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Zinn Reading 9/30

In Zinn’s chapter The Empire and The People, he is discussing America during the time of imperialism and expansion. In the beginning of this chapter, Zinn highlights a point he has made before about how America tends to start wars with foreign powers to relieve “rebellious energy that went into strikes and protest movements” within our own nation. Our nation’s history tends to portray these wars as a sense of unity among the nation but fails to show the social injustices that were ignored in doing so. There is no concrete evidence that leaders start these wars during social turmoil purposefully, but there is a definite trend. Although this is my second time noticing this argument, I still am incredibly bothered by it. It truly seems that the wealthy elite is so focused on maintaining peace within the nation and keeping their power, that they avoid social injustices that are causing unrest within society, thus keeping the institutions that are so flawed. This argument was also made about Abraham Lincoln, in that he was more focused on keeping the union, rather than attacking the racial injustices within society and using his power to fix them.


As the chapter goes on, Zinn discusses the motives for the Spanish-Cuban-American war. America was thirsty for new foreign markets to elevate their economic prosperity. America even abandoned the Teller Amendment that valued Cuban independence and freedom (as a nation built on these values should) and opposed American imperialism. In the end, the interests of America’s corporate business world deemed victorious, as “bankers, brokers, businessmen, editors, clergymen, and others” wanted the Cuban question ‘solved’ “. So, the Teller Amendment was ignored. America intervened in Cuban to ensure its capitalist interests. Again, we see the powerful elite having all the power in how America goes about our wars. They believed if the American military controlled Cuba, Cuba would become a new market for business. These motives portray America as a nation that will go to any means to benefit just themselves. This might have made us a powerful country, but are these wars ethical?

This issue of going to any means to remain a powerful country sort of coincides with the current pandemic. We refused to shut down the nation for long enough to diminish the spread of the virus, just to focus on our economy and maintaining our power against other nations. I am thankful our economy did not go completely down under, but now we are still stuck with a dangerous virus for longer!

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  1. Julia Borger Julia Borger

    I was also struck by the idea that our nation’s leaders focused on the idea that expansion was a positive concept that would bring our nation together, rather than tear another nation apart. This single-minded view just shows how blind our leaders really were to the atrocities they were imposing on others, as they kept trying to justify it with weak arguments like these. I am still so surprised that more people did not see how wrong this was and act upon it.

  2. Zachary Andrews Zachary Andrews

    I too thought it was interesting that leaders thought imperialism would unite their nation together even though they are breaking apart another nation. Something that struck me from “The Myth of American Exceptionalism” was that America is following in the footsteps of other nations regarding the topic of American Exceptionalism. Other nations like Portugal, France, and England all worked on things, such as the “white man’s burden”, that had the main goal of enriching the world even though it really did the opposite.

  3. Christina Glynn Christina Glynn

    I agree especially with the focus on the wealthy elite trying to keep their power. This also includes the problem that the wealthy elite were almost always not the ones doing the hard work in the war fields. As I read more into the history of the United States we are a very selfish country.

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