Americans have been trying to get OUT of wars since 1945

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Americans have a reputation for being loud, rude, warmongers–basically some of the last people you might want to have nukes.

And while we are definitely loud and probably rude, ironically, we’ve been trying to get OUT of wars since at least 1945.

Remember Truman? He succeeded to the presidency on Roosevelt II’s death in ’45, then was narrowly defeated by Dewy in ’49. Then, after 20 straight years of Democrat rule, the Republican Ike (whom everyone liked) was elected in ’53.

Truman oversaw the surrender of Nazi Germany (on his birthday, no less,) the conclusion of the Pacific war (by dropping atomic bombs on Japan,) and America’s return to peace. Nonetheless, his popularity plummeted from 85% (in 1946) to 22% (1952)–making him possibly the least popular president in history (even Nixon had a 24% approval rating when he resigned.)

Truman had a genuinely rough job: he had to oversee the end of a colossal war, then the demilitarization of the US and its economy and the return of our troops, and navigate an entirely novel role for the US, as one of the world’s two remaining superpowers. Should we prepare for nuclear war with the Soviets? Would communism consume Europe and China? Should the US help Europe and China rebuild? What about Turkey? And on top of that, North Korea went and invaded South Korea.

For the first century or so of America’s existence, such an invasion would have been none of our business–indeed, the average American likely would have heard nothing about it. Now, as the world’s only counter to Soviet hegemony, Truman thought we had to do something–and so began the terribly unpopular Korean War (1950-1953.)

Ordinary people understood very well why we entered WWII–the Japanese bombed us, an event that is still seared into our national conscience, and then Germany declared war on us. But the North Koreans weren’t attacking us–they just wanted South Korea. Yes, you can make some intellectual justification about stopping the spread of communism, but as far as the average Joe is concerned, Koreans ain’t us and their war was, therefore, none of our damn business.

When the war began, 78% of Americans approved of Truman’s decision. By 1952, only 37% agreed. The war only received the support of half the American people again when it ended.

The war’s unpopularity was Truman’s.

Eisenhower ran against the Korean War and won with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, (though the popular vote was closer.) In ’53, he brought the war to an end. According to Wikipedia, “Since the late 20th century, consensus among Western scholars has consistently held Eisenhower as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.”

All went well until Kennedy (’61-63.) His term opened with the disastrous, CIA-run Bay of Pigs invasion. By the Cuban Missile Crisis (’62,) fallout shelters were common, schools were running nuclear attack dills, and people were convinced there was a very high chance we were all going to die. (The state of Florida was particularly terrified.)

Kennedy almost immediately changed Ike’s policy on Laos & Vietnam, and one month after the Bay of Pigs went south, formally committed America to a more active role in Vietnam.

In ’63, Kennedy was assassinated by a homegrown communist and Johnson took office. Kennedy has been glorified because of his death; it is hard to speak ill of a man who was murdered by your enemies for trying to defend you, even if his policies were not the greatest.

Johnson enjoys no such halo. He increased the American presence in Vietnam from 16,000 non-combat advisors in 1963, to 550,000, mostly troops, in 1968. Crime (which people tend not to like) also soared under LBJ’s tenure, due to scaleback in policing and general integration of African Americans into US cities.

1968 is known as the year America went crazy. Students at Stanford rioted, striked, burned down buildings, torched the president’s office, and fought with the police:

April 29: Cambodia invasion protested… a day-long sit-in at the Old Union erupts into a rock-throwing, club-wielding battle between several hundred students and more than 250 police.

April 30: ROTC, Cambodia protest… demonstrators demanding immediate elimination of ROTC battle police… Property damage for the moth is estimated at $100,000, with 73 injuries in the past two nights.

Say what you will for student protesters, draft dodgers, or Marxists, America had no business being in Vietnam (we could barely scrounge up a single American who spoke Vietnamese to translate for us!) I have multiple relatives who were drafted or volunteered for service in Vietnam and one who died there, so I have opinions on the matter.

