“Convicted killer, Jacob Maynard struck again, this time from behind bars in a violent brawl yesterday at the state penitentiary.”
The TV clicked and buzzed as it abruptly turned off.
Sitting up from the uncomfortable metal bench he had become so familiar with, his muscles ached, and, for a moment, he had forgotten where he was.
“It’s worth the wait to see her again,” he mused.
He went back to staring at the wall. “Geez, I must’ve read that poster a thousand times,” he groaned, “probably memorized the dam thing by now.” He closed his eyes and recited, “The first step toward change is…”
Glancing at his watch, he perked up. “Almost time.” Grinning foolishly, he thought, “I can’t wait to see her.”
The bell rang and he quickly turned his gaze to the door watching for her as families took seats together at tables throughout the room.
“Was I ever really that young?” he watched a young child blow a kiss to her father across the table. “Never was too good at the whole ‘school’ thing. Lots of bad decisions…” His mind wandered until he heard the doors close shut.
“What? Did I miss her?” he searched frantically. “No way I could have missed her. Late maybe… must be it…” he decided and closed his eyes.
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step…”
“She always has that dam pink blanket with her everywhere… I wouldn’t have missed that. Did she forget?” He looked for her again just as the bell rang. Chairs scraped on the floor as people stood up to go.
“Dammit…” he muttered. Concerned, he approached a nearby staff member.
“Have you seen my little girl? We were supposed to meet here now but I ain’t seen her anywhere.”
The staff grunted and turned away, ignoring his question.
“She has a bright pink blanket that she takes with her everywhere. Have you seen her?”
The staff simply stared then reached for their radio.
“Everyone else had their kids show up!” he cried.
“You’re supposed to know!” he screamed. “You can’t just brush me off like I ain’t here!” The veins in his neck bulged and his head throbbed. He clenched his eyes and remembered
“We need to talk about your behaviour, sergeant.”
“Doc, I didn’t do nothin’,” he quickly responded.
“Your superiors are questioning your competence.”
“I swear, Doc!” he insisted, his voice rising.
“Tell me how you’ve been feeling?”
“Sometimes I get a little… turbulent.” The doctor looked unconvinced. “I can control it!” He shouted, realizing he had just proved the doctor’s point.
He grabbed the staff member’s arm and shouted, ”Check the list! Where is my daughter?”
“Face it, she ain’t coming, better head back.” The staff member said casually.
His face flushed and his fists clenched. White knuckled, he struck the staff member and was struck himself by that old familiar anger.
“You can’t control yourself; I have no choice but to recommend an immediate discharge.”
He beat the staff member down to the ground punching wildly.
More staff quickly gathered, shouting. Two large men rushed in grabbing at him. He lashed, knocking one hard onto the ground. Soon, strong hands wrapped around his arms pulling him back, restraining him.
“This is for your own good.”
“This is for your own good. You do understand, don’t you?”
Despite his rage, he did. He understood that his emotions got in the way. He could feel it happening at this very moment. A little part of him recognized that, but he couldn’t control it. He slowly stood up and with a surge of adrenaline, he tackled the doctor to the ground.
As he fought back against his overwhelming anger, he looked up at the uniform sea of people gathered around him. Shouting and murmurs filled his ears. He could see more staff pushing through the crowd to get to him.
“I can’t keep fighting like this… Why am I even here?” He questioned himself.
Suddenly, the cold metal of handcuffs snapping around his wrists brought him back to reality.
Defeated, he desperately racked his brain to remember why he had gotten mad in the first place. The familiar bright pink of a blanket caught his eye through the bars on the window. Through them, watching him with tears in her eyes, his daughter stood.
“Visiting hours are over… Back to your cell, Maynard.”
He closed his eyes.
“The second step is acceptance.”
Progress: The Influential Roman Reform
If conservatism means maintaining the status quo and resisting change, then progress stands in opposition to that; revolution is extreme change demanded through a popular uprising; reform is to respond to the demand for change. When the lower classes have limits to the extent of which they will be exploited, there is bound to be an uprising agitating for change. This is evidenced in transition of Rome from Republic to empire through the ideas of the Gracchi Brothers and Populares movement. The Gracchi brothers recognized the disparities and fought for progressive change. Many legendary historical figures, from Julius Caesar to Albert Einstein, from Plato to Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged progressive thinking and ideas. Like a phoenix from the ashes of the fallen Republic, the great Roman Empire arose. There are clear attributes that led to the downfall of the Republic and reform into an empire.
