** Author’s Note: Be prepared. I rambled. **
I live in the United States of America.
I am an American.
I have never fought for my country but I have volunteered in various ways to help my fellow Americans.
I have seen hunger, fear, anger, pain and loss. I have also seen love, hope, honor, pride and power.
Around the world, Americans are seen in many ways, some positive and some negative. Opinions on who we are, what we stand for and why we do what we do vary in every mile around this vast planet.
We don’t want war, but we aren’t afraid to stand up and fight.
We don’t need to be begged to help others, and sometimes we are the first to come running when there is a catastrophe.
This has not always been the case.
The was a storm coming, a long time ago. The skies were dark, the air was foul and there were people on our doorstep begging for help. Their faces were lined with pain and loss, their bodies were weak from the fight and flight that brought them to our door.
We turned them away.
We shut the door, turned off the light and cowered in the darkest corner of our soul to hide from their plight. We covered our ears so as to not hear their cries.
They didn’t leave us alone. They stayed at our door, begging, crying for help. Others came, more voices, more pleas for shelter, protection, anything.
We ignored them.
If we didn’t see them, if we didn’t hear them, then it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t going to affect us.
We stayed in the dark, clutching an unlit candle, telling ourselves we were safe and all will be fine if we just ignore them.
We were wrong.
The United States of America has history. Granted it is not a history as long as those in Europe, but we have history all the same.
In our classrooms, in our history books, in the knowledge passed down through the years, a chunk of that history is rarely brought to light.
We were fence sitters.
“The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.” – George Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796
President George Washington, in his Farewell Address declared we must remain Neutral. Wars outside our borders meant nothing to us.
President Thomas Jefferson, in his Inaugural Speech reinforced our stance in this matter.
“I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” – Thomas Jefferson’s Inaugural Speech of 1801
Jefferson was not the first, nor the last President that stated this policy.
“In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken part, nor does it comport with our policy, so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded, or seriously menaced that we resent injuries, or make preparations for our defense.” – President James Monroe, 1823
After Tsar Alexander II put down the 1863 January Uprising in Poland, French Emperor Napoleon III asked the United States to “join in a protest to the Tsar.” Secretary of State William H. Seward declined.
“Defending our policy of non-intervention—straight, absolute, and peculiar as it may seem to other nations… the American people must be content to recommend the cause of human progress by the wisdom with which they should exercise the powers of self-government, forbearing at all times, and in every way, from foreign alliances, intervention, and interference.”
This policy remained untouched until the war for Cuba’s independence from Spain. After a riot in 1898 in Cuba, the U.S. Consul-General feared for the safety of Americans in Cuba. By the end of January, 1989, the United States sent the USS Maine to Havana. She was scuttled in the Havana harbor on February 15, 1898. This ultimately led to the Spanish-American War (April 25, 1898 – August 12, 1898).
Afterwards, the United States went back to declaring it’s Neutrality.
The Neutrality Acts:
- The Neutrality Act of 1935 imposed a general embargo on trading in arms and war materials with all parties in a war. It also declared that American citizens traveling on warring ships traveled at their own risk.
- The Neutrality Act of 1936, passed in February of that year, renewed the provisions of the 1935 act for another 14 months. It also forbade all loans or credits to belligerents.
- The Neutrality Act of 1937, passed in May, included the provisions of the earlier acts, this time without expiration date, and extended them to cover civil wars as well. Furthermore, U.S. ships were prohibited from transporting any passengers or articles to belligerents, and U.S. citizens were forbidden from traveling on ships of belligerent nations.
- The Neutrality Act of 1939 allowed arms trade with belligerent nations (Great Britain and France) on a cash-and-carry basis, thus in effect ending the arms embargo. Furthermore, the Neutrality Acts of 1935 and 1937 were repealed, American citizens and ships were barred from entering war zones designated by the President.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland; Britain and France declared war on Germany, marking the start of World War II.
Two days later, President Roosevelt assured the nation that he would do all he could to keep them out of war.
“At this moment there is being prepared a proclamation of American neutrality. This would have been done even if there had been no neutrality statute on the books, for this proclamation is in accordance with international law and in accordance with American policy. This will be followed by a Proclamation required by the existing Neutrality Act. And I trust that in the days to come our neutrality can be made a true neutrality…. This nation will remain a neutral nation, but I cannot ask that every American remain neutral in thought as well. Even a neutral has a right to take account of facts. Even a neutral cannot be asked to close his mind or his conscience. I have said not once, but many times, that I have seen war and that I hate war. I say that again and again.
I hope the United States will keep out of this war. I believe that it will. And I give you assurance and reassurance that every effort of your Government will be directed toward that end.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Fireside Chat,” September 3, 1939
On January 6, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his State of the Union Address which is commonly called The Four Freedoms Speech.
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.” – An excerpt from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941
Neutrality. Fence sitting. Naivety. Close your eyes. If you can’t see it, it’s not there.
So we did.
Then it happened.
December 7, 1941.
Our mirage of Utopia was shattered.
Our rights and our freedom were no longer under our control.
Seventy-four days after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066. The order forced over 110,000 Japanese-Americans to leave their homes in California, Washington, and Oregon. They were sent to live in one of ten detention camps in desolate parts of the United States.
None of the Japanese-Americans had been charged with a crime against the government. Two-thirds had been born in the United States, and more than 70 percent of the people forced into camps were American citizens.
We imprisoned our own citizens because of their heritage and skin color. The last of these “prisons” was finally shut down in March 1946.
Seven months after the war had ended.
Japanese-Americans were not the only ones treated this way. 11,507 people of German ancestry were interned as well. Not to mention the 1881 Italians that were interned.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US demanded deportation of these suspects for detention on US soil. The countries that responded expelled 4,058 people. Among them were 81 Jews.
Why am I telling you this? Why have I gone to all the trouble to point all of this out?
Because someone out there wants to do it again.
I am speaking of the megalomania known as Donald Trump.
(meg’ă-lō-mā’nē-ă),1. A type of delusion in which the afflicted person considers himself or herself possessed of greatness. He/she believes him/herself to be Christ, God, Napoleon, anyone famous, or everyone and everything, including a lawyer, physician, clergyman, merchant, prince, or super athlete in all sports.2. Morbid verbalized over-evaluation of oneself or of some aspect of oneself.[megalo- + G. mania, frenzy]
(ˈfæʃ ɪst)1. A person who believes in fascism.2. A member of a fascist movement or party.3. A person who is dictatorial or has extreme right-wing views.[1915–20; < Italian]