Oh, and a Palestinian Christian assassinated Kennedy’s little brother, RFK, for helping the Israeli military.

Despite Johnson’s electoral victory in ’64, his ratings tanked in ’68 (down to 35%,) and he decided not to run for re-election. Wikipedia relates:

One of the most tumultuous primary election seasons ever began as the Tet Offensive was launched, followed by the withdrawal of President Johnson as a candidate after doing unexpectedly poorly in the New Hampshire primary; it concluded with the assassination of one of the Democratic candidates, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, just moments after his victory in the California primary. …

Nixon’s Democratic opponent in the general election was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was nominated at a convention marked by violent protests.[112] Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval.[112]

He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States’ nuclear superiority.[115] Nixon promised “peace with honor” in the Vietnam War and proclaimed that “new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific”.[116]

Nixon came into power, ended the Vietnam War, ended the draft, and opened peaceful relations with China (a major pivot from America’s previous stance.) He was reelected in one of the largest landslides in US history, before the WaPo and Judge Sirica decided to destroy him.

After the Nixon fiasco, Americans elected Carter, one of the peaciest of peaceful guys ever to peace in the White House. Carter, though well-liked as a person, had, shall we say, bad luck: the oil embargo, Iran hostage crisis, economic troubles at home. He was replaced by Reagan, who, despite his tough rhetoric got the Iranian hostages released and negotiated nuclear arms reduction treaties with the Soviets.

Bush I, Reagan’s VP and successor, won handily in ’89 and oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He entered into a new kind of warfare, the UN-backed, fast in-and-out, minimal American death removal of Saddam from Kuwait. Americans do not mind wars so long as they are fast, relatively bloodless, and we win.

Bush got done in by economic troubles and lost to Clinton, who oversaw prosperity at home and tried to broker peace abroad, from the Oslo Peace Accords to UN “peacekeepers” in the former Yugoslavia. Clinton was popular despite Republicans’ best efforts to sabotage him.

Clinton was not eligible to run in 2000, but the Republican candidate, Bush II, positioned himself in opposition to Clinton’s “nation building” and advocated for a more isolationist, less interventionist American foreign policy.

Bush turned out to be a liar. He was just telling people what they wanted to hear, and then he went and spent trillions of dollars and got thousands of Americans killed in Iraq.

Yes, Americans supported the war in Afghanistan, because they blamed Afghanistan (or at least people in Afghanistan,) for the attack on 9-11. But support waned quickly for the Iraq War II, Bush II became hugely unpopular, and the current Republican candidate, Trump, is running on his opposition to the war vs. the Democratic candidate’s support for it.

Obama ran on “Hope and Change”–a promise to pivot foreign policy away from Bush’s disastrous wars. His campaign was so successful, he was almost immediately awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (though by Swedes, not by Americans.)

In our current election, people on both sides of the political aisle are concerned that the other side’s candidate is a war-monger who will get us into another war. Trump’s supporters are concerned about Hillary’s history/support for violence in Libya, Benghazi, and Syria, not to mention her aggressive stance toward Putin, leader of the world’s other nuclear superpower. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m concerned about Hillary starting a war with Russia, something Americans have been trying to avoid since 1945.

And the pro-Hillary side is concerned that Trump is a violent hothead who will send US troops to Syria, get embroiled in a bunch of costly wars like Bush II did, and maybe launch off some nukes just for the fun of it. And they’re concerned that he’ll put illegal immigrants in concentration camps and make Muslims wear yellow crescents on their clothes.

Regardless of which side you think is right, both are trying to avoid being killed in yet another stupid war that has nothing to do with our actual interests.

America might fight a lot of wars, but we sure as hell don’t want to.

 

Oh, and apparently you can buy countryball plushies.

Family, Nation, and History

What does it mean to belong?

