When reading Zinn’s the Empire and the People chapter of A People’s History of the United States, I was particularly surprised by the amount of involvement and influence that unions and other home groups had on international affairs in Cuba. Although I knew about these “two concepts” of union fighting during the end of the nineteenth century/beginning of the twentieth century and of the United States conquest of Cuba (and other areas), I never thought about them in relation to each other. I honestly never even recognized that these two extremely important aspects of American history were happening at the same time! Understandably, a lot of public support or opposition from the working class was influenced by unions like United Mine Workers, Knights of Labor, and the American Federation of Labor (to name a few) which then had an influence on the media. This influence then would have had an even larger impact on policy if it weren’t for the intersecting influence companies and the rich had in the government. After reading the Myth of American Exceptionalism and listening to the podcast I think it is easy to see how embedded American business goals are into the policies of the United States, with Cuba being a defining example of many.
The United States not only manipulated their power over Cuba, but they imposed their own business ideals onto the country, people, and government for their own gain. I was both surprised to read about the hypocrisy that the United States government participated in, and continues to participate in, to gain the market and resources that Cuba offered, but I also have learned to expect the United States to always take an angle of personal advantage in international situations. What I did not know was that there was a history of international manipulation of power before Cuba and the Panama Canal starting in the mid-1800s. Even though most policy decisions do have some intersection of economic, social, and political motives, I questioned throughout the Zinn reading how many American policies/acts have left long-lasting social or economic impacts on the country? Should countries always be trying to work for their best interests, or do policies that work with only self-interest in mind hurt everyone else in the longer run? I can only hope that there will be more of a balance between government and business motives when it comes to the international power of the United States in the future as there definitely could be future conflicts if one type of policy is overreaching.
On a separate note, this podcast explores how dehumanization takes place through imperialism powers and American exceptionalism, but I do not think that American exceptionalism is ingrained into American culture as America has no defined culture and is much more defined by region, religion, state, and honestly … political belief. The idea that American exceptionalism is in American culture seems more like an accurate stereotype created by others based on the fact that Americans always talk about “large concepts” like liberty, freedom, or justice. Even though many other countries also talk about larger values in politics, I think the conversation around these values is more prevalent in American politics and make it seem like an intense superiority complex simply because these values connect to the human experience (don’t get me wrong though America does have a superiority complex, but I just think it is different).