historic examples illustrating exactly where a nation with overzealous, imperialistic tendencies eventually leads. If we don’t swallow our patriotic pride and consider the similarities between us, we’re doomed to suffer the same, preventable fate. People today often look back at the genocide of the Native Americans and wonder “how did people just allow this to happen?” Hopefully we wake up before the same can be said about us, that we were all complacent in America’s 21st century Manifest Destiny.
Thomas J. Eckert
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