Despite my inauspicious start, it turns out that I do have history of my own. For privacy reasons, I can’t give too many details, but so far, after reading family histories assembled by my grandparents, I’ve found immigrants in the early 1700s, the 1600s, and sometime between 60 and 12,000 years ago–the exact dates of that particular migration episode is still being debated–but none in the 1800s or 1900s. (This may, of course, be merely an issue of incomplete genealogy.) I can count over a dozen ethnic groups in my family tree (though I should note that I consider the “American Nations” ethnic groups, which you may not.)

If anyone has a right to call themselves an “American,” then I suspect I do.

My husband’s family I laughingly refer to as immigrants. Okay, half of them are good, old-stock Americans. The other half, though, seem to have immigrated at some point during the 1800s. Or maybe even the early 1900s.

I have no connections to the old country; indeed, I don’t really have an old country–there is no one place that a majority of my ancestors came from. I have never had any sense of being anything other than what I am, and for much of my life, not even that. For many years, actually, I operated under quite incorrect assumptions about my origins.

On a practical level, of course, it doesn’t really matter–I would still be me if it turned out I arrived here as an infant from Kazakhstan and my whole “history” was a colossal mix-up with someone else’s. But this is my history, and as such, it is special to me, just like that ragged old bear in the closet my grandmother made. It might be worthless to you, but it’s mine.

What does it mean to have a history?

When I read about the various Bering Strait theories, I think, “Some of my ancestors were there, hunting mammoths.”

When I look at the British, French, and Spanish colonies and the American Revolution, I get to think, “Some of my ancestors were there.” Indeed, some of them were influential folks in those days. When I think about the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, I can say, “These were my ancestors’ ideals.”

When I look at the Civil War, well, there’s a lot of family history. My grandmother still tells the stories her great-grandmother told her about watching the Yankees burn down the family farm.

Some ancestors were pioneers. Some were farmers and some professors and some scientists who helped develop technologies that sent satellites into outer space.

And yet… Nationalism isn’t really my thing. Bald eagles, Stars and Stripes, the Pledge of Allegiance… they’re all a big nope. I don’t feel much of anything for them. I have no interest in the “Southern Cause,” and I don’t even have a particular affection for Americans–most of my close friends are immigrants. And as previously stated, I am not a white nationalist–IQ nationalist is a much better description. I like smart people.

I look out for American interests because I happen to live here. If I lived in Japan, I’d look out for Japan’s interests, simply because anything bad that happened in Japan or to the Japanese would also be happening to me–even though I’d be an immigrant with no particular history there. It is natural (particularly among leftists) to assume, therefore, that immigrants to the US may do the same.

(Edited to clarify: Commonly assumed things are often wrong. Many on the left assume that unprecedented numbers of immigrants from non-Western cultures will adopt American culture in a way that does not substantially change it. The whole point of this post is to discuss the nebulous effects of cultural change and ethnic identity. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of graphs for “How proud I feel while looking at a picture of George Washington,” so this is difficult to express.)

In fact, I know plenty of immigrants who have far more nationalism for their adopted country than I do.

(Edited to clarify: I happened to write this after visiting the home of an immigrant family that had framed versions of the Pledge of Allegiance and the Signing of the Declaration of Independence on their walls. I recognize that these people are really glad to be in this country, which they consider a vastly superior place to the one they came from.)

Is it of any importance that people have some sort of cultural connection to the place where they live?

I’ve tracked down a bunch of graphs/pictures related to immigration over time:

Map+ethnic+homelands+U.S.+new

Picture 20

(Oops, looks like a bit of text snuck in when I cropped the picture.)

Picture 21

ETA: Note that % of immigrants in the population is really at unprecedentedly high numbers, and the countries they come from have changed radically, too:

regions

Total quantity of immigrants by region of origin.

Picture 22

Picture 19

Picture 14

ETA: I thought this was obvious, but immigrants from whatever country they happen to come from tend to bring with them the norms and values of their own culture. Sometimes those norms easily mix with American ones. Sometimes they don’t.

pie-births-country-full

Picture 23

immigration-graph-irg

ETA: Another graph showing the ethnic makeup of American immigrants.

