Monday, September 27, 2004

the depth of my ignorance was revealed this evening as I read about the Spanish-American war. most alarming to me was the realization that i never bothered, in 32 years of life, to study the geography of the caribbean islands. cuba forms a fairly straight line with haiti, the dominican republic, and puerto rico. in my mind, these places previously had no spatial orientation, except perhaps that i knew that cuba was the furthest north of the bunch. then, i realize, our country had an imperialist war with Spain, not much more than 100 years ago. Spain was cracking down on a Cuban insurgency to the extent that it hurt U.S. sugar interests, in that plantations were being smashed and workers put in concentration camps. we sent in the Maine for show, its boiler spontaneously exploded through no fault of Spain's, and due to intensly biased U.S. press coverage, we all decided to kick Spain's ass. we kicked Spain's naval ass--in both Cuba and the Phillipines--in 1898. our navy was efficient, but our ground troops were put through a meat grinder. teddy roosevelt and the rough riders prevailed in cuba, but took 1500 casualties. over 5000 U.S. troops died in the war overall, many because of poor diet and disease. this they called the "splendid little war."

of course, it was the turn of the century, when whites in the democratic-held south lynched nearly 100 african-americans annually. i am not sure that life in the U.S. then was any less violent than Iraq is today. our sensibilities have changed, in such a way that we are not any more peaceful or empathatic, only fixated more on outsiders. as our indifference towards genocide in Sudan suggests, we only care about violence that is a direct challenge to our sense of superiority. seeing the beginning of al-Zarqawi's staged beheading on 60 minutes the other night, i have busied my mind with scenarios of how we might be able to shoot or blow up the guy. however, brutality such as his is everywhere NOW, and it has prevailed HERE and ELSEWHERE for thousands of years. it is my entitled life here in the U.S. that is the exception. lives can end and do end in absurd, brutal ways. i could turn around and begin wondering why and how my life should be so GOOD in relation to it all.

there are a lot of things left to think about.