10. Imperialism exposed|
Miss Merilee gave the lieutenant a patronizing smile. "Of the many topics on which you are not qualified to speak, Matthew," she said, "politics must be in the very first row." A wounded look crossed the lieutenant's face. Miss Merilee saw it, quickly turned to Sergeant Rivers and added, "Unless you gentlemen think I'm anything but a devoted admirer of my cousin's
husband, I should tell you I've known him for many years. He and my
cousin were sweethearts while Matthew was at the Point, and when I
behold the professional military man before you now, I still see the towheaded
young man who trailed me around the Shaw family home for hours in the desperate
hope of catching even a glimpse of his beloved Greta. I need to constantly
remind myself he is not that naïve, unsophisticated adolescent now. In
truth, I am exceedingly proud of the man he's become.
"But back to the subject at hand. Matthew has branded me an activist. Perhaps
that's so, but I have to tell you, gentlemen, there's a movement afoot in America
you may not be fully aware of. People at home are quickly losing their
appetite for this war. Every day more and more of us become convinced
that expansionism, we call it imperialism, is a shameful and dishonorable policy. Several
months ago a group of us gathered in Boston to debate our government's avaricious
lust for empire. We discovered then people from all corners of our nation
and from all stations in life share our point of view. We call ourselves
the Anti-Imperialist League, and anyone opposed to the subjugation of others
is welcome in our ranks."
Ellis spoke up, "Does that mean Americans are against us too because we're
here fighting this war? There's already enough folks back home who hate
us just because we're black men wearing a uniform."
"I tried to tell you," Lieutenant Alstaetter said.
"No one back home is against you Ellis," Miss Merilee urged. "You mustn't
confuse anti-imperialism with anti-militarism. You came here to free
the Philippines from the Spanish, not to make war on the Filipino people. Military
men such as you only carry out policy. You can't be held responsible
for the wrong-headedness of those who misuse you for the sake of shameful purpose."
Sergeant Rivers asked, "Do all anti-imperialists agree on that? Love
the soldier, hate the war?"
"Nothing is ever all is it Sergeant? By far, the largest
percentage of anti-imperialists rejects the concept of a strong people brutalizing
and taking away the liberty of a weak one. We believe it wrong in the
eyes of law and the eyes of God, but I can't recall an instance, when in any
debate I've attended, the enlisted soldier has been singled out for criticism. When
our military is mentioned at all, it's usually by those of us who believe you
fine boys are unwitting pawns in a game with rules concocted by power-hungry
politicians and profit-hungry industrialists. There is a movement against
this Philippine intervention gentlemen, not against you."
Sergeant Rivers had heard stories from troopers stationed in Manila about
war protests back home, but he'd had no hard news to back up the rumors and
dismissed them as idle gossip.
Miss Merilee continued, "Several of our league members have appealed to President
McKinley not to use our armed forces as a tool of the industrialists. Mark
Twain's writing volumes, and last month Mr. Andrew Carnegie himself paid a
personal visit to the White House to register his disapproval, but the President
sits squarely in the lap of the eastern manufacturers. It's been said
he won't be happy until the entire population of the Philippines is dressed
from head to toe in American textiles, and I have to tell you gentlemen, I
"Our government tells its citizens expansion into the Pacific is our destiny. They
say America is no longer just a nation of farmers, but also a nation of industry,
and soon a major player on the world's stage. China is the future of
business they say, and our doorway into that market is through the Philippines. These
islands then, are America's steppingstones to twentieth century commerce. The
stakes are high indeed, gentlemen.
"We're asked to believe the Filipino people not capable of self-government,
that like children, they must yield to our higher authority. If they
surrender their sovereignty to the United States, they'll prosper under our
protectorate and in time, when they've shown themselves capable, their independence
will be granted. I say horsefeathers! This war is about greed
pure and simple.
"But what war isn't these days? The Germans and the Japanese stand
shoulder-to-shoulder in Peking right now, mowing down Chinese nationalists
in a war for territory they call the Boxer Rebellion. The British are
in South Africa killing Boers to get their hands on the Dutch gold mines in
the republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Queen Victoria
declared she'd not rest until she has Cape to Cairo domination of Africa. These
are dark days indeed. We anti-imperialists say let empire building be
the path for other nations. Their governments are not founded on the
American principles of independence and liberty.
"There is hope, however. If our movement prevails, William Jennings
Bryan will defeat President McKinley in the next election, and our government's
shameful policy of expansionism will cease." Miss Shaw's big smile suddenly
appeared once again. "And now it's the children's bedtime. Ellis,
would you like to help me tuck my little darlings in?"