Immigration+U.S.+Germ+Engl+Irish+1840s+50s+60s+graph

ETA: So what happens when immigration goes up? Well, for starters, it looks like a lot more crime happens:

 

600px-Homicide_rates1900-2001 11217607.0002.206-00000002

And wages seem to stagnate:

fig2_prodhhincome

(The increase in household median income is due to women entering the workforce, thus increasing the number of workers per household.)

chart-01

I know there are other things going on in these time periods that could also affect income inequality, but that graph looks remarkably similar to the immigration graphs. Also:

U.S._Compensation_as_Percent_of_GDP_-_v1 Real-Wages-Long-Term   us-income-inequality-1910-2010

A lot of these came from Migration Policy Institute, but I’ve tried to use a variety of sources to avoid any particular bias or inaccuracies.

Now here we began with poetic waxing about one’s ancestors, and are whining about Irish criminality in the 1800s and how hard it is to get a job. BTW, Irish criminality was a real problem.

The correlations are suggestive, but unproven, so let’s get back to nostalgia:

From, "Most decade-specific words in Billboard popular song titles, 1890-2014"
From, “Most decade-specific words in Billboard popular song titles, 1890-2014

In the period from 1890-1920, the most common elements in the song titles seem to be family relations, friends, and nostalgia: Pal, Mammy, Home, Land, Old, Uncle, etc. This is in stark contrast to 1990-2015, when some sort of apocalyptic accident destroyed our ability to spell and we reverted to a savage state of nature: Hell, Fuck, Die, U, Ya, Thang.

Even in my own lifetime, historical nostalgia and appreciation for America’s founders seems to have drastically waned. As a child, Westerns were still occasional things and the whole mythology surrounding the settlement of the West was still floating around, though obviously nothing compared to its height in the 50s, when people were really into Davy Crockett:

800px-Davy_Crockett_by_William_Henry_Huddle,_1889

 

(Look like anyone you know? hqdefault, 1438571327352)

 

The “American Girls” line of books and toys was a big deal when I was a kid, featuring historically-themed dolls and books focusing on the American Revolution, Pioneers, Civil War, Industrialization, and WWII.

Today, the line has been re-branded as “Be Forever,” with far more focus on modern girls and cultural groups. Even the historical books have been re-designed, with “American Girl” reduced to fine print and “Be Forever” scrawled across the covers. The Revolutionary War, Pioneer, and WWII dolls have all been “retired” from the line. Yes, American history without the Revolution. The Civil War doll is still there, though.

Are slavery and the Vietnam protests the only parts of our history that we remember anymore?

Old:  51LVeMm95jL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_  New: Picture 6

History is dead.

(Sadly, since Mattel bought the company, they’ve become delusional about the amount of pink and purple girls historically wore.)

 

What would the US look like if all the Johnny-Come-Lateys from the migration waves of the 1800s had never arrived?

I have no idea. (This is an invitation for you to discuss the question.)

In the casually pagan style of our Christian forebears, the US Capital Building rotunda features a painting titled The Apotheosis of Washington, painted by Greek-Italian artist Constantino Brumidi in 1865:

Apotheosis_of_George_Washington2

Apotheosis_of_George_Washington

This is not the only painting by this title:

The Apotheosis of Washington by John James Barralet
The Apotheosis of Washington, by John James Barralet

hb_52.585.66

Apotheosis of George Washington, by H. Weishaupt

How about a few more on the general theme?

Greenough_Geo_Washington

Statue of Washington in the style of Zeus

420px-TheApotheosisLincolnAndWashington1860s

Apotheosis of Washington and Lincoln, 1860s.

rzawashington

washington_rushmore-P

 

Things change. Life moves on. Nothing new.

 

Is a nation’s history worth preserving? How do our identities and personal histories influence our values, cultures, and connections? What does any of this mean to you?

ETA for the clueless: This is an invitation for you to present your own opinions/answers to the questions.