From the start of the Republic in 509 BC, there was never any possibility for change because of the Optimate stranglehold on political control. For 400 years, the Republic did not see much change. With no real opposition, alterations to laws and traditions were only made when there was dire need for them. The Senate preferred to preserve traditions and rules to prevent any significant change. This allowed them to exploit workers and resources for political gain. The Republic struggled with poverty. The streets were full of landless poor but the Republic itself had lots of unused and excess land. The push for excess land distribution was proposed in 133 BCE but was met with violent opposition by the Optimates in the Senate. This unwillingness to listen to the calls of the people and fellow politicians created great upheavals around the Republic. The Senate, compelled to do the bare minimum to keep peace, called on the Roman legions to suppress the rebellions. But because of the Senate’s broken promises of loot and land to landless recruits and mistreatment toward soldiers made the army turn on them as well.
The Roman Republic itself was fairly progressive for the time. The first public aqueduct was built in 312 BCE and provided water to everyone, including the poor. There was cheap and free healthcare for all with the first public hospital built as early as 293 BCE. In 133 BC, Tiberius Gracchus was elected to the office of Tribune of the Plebs after founding the Populares, a progressive political opposition to the Optimates. Tiberius enacted the Tribal Assembly legislation which limited the amount of land individuals could own to 500 jugers (about 330 acres) and allowed the government to repossess any land in excess of this to redistribute to the poor at subsidized prices. It was not until the 123 BCE when Tiberius’s younger brother, Gaius Gracchus, was elected to the same position and passed a bill that would subsidize grain prices to help combat famine and politicized distribution of grain from politicians. Gracchus also resumed the distribution of land and expansion of colonies to strengthen borders, bring in new wealth and citizens; he implemented measures to fight corruption in the courts and senate, introduced regulations to army service, and provided for public works to relieve poverty and exploitation. This marked the start of the development of revolution in Rome; the ideas of which would lead to the election of Julius Caesar to consul in 59 BC.
The reform of the Republic into an empire resulted from the coalescence of individual interests and inspirations by three leaders. The First Triumvirate was formed by Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey, and Marcus Crassus in 60 BCE. Each leader had their own reasons for wanting to be a part of the triumvirate: Pompey wanted justice and reform for his veterans who had been duped out of land they were promised; Crassus wanted to regain money he had lost during food shortages in the east; Caesar wanted power. Together they were able to take control and start implementing changes that would benefit the people and help them gain popularity. Regardless of personal intentions, the trio was able to accomplish a lot for the citizens of Rome. There were more benefits for veterans of the Roman legions. There was more expansion, which brought in lots of wealth, new citizens, and established many new trade connections. These actions assuaged the Roman people’s desires for change and justice. Even though Caesar was seen by the Senate as an evil dictator king, the Roman population liked it. The assassination of Julius Caesar had the opposite affect on the public than the Senate had hoped. There was outrage and a consequent series of civil wars with the emergence of the first real emperor, Octavian “Augustus Caesar”.
The Roman Republic proved unsteady in the face of opposition. For hundreds of years the conservative philosophy of the Senate played only reactionary rolls in law making and governance. At the first sign of pushback and desire for progress, they crumbled and eventually fell. The people were frustrated with the stagnation of the Republic and wanted change. The public wanted to be represented accurately with their best interests in mind. This came in the form of the Gracchi Brothers leading a rebellion that may have failed in the short term but initiated the shift in attitude of the population. These shifts in attitude, along with the formation of the Populares party, led to the successful campaign and election to consul of Julius Gaius Caesar in 59 BCE. In the twenty-first century, lots of these issues seem very familiar. There is a lot to take from history and society could certainly learn a lot by looking at the past and recognizing that disparity in wealth distribution and exploitation of the working class eventually leads to demands for better or for more. Though the Ancient Roman politics can not be compared directly to modern day politics, there are many similarities between the issues. The Optimates were more conservative and the Populares were more progressive. Today, conservatism has sustained systems that have led to an egregious disparity in the distribution of wealth and a growing discontent among the working class. Young leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib may be playing the role of the Gracchi brothers in agitating for reform. Reflecting on history is an integral part of learning and growing. Being able to recognize past successes and failures is important but being able to understand the causes of those successes and failures leads to a greater understanding.
