Passport and Propaganda: Part 2
Continuing from Part 1, Part 2 assesses the remaining quotes found in the American passport. These articles were not initiated merely to grumble of my home country, no, this was undertaken to present and/or highlight particular progress or perversion, as well as to, in some cases, note conflicting ideas or behaviors of a certain individual or era. Of course, there are privileges to having an American passport, and it is not my wish to give readers the idea that I detest my homeland. What will undoubtedly be ascertained is my detest of the apathy and hypocrisy of those administrations responsible for shaping such harmful policies and norms effecting this great nation.
“This is a new nation based on a mighty continent, of boundless possibilities.”
At the time of Roosevelt’s writing this, Ota Benga, overburdened by depression, committed suicide by shooting himself in the heart [i]. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation being passed 60 years before, many blacks were unable to enjoy the boundless possibilities others had. The cessation of slavery did not positively catalyze social inclusion, however, as Benga was forced to humiliatingly display himself as a human exhibition along with a chimpanzee at the Bronx Zoo in 1906.
Benga was born in the Ituri Forest, later seized upon by the ruthless greed of Belgium’s King Leopold II (whom will be covered in another writing) in the land later, falsely, named the Congo Free State. Coming home to see his family and village murdered by Leopold’s private army, Benga spent his teenage years as a slave to Dutch greed. Later freed, he was then shamefully exhibited to large crowds at the 1904 Saint Louis’ World Fair [ii]. There was some protest to these humiliating affairs, but public protest did not improve Benga’s desolation in the land of boundless possibilities.
To this day, many Americans suffer bounded opportunities due to race, ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status… basically any recognizable characteristic. This quote, from Roosevelt’s, The Foes of Our Own Household, primarily regarded America’s involvement in World War 1, as well as promotion of “True Americanism”[iii]. Roosevelt considered it an “[…] outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American.”[iv]
A question from his day to the present remains: how willing should one be to discard their past to try to assimilate into a society so consistently unwilling and inept in acknowledgement of human equality?
“Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
“[…] we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”[v] [vi]
Except for Trump’s disgraceful, morally bankrupt presidential exit, no significant change has occurred for the better. COVID-19, metastasizing from a health crisis to an economic crisis, further widening America’s wealth gap, then to a debt crisis, then to a poverty and homelessness crises which, finally, further spotlighted racial disparities; which led to the muddying of voting procedures. [vii] [viii][ix] [x] [xi] [xii] Moreover, controversial voting laws have shown the best interests of the voters are not to be taken seriously, as is the recent case in my old state of Georgia [xiii]. If one cannot vote, how will the heart of America pass on anything?
Though, from a more detached view, the illusion of choice does not truly represent voter importance or impact, anyway. With very few, actual egalitarian changes being introduced or enacted, policies which might serve the heart of America, comes increased rates of voter disinterest; leading to the callous passivity in the heart of America. It goes without saying that the heart of America does not need a Syrian airstrike [xiv], the heart of America does not need a $23 billion arms deal with the UAE [xv], and the heart of America does not need their nation to remain the world’s “emperor of weaponry”. [xvi][xvii]
American transgressions are not uncommon [xviii], as leaders simply continue the cyclical nature of American imperialism, as indeed Eisenhower authorized throughout his presidency. Authorizing a coup in Indonesia primarily over oil [xix], ultimately leading to the mass killings (between 500,000 to 1 million [xx]) and 30 years of brutal dictatorship inflicted upon the heart of Indonesia. Authorizing a coup in Iran, with the UK, primarily over oil [xxi], thereby halting political development and leading to nuclear confrontation [xxii]; fear and anger had become entrenched into the heart of Iran. Authorizing covert action in Guatemala in which to overthrow a democratically elected leader [xxiii], ultimately lead to the deaths of over 100,000 civilians [xxiv]. Civilians… the heart of Guatemala.
“For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say ‘Farewell.’ Is a new world coming? We welcome it–and we will bend it to the hopes of man.”
