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After 20 years at the University of Oregon, I have retired. So, I will begin posting about my new experiences here and hope you find them interesting.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mark Twain the anti-imperialist

mark twain Category:Mark Twain images
Samuel Clemens, aka "Mark Twain" Image via Wikipedia
A couple of weeks ago I subscribed to a new free series called The Intellectual Devotional on Daily Lit.

"... a collection of daily lessons taken from The Devoted Intellect blog that will inspire and invigorate the reader on a daily basis. Each nugget of wisdom is drawn from one of seven fields of knowledge: History, Literature, Philosophy, Mathematics & Science, Religion, Visual Arts, and Music." - DailyLit 


Today's nugget of wisdom was about some of the anti-imperialist activities of Mark Twain.  I knew Mark Twain was a satirist but didn't realize he was involved so deeply in the politics of foreign affairs.  I attempted to read Huckleberry Finn in high school and simply didn't like it so I had dismissed Mark Twain as another one of the "classic" authors writing for people in another century whose work, though critically acclaimed, did not resonate with me.  Twain is in good company in that respect though.  I tried to read Tolstoy's War and Peace and couldn't get through the first few chapters of it and didn't find Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe written in a very appealing narrative either, even though I later loved the television mini-series, "Ivanhoe" starring  James Mason and Sam Neill (I was really bummed that Sam Neill's Brian de Bois-Guilbert was killed in the end - I thought he was far more attractive than Anthony Andrew's Ivanhoe and Rebecca's heart should have melted!)

Anyway, when I read the short "devotional" about Mark Twain I was totally intrigued by his late-in-life rabble-rousing contributions like King Leopold's Soliloquy, a stinging satirical denunciation of Belgium's brutal colonial activities in the Congo, and Incident in the Philippines, about the American massacre of 600 Moros in the Moro Crater Massacre.  Apparently, this was a complete reversal from his earlier support of such U.S. imperialistic acquisitions as the Hawaiian Islands.  Twain explains his change of heart in a article published by the New York Herald on October 15, 1900.

I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific ...Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? ... I said to myself, Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves. But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris [which ended the Spanish-American War], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

I obviously need to resurrect Samuel Clemens from my mental "Trash folder" and give him the attention he deserves.
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