Friday, August 08, 2008

New Insight

We are currently discussing the readings for our last day of the MNHS class, focusing on the idea of "empire" in America at the end of the 19th century.

The group I was in focused on this piece written by Albert Beveridge called "March of the Flag" which is pushing for America to invade Cuba and the Philipinnes.

The contrasting piece is by William Jennings Bryan called "Will it Pay" which warns about the danger of turning America into an empire machine.

The connections between the controvery over the war in Iraq now is striking.

Of course, the person side of history is always more interesting and powerful. One story discussed comes from Rudyard Kipling, a notorious British empirialist who wrote an essay called "White Man's Burden" urging America onward in their efforts toward empire (remember at this time the British empire was still in power).

But what is more interesting is the fallout that happened with Kipling. As a rabid empirialist who wrote much on the need for the educated white man to save the savages from themselves (and you thought "The Jungle Book" was just a kid's tale?). However, Kipling's son so bought into this foolishness that he promptly inlisted in the military. Unfortunately, he was too young but lied and got in. On his 18th birthday he was sent to the front where he promptly lasted less than an hour before he was obliterated. His body was never found.

Kipling was never the same.

Two brief lines from his poem "Common Form" show how Kipling changed his mind regarding war and empire after his son's death --

"If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied"

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