befuddled wonderings

Well,
it’s been quite interesting to read people’s comments on the Thursday Thirteen
that I posted this week. Some people
called me brave for bringing up politics on
my own blog
. A few of you cheered me
on (please remember that I was mostly using someone else’s words.) And still others, led me to more accurate
information and / or expressed dismay with the general tone of the post. I want to take this time to thank each and
every one of you for your comments…even those who do not share my views. 

At
the very least, you made me step back and reflect upon what supports my knee
jerk reaction to this issue. It also
allowed me the ability to put on a wider lens, thereby looking though your eyes
at why you may hold opinions which, at first glance, appear to be in direct
opposition to mine. Once examined, they really aren’t that dissimilar to my
own. Again, thank you.

I don’t claim to have any
answers. (Boy, is that an
understatement.) And I absolutely do not
wish to turn this into a lecture, debate or sermon.

But
while driving in to town with Kajsa, I was thinking about some of the comments
at which I’d previously peeked. And with
it being a long and lonely drive, I had time to look at this from a few
different angles. What I kept coming
up with was, well, timing. I thought
about my family and how we were not even originally of this continent. In fact my great grandmother was one of the
little girls who shot a gun at the start of the Oklahoma Land Rush.

Well,
thinking about that made me begin to dwell upon the legality, politics and
justice of such an activity. So when I
got home, I had to look it up. Here’s
what Encarta
had to say:

Homestead
Laws
: collective name for a series of enactments by
the United States Congress allowing settlers without capital to acquire
homesteads. Although sentiment supporting the idea of free land for
homesteaders existed from the early days of the
U.S., the law was not passed until the
American Civil War had begun. The South was antagonistic to the free-land
movement, because it feared homesteaders would be against slavery.
 

The
homestead law was enacted by Congress in 1862. It provided that anyone who was
either the head of a family, 21 years old, or a veteran of 14 days of active
service in the U.S. armed forces, and who was a citizen or had filed a
declaration of intent to become a citizen, could acquire a tract of land in the
public domain not exceeding 65 hectares (160 acres, equal to a quarter
section). To acquire title to the land,
the homesteader was obliged to settle on or cultivate the homestead for five
years.

The
law expressly declared that no land so acquired could be levied against by
creditors for the satisfaction of debts contracted prior to the issuance of the
land grant. Other federal homestead laws, enacted by subsequent congresses,
were essentially modifications of the act of 1862. The federal homestead laws
provided an incentive, in the form of easily obtainable land, for the
settlement of the West. Largely because the supply of suitable public land was
exhausted, remaining public lands were withdrawn from homesteading in 1935.

See, if this had come up
150 years ago, perhaps we wouldn’t have had the same problem. Oh wait a minute. That was why we had that whole
Mexican
War
.
"What?" you say. That’s okay. This part of history was a little fuzzy for me, too. So I looked it up as well.

…Conflict
between the
United States and Mexico,
lasting from 1846 to 1848. The war resulted in a decisive
U.S. victory and forced Mexico to relinquish all claims to
approximately half its national territory. 
Mexico had already lost control of much
of its northeastern territory as a result of the Texas
Revolution
(1835-1836). This land, combined with the territory
Mexico ceded at the end of the war,
would form the future
U.S.  states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, as well as portions of the
states of
Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. See United
States (History): War with Mexico
.

Mexico’s territorial losses signified
the end of any likelihood that
Mexico, rather than the United States, would become the predominant
power in
North
America
.
As the first conflict in which
U.S. military forces fought almost
exclusively outside of the country, the Mexican War also marked the beginning
of the rise of the
United States as a global military power.

Many Mexicans, meanwhile, deeply resented their loss to
the “Colossus of the North,” viewing the conflict as an unnecessary war that
had been thrust upon
Mexico by a land-hungry United States. This nurtured a fear of the United States —sometimes bordering on
hatred—among some Mexicans that has been kept alive and popularized through corridos,
the folk ballads of
Mexico. 

Hmmm…I’ll be sure to
listen more closely next the time I’m munching away on chips and salsa at
Anita’s Cantina. So I guess there really
never was much hope. Even if we hadn’t
had that little spat, they probably wouldn’t have been invited to the
party. ‘Cause Manifest destiny was never intended to include non-Anglos, anyway.

You do remember Manifest
Destiny. No, it’s not the latest
collaboration to come out of the American Idol
phenomenon. It was:

A
well-developed popular ideology [stating] that it was inevitable and good that
the
United States occupy the continent “from sea to
shining sea.” Some talked of expanding freedom to new areas. Others talked of
spreading the American ethic of hard work and economic progress. Still others
imagined a
United States with Pacific ports that could open
Asian markets.

Before long, some were imagining a North America  without what they considered the
savagery of Native Americans, the laziness and political instability of
Mexicans, or the corrupt and dying monarchism of the British. God, they said,
clearly wanted hard–working American republicans to occupy
North America. In 1845 a New York City journalist named John L.
O’Sullivan gave these ideas a name: Manifest
Destiny
. It is, he wrote, “our manifest
destiny
to overspread the continent allotted by
Providence for the free development of our
yearly multiplying millions.”
 

American Westward Movement, movement of people from the
settled regions of the
United States to lands farther west. Between the
early 17th and late 19th centuries, Anglo-American peoples and their societies
expanded from the
Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast. This westward movement, across
what was often called the American frontier, was of enormous significance. By
expanding the nation’s borders to include more than three million square miles,
the
United States became one of the most powerful
nations of the 20th century.

However, this expansion also resulted in great
suffering, destruction, and cultural loss for the Native Americans of North
America. 
America in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries. For good or ill, the westward movement of these
Anglo-American settlers was one of the most influential forces to shape North
American history.
 

So here we sit, with our
slightly ill gotten gains, talking about property rights and such. And while I know that this is all in the
past, I find it relevant. I mean, who am
I, that I was lucky enough to be born in a country of advantage? It really was just luck of the draw. Doesn’t this twist of fate somehow indebt me
on some level to show some compassion to those who weren’t.

Despite that fact that we
are now live in a huge country with tax ID numbers, welfare crises, and even immigration
procedures, I feel that we are skirting some issues. And no, I don’t know what all of them
are. I don’t even know that if I did,
I’d have a clue as to what a truly effective resolution might be. But I do feel that it bears further
examination from all of us…with myself certainly being no exception.

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2 thoughts on “befuddled wonderings

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