I have been reading a little about World War II lately. I have always been fascinated by World War II. It was a time when the world teetered on the brink of insanity. In many parts of the world civilizations were turned upside down. If you read a lot about the Nazis it is really amazing how they were able to pervert every aspect of society for their own ideological political gains. They were able to turn things that were normally good, like motherhood, and corrupt them towards their own ends.
I have a question and I don’t mean to be controversial. I am not asking this to purposely get some right wingers’ heads to explode. First I came across the following passage from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in an old blog I wrote:
“The rich and beautiful valleys of Wyoming are destined for the occupancy and the sustenance of the Anglo-Saxon race. The wealth that for untold ages has lain hidden beneath the snow-capped summits of our mountains has been placed there by Providence to reward the brave spirits whose lot it is to compose the advance-guard of civilization. The Indians must stand aside or be overwhelmed by the ever advancing and ever increasing tide of emigration. The destiny of the aborigines is written in characters not to be mistaken. The same inscrutable Arbiter that decreed the downfall of Rome has pronounced the doom of extinction upon the red men of America.”
That was said by The Big Horn Association in 1870. That was said about Manifest Destiny.
A very simple explanation of Manifest Destiny is: In the 19th century, Manifest Destiny was the widely held belief in the United States that American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent.
Hitler wanted what was called Lebensraum or “living space” for his Reich. A very simple definition of Lebsenraum: The territory that a state or nation believes is needed for its natural development, especially associated with Nazi Germany.
So my question is, especially considering the fate of many of the Indians and the Jews, what is different about Manifest Destiny and Lebensraum?
I am asking that as a rhetorical question to get you thinking. I know that in some ways there were many differences you could bring up. The industrial murder of the Holocaust was very different from the Indian Wars, as cruel as the Indian Wars were in many ways. There are many cultural and political differences that you could bring up as well. The degradation of values was nowhere as complete in even the worst of times in America as they were in Nazi Germany, not for a second.
But in school we are brought up, or at least I was, to think of Manifest Destiny in a mostly positive light. But we wiped out many people in order to acquire this “living space”. I’m not trying to say that everything America does is bad or “blame America first”. For instance, in World War II we were on the right side of history. But I do think there are many myths and stories that we don’t question. I posed this particular question to make you think. If we can understand the distortions of the past, we have a better chance at unraveling the distortions of the present.