Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Manifest Destiny, substantive post

As I was reading Manifest Destiny, I had a slightly different reaction than what I'm getting from other people's blog posts. To me, I took this book and the point of view it represents as an academic study in the history of the term manifest destiny, what it meant in the past, how it was justified and how it might relate to modern day U.S. culture. I don't think that the author was necessarily making a plea in favor of manifest destiny or attempting to justify the genocide of American indians that resulted from U.S. expansion in the past. Contrary to that, I was under the impression that instead of justifying he was merely giving a possible academic explanation for a period in our history when these things were not only accepted by society but encouraged for economic, political, and religious reasons. Americans did place themselves on a pedestal above the rest of the world, one that we have not yet come down from and this is the point I believe Stephanson was making. This high and mighty attitude that we deserve not only more but the best of everything is unfortunately a very American attitude that existed in history during the peak of manifest destiny and still exists today in a different form of manifest destiny. The need felt by the current U.S. government, and many American citizens, to spread democracy all over the world, no matter the consequences can be seen as a modern day version of manifest destiny and this economic, political, and very religious need not only to expand our borders but our influence, culture and power abroad. While I certainly don't agree with every point made in his book, I don't feel that his intention or his point was to make a personal statement on the history of manifest destiny;instead I think he simply wanted to try and explain it and show the parallels it holds to modern day American ideals and policies.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I think we were saying something more to the effect that Stephanson is explaining how we as Americans have historically justified genocide and crazed expansionism. He is certainly not defending it, and I didn't think that was where our class discussion was leading.