Gaius Sempronius Gracchus. (n.d.). Oxford University Press.
Caryl-Sue. (2020). Mar 15, 44 BCE: Julius Caesar Assassinated. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/thisday/mar15/julius-caesar-assassinated/#:~:text=The death of Julius Caesar,He renamed himself Augustus Caesar.
Erdkamp, P. (2000). Feeding Rome, or Feeding Mars: A Long-term Approach to C. Gracchus’ Lex Frumentaria. Ancient Society.
RODÀ, I. (2016). Aqueducts: Quenching Rome’s Thirst. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2016/11-12/roman-aqueducts-engineering-innovation/#:~:text=Rome had as many as,the first major Roman roads.
Hazlitt, H. (1971). Poor Relief in Ancient Rome. Foundation for Economic Education. https://fee.org/articles/poor-relief-in-ancient-rome/
Wasson, D. L. (2016). First Triumvirate. Ancient.Eu. https://www.ancient.eu/First_Triumvirate/
Wazer, C. (2016). The Cutthroat Politics of Public Health in Ancient Rome. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/04/the-tricky-politics-of-ancient-romes-aqueducts/479298/
The Genesis of a New Civilization in Golding’s Lord of the Flies
In the beginning, rules were created and brought order out of chaos but the people lost their way and brought ruin to what was otherwise a paradise. In 1954, British Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding wrote the novel, Lord of the Flies, exploring the thin thread of rule-bound decency that holds civilization together. The novel describes the experiences of a group of boys struggling to live life on a deserted island without the presence of adults and the conventional rules of society to maintain order. Some of the boys stray from the grown-up-inspired rules while others will follow them to their end. On their seemingly utopian island, the boys disregard the need for rules and social norms and, like Adam and Eve, find themselves suffering the consequences.
The image of an airplane often evokes a sense of freedom and getaway, and for these children, it was to be an escape from the ravages of war to a safer place. They were, however, shot down and marooned on a tropical island that became both paradise and prison. The plane symbolizes a new beginning for these boys. Though the crash meant the end of their old lives, it was the beginning of a new life that they could create themselves. In the second chapter, Ralph, one of the older boys, prepares everyone for this new reality by telling them “We may be here a long time.” (p. 34) Here, Ralph says this because he knows that they are stuck here and they are going to have to make this their new home. Throughout the book, the boys reflect back on the moment they crashed, talking about what happened, why it happened, and how. The plane represents freedom, but an unexpected type of freedom for the boys.
In this book, adults are a symbol of rules and law, much like God is in the Bible. In Genesis, God gives Adam and Eve only one rule, but when they break that rule, things fall apart. Some of the boys keep following the unspoken rules of back home like Roger in chapter four during a rock fight with Henry. “Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law.” (p. 62) This quote captures the idea that some of the boys do recognize where to draw the line. When the other boys choose to disregard the rules, things start to go wrong. For example, by not following Ralph’s rule to keep the fire going, they miss the chance to get rescued by a passing ship (p. 66). When Jack and the other boys separate from Ralph and make their own tribe that does not have any rules or influences from the outside world, they become less civilized and more tribalistic. On page 69, after killing their first pig, Jack and the other boys are so excited and enthusiastic about the gory details they almost completely ignore that Ralph is telling them that because they left the fire, they missed their opportunity to get rescued. This leads to odd rituals like putting the pig heads on sharpened sticks to appease the beast and threatening to do the same with Ralph later on in the book. Even after throwing a rock at Piggy, knocking him off a cliff to his death, Jack embraces the violence and continues to threaten Ralph and his authority over the tribes. The island offered the promise of a new life and a new world for the boys, but their disregard for the rules made a mess of their paradise.
