Monday, November 4, 2013

Teddy Roosevelt, the "English Race" and ethnic cleansing: a letter from Bob Kinsey



In response to my "A Visit to Northwestern" (the Northwestern in Chicago) here, Bob Kinsey wrote a powerful response. It is hard, as a human being and a democrat, as a person who aspires to be one of the diverse multitude of humanity, each with human rights, each making her way on this planet, not to look upon this history with a certain revulsion.

Worse yet, Jefferson was also racist toward blacks (he was "the Monster of Monticello" in Paul Finkelman's fine phrase - see here) and awful toward indigenous people; he also "purchased" "the Louisiana" territory. That some of his aspirations for the new regime were better than Teddy's, does not mean that they didn't share a lot...

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Roosevelt's words about "the English Race" need to be taken in to feel the full ugliness of "Manifest Destiny."

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"I recently read the "The Naval War of 1812" by Teddy Roosevelt. This was written perhaps 17 years after Sand Creek and 9 after the battle of "Greasy Grass" (the Sioux name for the "Little Big Horn" in which the butcher Custer - the man who murdered Black Kettle and his wife, still trying to make peace, at the Washita River in 1868, was killed) It dripped with racism. His phrase was "The English Race" and he struggled to draw a line between the insular English and the Continental "English" --of the same race but fighting to win the west and not to be "strangled" by British attempts to honor treaties with the Natives. He, of course, presented the full war of 1812 as a war to preserve the rights of American Seamen and forward the presence of America on the world stage, ignoring the War Hawks goals of expansion --especially into Canada. Yet in his summary of the consequences of the war he essentially found it necessary to "free" the Continental English Race to expand to the west. He was a part of the writing of American History as a glorious forward march of the "English Race". While he honors the bravery of Tecumseh and of course the British troops who were after all of the "English Race" he saw nothing amiss in our [sic - why should us ordinary people ever identify with this lie] determination to spread our dominance over the continent via war. The "social Darwinism" that was so strong a part of his worldview was more interested in building American military and especially naval strength. As much as I know about Roosevelt and the so called accepted values of the times I was surprised at my revulsion over his discussion of the reasons for American success on the water and his disdain for Jefferson who had not built up the Navy as the Federalists had. He prided the Federalists as "real politik" and dismissal of Jefferson's Presidency as clouded by idealism unfit to make decisions in the real world. I suppose he would have found a friend in Governor Evans and his assumptions that the Cheyenne and Arapaho were just a problem to be eliminated rather than folks with equal rights and dignity. Every day I become less enamored with my citizenship in a population that celebrates this history.

Bob Kinsey
'Unlimited Growth is the Ideology of a Cancer Cell'"

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"Dear Bob,

Thank you for the beautiful letter; I also have some of these feelings. We should all go join with the indigenous people and make a different kind of democracy; the history of America - with some important exceptions like the fight to extend the Bill of Rights, the fight against bondage in the Revolution and by the North in one aspect of the Civil War, the union and civil rights movement, and the like - is nothing to be proud of...

All the best,
Alan"

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