-Lyndon B. Johnson
Bending nature to man’s wishes…a delusional prospect, and one of the most presumptuous statements ever to be uttered, let alone taken seriously. Being part of his inaugural speech, the excitement these words gave, no doubt, carried the same thrill from that of other newly-inaugurated leaders. As we know, however, that the elation quickly fades and the patriotic prattle rapidly plays itself out. Similar to Roosevelt and Eisenhower, Johnson did push for and accomplished a degree of positive change for Americans. Some progress was made for racial inequality and he further hoped to improve on issues of poverty, education, and public health.
Life is messy, yes. Politics are messy, yes. However, it is my judgement that good deeds do not, and cannot, counterbalance cruel, murderous acts. In assessing the measure of an individual, the composition and size of one’s in-group and the differences of one’s out-group simply does not matter. Good deeds simply do not harmonize with multiple and widespread crimes against humanity.
Spying on anti-Vietnam war activists, wiretapping Martin Luther King [xxv], repeatedly lying to the public about losses in the Vietnam War, and simultaneously holding direct responsibility for the eradication of at least 30,000 Vietnamese civilians [xxvi]; his attempts to bend the new world to the hopes (or cravings) of man lead to the breakdown of his physical and mental health, ultimately declining the nomination for another term [xxvii].
“May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.”
-Inscribed on the Golden Spike. Promontory Point, 1869.
The Transcontinental Railroad was initiated in the midst of the Civil War [xxviii]; the time of America’s greatest political, economic, and social disunity. Today, many are aware that America’s early prosperity was from the materialization of capital from racism; sadly, not much had changed. This American accomplishment, as well as the era, nevertheless remained rife with oppression, exploitation, and racism.
Immediately following the Civil War, which united some, but not all American peoples, the American government drove Native Americans further from their lands. Once-Union General Philip Sheridan, as well as other generals, quickly made the transition from the Civil War to the Indian Wars. Sheridan later stated that he:
“[…] acknowledged that the Native Americans were scuttled to reservations with no compensation beyond the promise of religious instruction and basic supplies of food and clothing—promises, he wrote, which were never fulfilled.” [xxix]
This behavior does not, to me, exemplify national unity, nor does:
“We took away their country and their means of support, broke up their mode of living, their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them, and it was for this and against this they made war. Could anyone expect less? Then, why wonder at Indian difficulties?” [xxx]
Efforts to push Native Americans had become absolute, it being an effect of the railroad’s construction. Yet, what of the causes? That is, what of the arrangement and construction? The poisonous mindset of “progress-at-any-cost”, ever-present today as it was then, usually results with oppression an exploitation; which indeed it did in heavily disproportionate measures. Many European Americans worked on the railroad, yet it was the tens of thousands Chinese immigrants who suffered most; tasked with the exceedingly dangerous duties, working longer hours, receiving relatively less pay, and, lastly, dying from harsh conditions at much higher rates than other ethnicities, with an estimated 1,200 dying throughout the construction of this accomplishment of national unity [xxxi].
“We send thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us people. We are glad they are still here and we hope it will always be so.”
-Excerpt from the Thanksgiving Address, Mohawk version
Today, we face the threat of global catastrophe, including human-influenced climate change, human-deigned weapons which could annihilate our species many times over, as well as formulated systems of inequality, be they physical and/or networked. The Mohawk’s words of wisdom have been utterly neglected by the delusional and hypnotizing allure of eternal growth and profit. Billions of humans are now held under the whims of megalomaniacs looking to, for example, burn more coal and amass additional nuclear weapons. This ruinous pursuit of profit and growth, of which America has and continues to supervise, has spread globally. Will humans learn from the animals, or will we be yet another casualty in our frenzy for power?