The island symbolizes the Garden of Eden, a pristine island with pools of water that are “…clear to the bottom and bright with the efflorescence of tropical weed and coral.” (p. 12) Just like the Garden of Eden, there are rules to follow to ensure that some order is kept. Before they arrived, the island was beautiful with palm trees, mountains, and flowers. When describing Ralph, Jack, and Simon’s exploration of the island, Golding uses great imagery to create a sense of peacefulness:
“They were on the lip of a circular hollow in the side of the mountain. This was filled with a blue flower, a rock plant of some sort, and the overflow hung down the vent and spilled lavishly among the canopy of the forest. The air was thick with butterflies, lifting, fluttering, settling.” (p. 28)
The presence of butterflies and flowers creates pleasant visuals and gives the scenery a peaceful feeling, showing off the beauty of the island. The boys, in awe of the scenery around them, are described with “Eyes shining”, “mouths open” (p. 29) and exclamations like “Whizzoh!”(p. 12), “Wacco!” and “Wizard!” (p. 27).
Similar to the Garden of Eden, its purity is spoiled by the tribalistic childishness of the boys. Some of the boys ruin everything for everyone by disobeying the rules. The island becomes tainted by the conflicts and barbarianistic treatment of the land and each other by the two groups. At the beginning of chapter nine, the once Edenic descriptions of the scenery demonstrate how this paradise has been ruined. Golding’s word choice in describing the scenery illustrates this shift as he describes unsettled skies that were “ready to explode…”, “clear daylight” replaced by a “brassy glare” and hot air that “held no refreshment”. He even describes how “colors drained” from the landscape. Topping this off, he gives a gruesome description of how “Nothing prospered but the flies who blackened their lord and made the spilt guts look like a heap of glistening coal.” (p. 145) This quote demonstrates how the island is not so pleasant anymore. The language Golding uses shifts from describing beautiful butterflies fluttering around (p. 28), to disgusting flies covering a dead pig’s head in the bushes (p. 145).
The changes in the environment are also reflected in the boy’s emotional states and relationships with the land and each other. At the beginning, the carefree nature of the boys is best described by how the “littluns” act. “They ate most of the day” (p. 59) and “Apart from food and sleep, they found time for play, aimless and trivial, in the white sand by the bright water.” (p. 59). As the book progresses, the boy’s connection with the land diminishes. This is shown by the vicious chants of “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” and their carelessness with setting fires and not thinking of the consequences. They started to look at the island as something to use and exploit, rather than a place to respect and sustain them.
Abruptly, near the end of the novel, rescuers arrive amid the horrors of the boys’ own war, Ralph has, “a fleeting picture of the strange glamour that had once invested the beaches. But the island was scorched up like dead wood…” (p. 202) Ralph sees the destruction that they have caused since arriving on this island and reflects on all the unnecessary deaths. He starts to cry. He realizes how uncivilized they had become with the absence of order, and now there are adults and rules again. To the boys, the plane brought liberation from the eyes of God, liberation from the laws and rules of the adults. Now, confronted with going back home and having a sense of their old lives returned, one might speculate that the boys probably feel relief and a bit of horror. Being faced with the thought of having to reintegrate to society and following all the rules they had previously rejected and forgotten after all that they have gone through, is hard to reconcile. The boat brought them back to reality to realize that without the rules of the adults, their Eden got destroyed. Without civilization and order, this is what they have become. Animals.
As much as we think rules restrict our freedoms, they actually give us more freedom by creating a sense of order and safety. By setting some simple expectations that we can have of each other, we can feel safer and more open to accomplishing our dreams and limiting evil. Golding’s Lord of the Flies, reflects the Genesis narrative of the consequences of rejecting rules. The boys had an opportunity to create their own Eden, but found themselves in a spiral of violence and decay of which none will emerge unscathed. The rules play a critical role in regulating society in ensuring that people are safe but have the opportunity to pursue their own dreams and goals and even in the face of unbridled freedoms we should still impose some rules and order on ourselves for the greater good of all.
