Recently, a member of the Trump administration called Puerto Rico “that country,” obscuring once more the relationship between the island colony and the American mainland. In a special hour this week, On the Media examines the history of US imperialism — and why the familiar US map hides the true story of our country. Brooke spends the hour with Northwestern University historian Daniel Immerwahr, author of How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States.
I’d read it in my youth and knew of it more generally, but I didn’t know that Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” was written as advice to the United States about what to do in the Philippines where there was a long and bloody US war. Then the episode has a gut-punch of a quote I’d never heard from Mark Twain, who was friends with Kipling:
‘there must be two Americas. One that sets the captive free and one that takes a once captive’s new freedom away from him, picks a quarrel with him with nothing founded on and then kills him to get his land. For that second America,’ he proposed adding a few words to the Declaration of Independence, ‘governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed White men.’
If asked before today what the bloodiest war fought on US soil was, I’d have said “The Civil War” as I suspect that most would. Interestingly it turns out that it was the Japanese conquest of the Philippines during World War II that claimed 1.5 million people–or the equivalent of two civil wars. Why don’t most students know this fact? Likely because 1 million of that number were not white. They were Filipinos who were also considered U.S. nationals at the time.
Another surprising thing I hadn’t considered before, and mentioned here, is that a large portion of the “British Invasion” of music in the 1960’s–including that of The Beatles–can be likely be put down to the fact that there’s a major U.S. military base put into Liverpool just after World War II. The increased trade and exposure of local youth to American rock-and-roll music as well as instruments sourced from the base had a tremendous influence on the city and the music that would result.
These are just of a few of my favorite portions of this incredible show.
This episode is Part 2 of their series, “On American Expansion.” I can’t wait to hear the rest.