“The cause of freedom is not the case of a race or a sect or a party or a class — it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”
-Anna Julia Cooper
Born a slave in North Carolina, she spent her life promoting inclusion and equality, later being nicknamed “the Mother of Black Feminism” [xxxii]. Though experiencing considerable sexism and racism, it never deterred her iron will. Moreover, despite her incredible lack of privilege and opportunity, she ultimately gained a university education; earning multiple degrees as well as a PhD [xxxiii]. Her life and work have left an extraordinary legacy, showcasing resilience and encouraging empowerment. She has inspired so many, myself included, to spread awareness and promote equality so that all people can enjoy the of license of freedom.
Her grit and passion spurred many to join the fight for equality, a problem which lingers on. Though we have less overtly racist and prejudiced policy-making, present-day policies covertly segregate many, as these issues become glaringly obvious when assessing measures of inequality. Due to disgracefully one-sided, neoliberal economic policies combined with toxically-enduring patriarchy, class and racial prejudice continue.
In my lifetime I’ve witnessed a decline in the standard of living, with the emergence of strongly polarized perspectives, resulting in an incredible lack of willingness to compromise. Further, the accepted notion of “if I work harder, I can earn a better living” simply does not factor into a system in which hard work merely gets one a wretchedly monotonous job for minimum wage, zero paid holiday, zero benefits, and a lack of job security.
There is simply no incentive to sweat and strive for the plodding, mind-numbing jobs under an indifferent (and typically unethical) corporation which funnels all profits to their top tiers. Baffling is the consistently increasing rates of national [xxxiv] and consumer debt [xxxv], depression [xxxvi] and suicide [xxxvii] existing in a country with a continually increasing output and tremendous GDP [xxxviii]. Clearly, something is out of balance. Inequality is so devastatingly apparent, yet, instead of materializing through overtly discriminatory laws, it now does so in a more roundabout way, through policies made by the ultra-rich and well-connected [xxxix] for the ultra-rich and well-connected.
Cooper, the only woman quoted within the passport, if alive today, would notice some degree of social progress, yet she would also see the sinister manifestations of power and greed. Divisive rhetoric is, unfortunately, ongoing in the land where many in the south are literally still fighting the Civil War, while gun-nuts in the north ache for a new one.
“Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds…to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.”
-Ellison S. Onizuka
How right he was. America, or any other nation, is a society comprised of communities consisting of many unique individuals. The role of kinship, however, has seemingly lost its significance, as the provision of peace seems out-of-reach for millions of disenfranchised Americans [xl].
Onizuka was one of 7 astronauts killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 [xli], and was the first person of Japanese descent to be in space [xlii]. His full quote, it being shortened for the passport, was part of a commencement speech for the graduating class at his alma mater. Eloquent, moving, and inspirational for both the young and old, the majority and minorities, and those who are certain or unsure; it is for that that I share the full excerpt here:
“If I can impress upon you only one idea . . . Let it be that the people who make this world run, whose lives can be termed successful, whose names will go down in the history books, are not the cynics, the critics, or the armchair quarterbacks.
They are the adventurists, the explorers, and doers of this world. When they see a wrong or problem, they do something about it. When they see a vacant place in our knowledge, they work to fill that void.
Rather than leaning back and criticizing how things are, they work to make things the way they should be. They are the aggressive, the self-starters, the innovative, and the imaginative of this world.
Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds . . . to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.
Your vision is not limited by what your eye can see, but by what your mind can imagine. Many things that you take for granted were considered unrealistic dreams by previous generations. If you accept these past accomplishments as commonplace then think of the new horizons that you can explore.
From your vantage point, your education and imagination will carry you to places which we won’t believe possible.