It may be a long way from Tipperary, but with these songs, it can feel just like home. In the First World War, there were very few ways to spread propaganda. Music, however, could be easily distributed to soldiers and citizens, unlike many other types of propaganda. Using music as propaganda was a very effective mode because it could be easily produced and could be tailored to target certain groups of people. These songs could be heard throughout the allied side in music halls where people could gather and sing along. Music was made for soldiers to keep their morale up, to make people think joining the war was a valiant and great decision, to unite everyone, and to make other people want to help support the war in any way possible. However, the music was also used as a way to encourage peace by anti-war advocates later in the war.
Music distribution was easier than ever. In 1917, when America joined the war, lots of musical propaganda started to come out of Connecticut. Song booklets and cards were produced and sold to soldiers and citizens to raise money for war efforts and to try to inspire people to support the war. These songs typically were very musically simple making them catchy and easy to remember. They required very little musical effort and talent and had simple rhythms that everybody could understand. These propaganda songs were intended to be simple to inspire a feeling of unity and togetherness. Many of these songs were written for a piano accompaniment because at the time, almost every household had a piano and at least one member of every household could read music. On the battlefronts, soldiers had these songbooks too. They allowed soldiers to connect with each other and bond while boosting morale and camaraderie. They also created a sense of traditional patriotism and instilled a call to duty because of the upbeat tempos in the march style of music.
The unity created from music during the war was incredible. Citizens came together, singing pro-war songs in music halls, soldiers on the front lines bonded over songs in their songbooks and ones they made themselves, and during the Christmas Truce of 1914, all along the western front, there was a ceasefire where all sides got together to sing Christmas carols and celebrate. Music-halls were very important in the unification of people during this time because it allowed people to come together and sing songs with performers. Most of the songs sung in music halls were very patriotic and aimed at recruiting new soldiers. For example, the English music hall performer, Vesta Tilley, sang the song “Your King and Country Want You” while bringing men on the stage to enlist in the war. Music is a part of everyone’s life and by taking advantage of that fact, the government was able to create songs that could subtly influence your opinions about the war. Exposing children to these songs made them think that joining the war was a good idea and made them want to fight. Lots of cities had their own individualized song or songs that made soldiers feel connected to home because wherever they were fighting, they were singing the same songs as the people back home like “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.
At the start of the war, music was intended to try to recruit new soldiers but as the war progressed, the tone of the songs changed. People were starting to realize that the war was not such a good idea and people were not happy about it and so rather than making songs to try to recruit new soldiers, songs were made to try to gain more support for war efforts to raise money and materials. As people started to realize that the war was bad, they started to make their own anti-war-themed songs like “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” by the Peerless Quartet. Songs like this were almost impossible to get into music halls because the halls worried about being shut down or getting in trouble with the government. Controversial songs could be found on the battlefronts too. Being in the military, soldiers couldn’t openly voice any negative opinions on the war and military issues, but they could get around that by making their own parodies of songs found in their songbooks. These parodies were often satirical and considered disrespectful but allowed the soldiers to express their anger and frustrations with the government while not break any rules.
Though music isn’t often acknowledged when talking about propaganda during the war, it could certainly be argued that it was what helped win the war for the allied powers. Music brought countries together, helped bring awareness to war efforts and the problems of war, gave soldiers and citizens an outlet where they could voice their opinions, and created a whole genre of music, and created some songs we still sing today. While printed flyers and posters are generally recognized as the more prominent form of propaganda, it was music that stayed in the hearts and on the lips of people for decades to come.
Meyer, J. (2016, June 27). Music in Wartime: Song Composition during the First World War. Retrieved from https://filsonhistorical.org/music-in-wartime-song-composition-during-the-first-world-war/
Music as Propaganda. (0AD). Retrieved from https://library.ccsu.edu/dighistFall16/exhibits/show/music-as-propaganda-in-world-w/music-as-propaganda
Wells, K. A. (2004, April). Music as War Propaganda. Retrieved from http://parlorsongs.com/issues/2004-4/thismonth/feature.php
Music of World War I. (2019, August 12). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_World_War_I
Capuletism: How Capitalism was the Cause of Romeo and Juliet’s Fate
Could the tragic fates of Romeo and Juliet have been prevented in a socialist society? Looking at the story through the lens of economic structure, lots of the motivations and actions can be seen as capitalistic. In the story of Romeo and Juliet, lots of the big obstacles and tragedies can be traced back to the same root cause: capitalist greed. In a capitalist society social status is determined by the wealth of a person or household. This means that the rich are treated much better and as more important than those in a blue-collar household. Socialism offers a much more balanced outlook on social status. Rather than segregating people by their wealth, everyone is grouped into one large category and treated as equals. The characters’ capitalist views lead to many problems, such as stratification, greed for money and power, and general inequality.
