The Teaching Front
Today we covered the Philippine Insurrection and two pieces of literature from the time period. Most students have never heard of the Philippine Insurrection (our Nam before the Nam as I call it) nor do they know about the Anti-Imperialist argument against our involvement there. I spent time on that, telling them that the Philippines were not protected by the Teller Amendment (which prevented us from doing the same thing to Cuba) and we discussed the argument that the Philippines were not ready for self government.
Which, to my ears, sounds very much like the debate about whether or not you could get a Federal Republic established in Iraq. “They simply do not have the cultural experience,” and blah, blah, blah.
According to the research I did for my notes nearly two years ago, over 200,000 civilians were killed between 1898 and 1913. We lost 5,000 troops killed in action (that is more, at present, than we have lost in Iraq and Afghanistan) and far more than the 379 lost in combat during the Spanish American War. Granted, we lost 5,400 during the war but most of those were disease and medical mistreatment.
Finally, we discussed two pieces of literature. The first was Rudyard Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden, which is basically an open letter to the United States saying, “Welcome to the Imperialist Club.” Kipling is not often discussed these days because he is politically incorrect, fairly racist in his attitudes (racist insofar as we in the 21st Century judge him, no doubt in the 22nd Century we will be seen as just as racist in our own way) but I wanted to illustrate the Imperialist argument as it manifested itself in literature.
The second was a YouTube presentation of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) The War Prayer, which presents the Anti Imperialist side. Now personally, I have very little use for Twain, as a writer or as a political commentator. I also find him to be a chicken shit of the first order. Two reasons for this, the first being that he ducked out of military service before the Civil War truly got started. The second pertains to this very story.
The War Prayer was not published until long after Twain’s death. He was told by his publishers that he was committing career suicide by trying to get this story published. Twain, preferring the comfort of his pocket book, trunked the story.
That I disagree with some of what Twain says in the story is not the main reason I have a problem with the man. The main reason is that he took the easy way, the comfortable way, he slipped away from the Fight just as surely as he did in Missouri back in 1861. If he had the depth of his convictions, he would have said, “Damn the Torpedoes.”
That said, I thought I’d share The War Prayer to you, the Readers of the Pondering Tree. It comes in two parts.
It was animated in 2007 if memory serves correctly, mainly for use as an Anti-Iraq War protest tool. In any event, it allows me to convey the Anti-Imperialist message with far more conviction than I could personally do on my own. I let Twain have his soapbox, even if I find his own conduct as a writer to be rather pathetic.
Some random shots, some of which will serve as new entry icons.
Yours truly playing a Fencer.
Some personal research shots in New York City.
For those looking for more after action briefs, I’ll try to get to those soon. I’ve been a bit busy with teaching, lecture prep and trying to work the tire off of my body.
Steven Francis Murphy
Author of The Limb Knitter and Tearing Down Tuesday