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Interpretations and a personal love of art.
Part III: Are We Blind To It All? Theodore Roosevelt cared. I wish that wasn't a billion times more credit I could give to most presidents. Born into a wealthy family, he somehow grew up to understand class struggle and the fact that people who were just slaves forty years ago weren't going to rise up without the help of their much better off neighbors. Modernizing Jefferson's statement a century prior, “The debasement of the blacks will, in the end, carry with it the debasement of the whites.” Yet again, a prophecy? Yes. Was it acted upon? No. What Teddy was able to accomplish though was the dismantling of multiple corporations, food and drug regulations, and great strides in workers' rights. The crippling imperialism at the heart of this country also starts with Teddy. He cared, but that care couldn't stay domesticated. Yet, no one was a greater threat to the system than Woodrow Wilson. His fourteen points serving as a modern political ninety-five theses that explicitly described the dismantling of colonialism, world peace, open borders, and free trade. He implemented a federal income tax with the top being taxed at 77%, lowered tariffs, and reformed big banks. Wilson was a nightmare to the establishment. As we'll see with all three of the major progressive presidents, there was a catch. Woodrow Wilson was pro-segregation and even let it occur in his own office as he said after firing 15 black federal employees, "There are no government positions for negroes in the South. A negro's place in the corn field." as well as outlawing interracial marriage in DC. His excuse? It was in the manner of “If you keep them apart there's no possible way there could be any racial tension”. Was that true? The lynching postcards, race riots, and theatrical release of “Birth of a Nation” would all say otherwise. His policies would cause a massive economic boom though. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. On May 31st, 1921 a race based massacre would demolish the richest black community in the country, Greenwood. On October 24th, 1929 the wealthiest nation in the world would collapse. Part IV: What Have We Become? Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran the country for 12 years and didn't waste a second of it. The New Deal immediately struck at the structure that had been ironically keeping America down. The housing act, social security, wealth tax, major bank reform, and Wagner act. Eleanor championed civil rights while Franklin wrote in an executive order that outlawed race based employment. FDR oversaw a new America, one able to escape a Great Depression due to a great revelation. It was beautiful. Oh sorry, there is a catch. After Pearl Harbor, it was ordered that over 100,000 Japanese-Americans had to stay in camps during a time known as Japanese Internment due to terror induced impulses. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” he said. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!”, so what did JFK do exactly? Well, Frank Zappa sums it up perfectly with “What's there to live for, who needs the Peace Corps?” as the warmongering Kennedy had every American fearing for their lives on a daily basis. He never got to see the escalation of the Vietnam War. Now the question is, who would get to see its end? Richard Nixon was swept up by political theater. A man of restoration, peace, and development quickly destroyed by a stupidity that hid deep inside him. Desegregation, peaceful ties with China, strides in medicine, deescalation of the cold war, and attempts to fix the fractured middle east all swept away because of three things. Kissinger, the fact that strategy is nothing in the face of politics, and Watergate. A scandal that still stands as the largest blemish on Nixon's record over nonstop wars erupting in the area he sought to repair most and United States backed state backed terrorism: the ultimate proxy. Ronald Reagan was an existential crisis. A conservative hero who gave amnesty to 3 million immigrants, a Capitalist that backed the Khmer Rouge, a war on drugs while selling cocaine to fund a fraudulent arms deal. Reaganomics destabilized the markets and budget while we try it again. He proved that the people could become nothing and that's exactly what we did.
Part I: Were We Always Like This? What William Basinski saw on September 11th, 2001 was a government epiphany. It's easy to say there's a clear difference between pre and post 9/11 American societies simply due to heightened airport security that should have been there in the first place. America's history for the last half of a century shows no difference though, there was just now something tangible to justify it. It wasn't the “Spreading of communism” which makes you wonder why we were bombing rice farmers with zero concept of socioeconomics into oblivion. It was now “They flew planes into the World Trade Centers and also have weapons capable of mass destruction” while carefully forgetting to mention where those weapons may have come from. It's hard to believe, but there was a time where America wasn't distorted by corporation friendly politics and an undying love for showing everyone just exactly what “Democracy” means. The Revolutionary War still stands as the easiest to explain conflict in our history, it's clear as day. Americans wanted their independence from a tyrannical government so they fought through buckets of blood for it. Yet, there is something often lost in discussion. It wasn't all just a bunch of random men ready for a brutal fight against a massive British army, they were backed by powerful French and Spanish armies as well. That's always been our persona though, a bunch of stray idiots who just happen to hold all of the world's power in their palm without question. Bush humanized that. There seems to always be a layer to American History, including the dark irony that while fighting for freedom, slavery was huge and we we're consistently taking away the freedoms of Natives. Nobody can tell The United States what do though. Thomas Jefferson couldn't even stop himself as he called slavery “The greatest threat to the survival of the new nation” while owning upwards of 200 slaves. A prophecy? Yes. Was it acted upon? No. The War of 1812 was caused by the United States trading with France when Britain said not to. Conflict over conscience. We only converge when surrounded by blood. Part II: What Do We Stand For? There was a time when half of the country fought to keep blacks enslaved and it is somehow surprising that the same country may still mistreat that population. The bloodiest conflict in our nation's history still, Jefferson was right. 163 years before we elected the definition of incompetent after having a president who had great character, but ultimately failed in his seat of office, there was Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. The former was a anti-abolitionist people pleaser who couldn't do anything for a fracturing nation while the latter was just an obnoxious centrist that literally both bought slaves as well as freed them and couldn't help a single soul if he wanted to. Then the unanimous saint of America came into office. Abraham Lincoln would cause the south to recognize the 10th amendment to its limits and to a much larger extent, their disgusting practice was actually in danger. Law was entirely in the south's favor and believing they would notice the moral horrors of slavery was a political pipe dream. So it happened, we actually had to fight a devastating war over something that had been outlawed by our allies for decades or even centuries. We've never been the ultra progressive society that we love to portray. It goes far beyond our current president. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1st, 1863. I wonder if there were political commentators back then saying black people shouldn't fear for their lives just because a piece of paper was signed. Regardless, the slaves were legally free. Where would they go and what did they have? Nowhere and nothing. They had to stay in the same place that just saw them as property and lesser beings. To make matters worse, Lincoln was assassinated and replaced by the bigoted Andrew Johnson. A man who halted reconstruction to such a degree that he was impeached although for whatever reason they just couldn't remove him nor would the greatest heel dragger in political history resign. It would take 36 years after Lincoln's death to get another leader of his caliber. Before Bush, there was another cowboy that shifted American politics forever.