The social conditions in which Juliet and Romeo live, restrict lots of what they can do, and as said by S. Wolfson in Rudolf Schlesinger’s 1949 book, Changing Attitudes in Soviet Russia: The Family in the U.S.S.R. “In the conditions of socialism, [the theme of Romeo and Juliet] has outlived itself. Socialist society offers no scope for the tragic collisions which are produced by capitalism where social conditions prevent the union of lovers, their association in marriage and the family”. Socialism would not allow for the same kinds of complications that are caused because of capitalism and would allow for the characters to have a more open and socially accepted relationship.
The relationship between Romeo and Juliet is endangered when Romeo thinks that Juliet has died. Romeo is devastated and looks for an apothecary to sell him poison. Because of the social differences between the rich Romeo and poor, desperate apothecary, Romeo feels that he has more power and is more important than this other man. Romeo insults the poor apothecary, saying
Art thou so bare and full of wretchedness,/And fear’st to die? Famine is in thy cheeks./Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes./Contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back./The world is not thy friend nor the world’s law./The world affords no law to make thee rich. Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.”
Romeo uses his money to manipulate the apothecary in to selling him the illegal poison. The apothecary is in need of money and Romeo uses his wealth to exploit those needs to get what he wants. This is where stratification comes in to play making it possible for Romeo to purchase the poison that kills him in the end, leading to Juliet and her mother’s deaths as a consequence.
Another example of capitalist behaviour, is Juliet’s planned marriage with Paris. Initially, Capulet had told Paris to wait until Juliet was older to marry, but when Tybalt dies and Juliet becomes depressed, Capulet arranges a marriage. Lady Capulet and Capulet make this move out of greed. This marriage’s purpose was not to try to cheer Juliet up but was to marry a rich man who has power and is related to the Prince, giving the Capulet’s family much more power. Lady Capulet uses her new royal connection as a way to suck up to the Prince and make him think that Benvolio was lying and that Romeo should be banished.
Lady Capulet, in reference to the fate of Romeo, tells the Prince:
He is a kinsman to the Montague.
Affection makes him false. He speaks not true.
Some twenty of them fought in this black strife,
And all those twenty could but kill one life.
I beg for justice, which thou, Prince, must give.
Romeo slew Tybalt. Romeo must not live.
The Prince listens to her and unfairly exiles Romeo from Verona. This goes to show how the more money you have, the more connections you have, the more power you have. These greed seeking ideas are not prevalent in socialist ideals and all of these things could have easily been prevented in that way.
In conclusion, it seems that lots of the capitalist ideas in Romeo and Juliet led to only bad things. With socialism, there would be more equality, contentedness, simpler relationships, and simpler socialization between everyone. Economy has a greater impact on the world than most people realize. Everything would have been much more simple and easy to accomplish with a different economical structure. If Romeo and Juliet were free and equal citizens, there would never have to be any conflicts or problems.
The Monroe Doctrine: America Cuts the Cord
It was time for America to move out, be independent, live alone, and follow their own rules. The Monroe Doctrine was a bold statement establishing the United States as an independent world power and the only power in the Western Hemisphere going largely unchallenged by the rest of the world. The Doctrine was a response to a British proposal to America about the settlement of the rest of the unclaimed land in the New World and the rising powers of Spain and Russia. United States President James Monroe made clear that the Americans claimed sovereignty over all of the New World. America was asserting their independence from Europe, setting themselves up as protectors of the New World. While the Doctrine was made on no legal grounds and did not have any power of enforcement behind it, was left unchallenged by other nations. As a consequence, America bolstered its independence from Britain and started its confident path to the superpower they are today. They took a risk and their gamble paid off. In return, America was able to establish not only that the New World was theirs, but also that they were a nation to be respected. For that reason, Americans should be proud (1.5).