Make your life count – and the world will be a better place because you tried.” [xliii]
[i] Delaney, T. (2021). Benga, Ota (ca. 1883–1916) – Encyclopedia Virginia. [online] Encyclopedia Virginia. Available at: https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/benga-ota-ca-1883-1916/. [ii] Howard, M. (2018). Ota Benga (1883-1916) • BlackPast. [online] BlackPast. Available at: https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/benga-ota-1883-1916/. [iii] Roosevelt, T. (1917). The Foes of our own household, by Theodore Roosevelt, ... [online] New York: G.H. Doran. Available at: https://archive.org/details/foesofourownhous01roos/page/62/mode/2up?q=boundless [Accessed 3 Apr. 2021]. [iv] Chin C., Krabbendam H. (2012) “True Americanism”: The Role of Race and Class in Theodore Roosevelt’s Immigration Policy and Its Effect on US-European Relations. In: Krabbendam H., Thompson J.M. (eds) America’s Transatlantic Turn. The World of the Roosevelts. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137286499_5 [v] Gilens, M. and Page, B. (2014). Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Perspectives on Politics, 12(3), pp.564-581. [vi] www.youtube.com. (2015). Corruption is Legal in America. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/5tu32CCA_Ig. [vii] Udalova, V. (2021). Initial Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Economy More Widespread Than on Mortality. [online] The United States Census Bureau. Available at: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/03/initial-impact-covid-19-on-united-states-economy-more-widespread-than-on-mortality.html [Accessed 14 Apr. 2021]. [viii]Worldpopulationreview.com. 2020. Gini Coefficient By Country 2020. [online] Available at: <https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/gini-coefficient-by-country> [Accessed 1 July 2020]. [ix] Gaffney, A., Himmelstein, D.U. and Woolhandler, S. (2020). COVID-19 and US Health Financing: Perils and Possibilities. International Journal of Health Services, 50(4), pp.396–407. [x] Rodriguez, L. (2020). 8 Million More People in the US Are Now Living in Poverty Due to COVID-19. [online] Global Citizen. Available at: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/millions-more-people-in-poverty-during-covid-19/ [Accessed 14 Apr. 2021]. [xi] Perl, L. (2020). Homelessness and COVID-19. [online] . Congressional Research Service. Available at: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46596. [xii] Lexington Law. (2021). 2021 Consumer Debt Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/loans/consumer-debt-statistics.html [Accessed 14 Apr. 2021]. [xiii] Fowler, S. (2021). Georgia Governor Signs Election Overhaul, Including Changes To Absentee Voting. [online] NPR.org. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/25/981357583/georgia-legislature-approves-election-overhaul-including-changes-to-absentee-vot [Accessed 14 Apr. 2021]. [xiv] www.aljazeera.com. (2021). First US military action under Biden draws criticism. [online] Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/26/unconstitutional-us-airstrikes-on-syria-draw-strong-criticism. [xv] www.aljazeera.com. (2021). Biden administration to proceed with $23bn arms sales to UAE. [online] Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/14/biden-administration-to-proceed-with-23b-arms-sales-to-uae [Accessed 15 Apr. 2021]. [xvi] Engelhardt, T. (2021). Slaughter Central: The US as a Mass-Killing Machine. [online] CounterPunch.org. Available at: https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/04/15/slaughter-central-the-us-as-a-mass-killing-machine/ [Accessed 15 Apr. 2021]. [xvii] www.sipri.org. (2020). Global arms industry: Sales by the top 25 companies up 8.5 per cent; Big players active in Global South | SIPRI. [online] Available at: https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2020/global-arms-industry-sales-top-25-companies-85-cent-big-players-active-global-south. [xviii] www.youtube.com. (2014). Noam Chomsky - The Crimes of U.S. Presidents. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/5BXtgq0Nhsc. [xix] Weiner, T. (2020). How the US-Soviet Relationship Shaped Eisenhower’s Presidency. [online] Literary Hub. Available at: https://lithub.com/how-the-us-soviet-relationship-shaped-eisenhowers-presidency/. [xx] Hidayat, P. (2015). Indonesia: Time to Remember the Forgotten Mass Killings of 1965. [online] Thediplomat.com. Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2015/10/indonesia-time-to-remember-the-forgotten-mass-killings-of-1965/ [Accessed 30 Nov. 2019]. [xxi] Pach Jr., C. (2017). Dwight D. Eisenhower: Foreign Affairs | Miller Center. [online] Miller Center. Available at: https://millercenter.org/president/eisenhower/foreign-affairs. [xxii] Ghosh, P. (2012). Iran: The Long Lasting Legacy of the 1953 U.S./CIA Coup. [online] International Business Times. Available at: https://www.ibtimes.com/iran-long-lasting-legacy-1953-uscia-coup-214329 [Accessed 16 Apr. 2021]. [xxiii] Perrigo, B. (2016). The devastating effects of American intervention in... [online] The Panoptic. Available at: https://thepanoptic.co.uk/2016/11/19/american-intervention-guatemala/. [xxiv] Gwu.edu. (2017). CIA and Assassinations: The Guatemala 1954 Documents. [online] Available at: https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB4/. [xxv] Tourek, M. (2013). President Johnson Bans Wiretapping – Sort Of. [online] Today in Civil Liberties History. Available at: http://todayinclh.com/?event=president-johnson-bans-wiretapping. [xxvi] Glass, A. (2019). LBJ approves “Operation Rolling Thunder,” Feb. 13, 1965. [online] POLITICO. Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/13/lbj-operation-rolling-thunder-feb-13-1965-1162618. [xxvii] Risen, C. (2008). The Unmaking of the President. [online] Smithsonian Magazine. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-unmaking-of-the-president-31577203/. [xxviii] Hadley, D (2019). 5 Facts About the Transcontinental Railroad. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/transcontinental-railroad-facts-4151806 [Accessed 19 Apr. 2021]. [xxix] King, G. (2012). Where the Buffalo No Longer Roamed. [online] Smithsonian. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/where-the-buffalo-no-longer-roamed-3067904/. [xxx] ^Ibid. King (2012) [xxxi] Stanford.edu. (2019). Key Questions – Chinese Railroad Workers in North America. [online] Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/group/chineserailroad/cgi-bin/website/faqs/. [xxxii] Feministsforlife.org. (2013). Anna Julia Cooper. [online] Available at: https://www.feministsforlife.org/anna-julia-cooper/. [xxxiii] Willis, A.I. and Harris, V. (2002). ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER 1858–1964. Fifty Major Thinkers on Education, pp.169–177. [xxxiv] Statista. (2018). U.S. national debt statistics 1990-2018 | Statista. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/187867/public-debt-of-the-united-states-since-1990/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021]. [xxxv] Tatham, M. (2019). Consumer Debt Reaches $13 Trillion in Q4 2018. [online] Experian.com. Available at: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/consumer-debt-study/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021]. [xxxvi] Statista. (2021). Share of the U.S. population with depression 2017. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/979880/percentage-of-people-with-depression-us/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021]. [xxxvii] Statista. (2021). Suicide death rate U.S. by gender 1950-2017 | Statista. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/187478/death-rate-from-suicide-in-the-us-by-gender-since-1950/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021]. [xxxviii] Trading Economics (2019). United States GDP. [online] Tradingeconomics.com. Available at: https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp. [xxxix] ^Ibid. Gilens, M. and Page, B. (2014). [xl] Rosenmann, A. (2016). Noam Chomsky: America is only a democracy for the 1 percent. [online] Salon. Available at: https://www.salon.com/2016/06/22/noam_chomsky_america_is_only_a_democracy_for_the_1_percent_partner/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021]. [xli] Howell, E. (2019). Challenger: The Shuttle Disaster That Changed NASA. [online] Space.com. Available at: https://www.space.com/18084-space-shuttle-challenger.html. [xlii] Cleveland.com. (2011). Challenger astronaut and Hawaii native Ellison S. Onizuka always wanted to go to space. [online] Available at: https://www.cleveland.com/nation/2011/01/challenger_astronaut_and_hawai.html [Accessed 26 Apr. 2021]. [xliii] onizukamemorial.org. (n.d.). His Message | Onizuka Memorial. [online] Available at: https://onizukamemorial.org/his-message [Accessed 26 Apr. 2021].