An Excerpt from Gore Vidal’s “Imperial America”

Not far from where I live is a community library. I’ve been frequenting it ever since I discovered it. It has a descent collection of books and other educational materials. I hope one day, back home, our leaders will realize how important libraries are. We have to make our young people embrace the “reading culture” again – that’s if we intend for them to  lead us to a more prosperous future. The current generation of Filipinos has failed to deliver – we’re too distracted and we’ve become overly materialistic. So, if there’s hope to be had, it’ll come through the next “reading” generation.

Ok, enough of that. I wanted to share this excerpt from Vidal’s “Imperial America”. Its important to us because he speaks about his country’s involvement during the Philippine revolution. Vidal is a rare voice in America. This guy resents his country’s imperial presence all over the world. Today, we have libertarians and people like Ron Paul voicing out their opposition against the America that polices the world and meddles with other nations policies. Too bad, these good Americans voices are being drowned by mainstream America – the one that believes that they should lead this world. The thing that is working against these people is their economy – once it hits the bottom then they’ll realize that they need to change the way their country behaves. But that’s their problem – we have more problems of our own, graver than what they’ll ever experience.

The following are excerpts from Gore Vidal’s “Imperial America” concerning the US’s annexation of the Philippines.

“An American warship Maine, blew up in Havana harbor, we held Spain responsible; thus, we got what John Hay called “a splendid little war”. We would liberate Cuba, drive Spain from the Caribbean, As for the Pacific, even before the Maine sunk, Roosevelt ordered Dewey and his fleet to the Spanish Philippines – just in case. Spain promptly collapsed and we inherited their pacific and Caribbean colonies. Admiral Mahan’s plan was working triumphantly.

In time we allowed Cuba the appearance of freedom while holding on to Puerto Rico. Then President McKinley, after an in depth talk with God, decided that we should also keep Philippines, in order, he said , to Christianize them. When reminded that the Philippines are Roman Catholics, the president said, exactly. We must Christianize them. Although Philippines nationalist had been allies against Spain’s, we promptly betrayed them and their leader, Emilio Aguinaldo. As a result, it took us several years to conquer the Philippines and tens – some say hundreds – of thousands Filipinos died that our empire might grow.

The war was the making of Roosevelt, surrounded by the flower of the American press, he led a group of so called rough riders up a very small hill in Cube. As a result of this photo opportunity he became a national hero, governor of New York, McKinley’s running mate and then, McKinley was killed in 1901.

Not everyone like the new empire. After Manila, Mark Twain thought that the stars and bars of the American flag should be replaced by skulls and bones. He also said, “we can not maintain an empire in the orient and maintain a republic in America”. He was right, of course, but as he was only a writer who said funny things, he was ignored. The compulsively vigorous Roosevelt defended our war against the Philippine population, and attacked the likes of Twain, “every argument can be said of Aguinaldo could be said of Sitting Bull”… At peace, order and prosperity followed our expansion over the land of the Indians, so they will follow us in the Philippines”.

With considerable dash, we tore a chunk of land away from Mexico (which the Mexicans are now, sensibly, filling up again); next we killed several hundred thousand Filipinos (no one has ever determine just how many) in order to establish ourselves as pacific power at the beginning of the 20th century.

President Adams is long since dead. And we have now been in the empire business since 1898. We had promised to give the Filipinos their independence from Spain. Then we changed our mind, killing some 200,000 of them in the process of Americanizing them.

Mr. Gore Vidal, thanks for writing the way you do!


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