The Monroe Doctrine is made up of four main points. The first being that the United States would not interfere or take part in any European internal affairs or conflicts. This meant that unless provoked directly, the United States would not get involved in any old world conflicts as it was not their business to do so. The second point was that the United States recognized and would not interfere with existing colonies and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere, meaning that America would let the South American colonies do what they wanted and would not interfere with their decisions. The third point stated that the Western Hemisphere was no longer open for colonization or settlement saying “the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers” (James Monroe, 1823). The Western Hemisphere has been claimed and protected and the old world has no further role settling and colonizing in the Americas. Colonization brings foreign political systems and ways of governing that were not welcome in the Western Hemisphere. The United States recognized that the political system of the allied powers was different from that of America’s and any attempt to assimilate to their political structure could be detrimental to the country. The fourth point said that any attempt to control or oppress any nation in the Western Hemisphere by a European power would be considered as an act of hostility towards the United States, meaning that if some European power tried to stake a claim to some land somewhere in South America for example, they would meet with American resistance. These points sent a clear message to Europe that America was not to be messed with.
The Monroe Doctrine came at a time where there were many revolts and revolutions for independence and attempts for peace around the world. The Doctrine provided the Latin-American colonies that were starting to claim independence around the same time with an extra boost of motivation to push for independence. The Latin American Wars of Independence were, as the name suggests, a series of wars where South American colonies fought for independence from Europe. Prior to the Doctrine, America and Spain had good relations. Spain, having supported American troops in the French Revolution and the 1795 “Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation Between Spain and the United States” that set clear boundaries and cleared up land disputes. The Monroe Doctrine, though strengthening the relationship between America and South American colonies, negatively impacted their relationship with Spain leading America to no longer welcome Spain in the Western Hemisphere as colonists. Meanwhile, in Europe, Pax Britannica, a period of relative peace between the big powers of the time, was starting. Britain’s navy ruled the sea and adopted the role of a global policeman. Britain was trying to keep as much peace as possible. Having already fought 7 wars since 1800, Britain did not have the money nor did they have the manpower to be fighting in any more. The British wanted to strike an agreement with America, preventing other European powers from settling in the New World, potentially disrupting their trade agreements. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Monroe writes:
My own impression is that we ought to meet the proposal of the British govt, & to make it known, that we would view an interference on the part of the European powers, and especially an attack on the Colonies, by them, as an attack on ourselves, presuming that if they succeeded with them, they would extend it to us. (Monroe, 17 October 1823)
Though America declined the offer, they produced the Monroe Doctrine, which ended up being a relatively similar concept. Britain was content and lent support to America for the Doctrine by having the British Navy enforce it.
The Monroe Doctrine still applies today with one example being the current situation in Venezuela. Juan Guaidó is being recognized as the interim President of Venezuela by many countries including America, but there are some conflicts. Not all countries are recognizing Guaidó as the President like Russia, who supports Nicolás Maduro, the elected President. Russia has been interfering and sending their military support to help Maduro and America, displeased, sees this as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine and has threatened to take action if Russia does not comply and stop sending reinforcements. This proves that America still stands by the Doctrine.
While America seems to uphold the principles of the Munroe Doctrine, they are also infamous for their meddling in international politics and governments, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. America has supported “the Latin American militaries, normally acting with the support of the U.S. government, [who] overthrew civilian governments and destroyed other centers of democratic power…” (Patrice McSherry in Chomsky, 2008) such as Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet, but then turn on them when they were not needed anymore or were getting out of control. America has done this in almost every single South American country. Some of which, are still recovering from American interference. This really calls into question whether America still stands by the Monroe Doctrine, or whether it is just used as an excuse to do some things or not do others and just turn their back on it when it is inconvenient for them.
The Monroe Doctrine has been a large factor in the decision making and actions of the United States. It has been referenced by many different presidents over the years, including Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Americans could be proud of what the Monroe Doctrine has accomplished. It gained America international respect, set them up to become the superpower they are today, and still, nearly 200 years after originally being said, America still uses the Monroe Doctrine to judge their decisions. Though there have been some controversies about whether or not America keeps true to the Monroe Doctrine, it is still a powerful and influential message. It helped and still helps America be the power they are today.