Peaks, Valleys of American History
Written by Daniel Peel
Throughout american history, good and bad choices were certainly made. This article will examine some of those choices and events from the time of industrialization to WW1.
Corporate influence in Washington
Before senators were elected by the citizens, they were elected by the house of representatives. Seats were often bought by businesses such as Standard Oil or by individuals who could pay enough to win votes. The senate was known as the Millionaires' Club and only represented the interests of the rich. This is a point of shame.
Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad
After this spike was driven into a tie at Promontory Point, Utah (and later removed because gold is not not actually good at holding railroads together), A single line connected the East to the West. From this moment, products could be ordered from across the nation and delivered two weeks later. Movement of cargo and people changed dramatically. This is a point of pride.
Indian boarding schools
In an effort to remove the Native American element from the West, schools were founded specifically to reeducate the population and have it conform to american beliefs. Names were changed to fit society and Christianity of various denominations was taught. Abuse of many kinds was common in these schools as punishment for speaking native languages or generally conforming to their existing culture. The government focused on young natives because older ones were less likely to give up their beliefs. This is a point of shame.
While the East coast was flooded with immigrants from all over the world, organizations formed to help people find a home in the dense cities. Because immigrants could not pay in money, they were told to pay in votes. Political parties operated these political machines to secure support for their side in elections. For funding, they stole money from public projects by whatever means possible. "Boss Tweed" was in charge of Tammany Hall, the largest machine in New York. This is a point of shame.
As the age of immigration continued, cities had to fit people into progressively smaller spaces. The result was a truly awful standard of living for low-wage workers. single tiny rooms included multiple families and the bad parts of town had more people per square mile than any modern city. Diseases, fires, crime, and more were serious threats to every person in the area. Jacob Riis, a danish immigrant, got a camera and some flash powder and showed people exactly what was going on. This is a point of shame.
Islands of immigrants
Chinatowns, Little Italies, or even buildings with mostly Albanian families are trends that came to prominence during the era of immigration. Instead of fully assimilating into american life, many immigrants found people from their country and chose to live near them. They could speak their own language, tell stories that would be understood, and preserve their own traditions, foods, and more. Through this process, Americans were introduced to the best the world had to offer. An attentive individual could experience a little bit of everything by walking around the city. These neighborhoods survive today. This is a point of pride.
While people were moving to the cities, population densities increased, leading to stress on existing infrastructure. As the problems grew, very little action was seen to clean up the poor districts. As a result, disease could spread more easily and the quality of life fell rapidly. This was a result of no political action. This is a point of shame.
As cities grew, the number of available workers for urban jobs increased. While factories had their own problems, revolutionary products could be mass produced. If a soldier's gun broke, an exact replacement could be found easily. more people enjoyed cars. Clothing became cheaper and much less homemade. Everything was suddenly available in much greater quantities than before. This is a point of pride.
In the country, the sun dictated when to get up and when to go to bed. In the new cities and factories, the sun was not good enough. Clocks had existed previously, but were rarely useful. Now, clocks became an integral part of life for more and more people. Work required people to be up at a specific time and allowed them to leave at another time. The mental focus of an entire population shifted when factories spread across America. This is a point of pride.
A political triumph of the progressive era was the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. After an extremely long and difficult fight, women were full citizens. Most of the world had been operated by men alone until the tradition slowly started to change. The language of the amendment is such that any of the gender identities that have appeared in the last year would still have the power to vote. This is a point of pride for the United states, mostly.
Graduated Income Tax
The economic influence of the Progressive era was the 16th amendment, which allowed taxes to be changed based on income. Previously, tax was 3% for anyone who made over 800 dollars a year. After the amendment, tax was shifted toward the upper class, with less pressure on the poor. This is a point of pride for the American people. This is a point of pride.
National Parks System
One of Teddy Roosevelt's many accomplishments was the creation of the national parks system. The goal was to set aside portions of land to be preserved forever, letting people enjoy the natural beauty in the best pieces of land. Among them are Yosemite, Crater Lake, Grand Canyon, and more. President Roosevelt laid a stone in the construction of this arch at the North entrance of Yellowstone. The text on top reads "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people." This is a point of pride.
The Spanish american war
In the era of imperialism, one of America's political moves resulted in the Spanish-American war. The American government had an interest in multiple Spanish territories. Its process to gain them was to set up a revolution in Cuba, then go to war with Spain. Upon victory, America seized Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Our relationship with Cuba was long and awkward after we promised them freedom and then failed to deliver. It is a point of shame for America.
Annexation of Hawaii
Hawaii was annexed to protect our economic interests in the area. The plantations had recently gained massive amounts of value, but were threatened by a new law which would add a tax to the imported goods. The queen was overthrown, and we all got delicious pineapples. This is a point of pride and shame.
The White man's burden
Although Rudyard Kipling was not american, his poem clearly displayed the philosophy of the time behind all of our extremely negative actions. Kipling explained that those people needed to be a part of society and that all we did was a service. The ideals behind the poem are points of shame.
World War One
Wilson's fourteen points
As the war began, Woodrow Wilson created a list of fourteen things that could prevent another war in Europe. He did not want Germany to pay for the war or accept the blame, but Europe was too busy blaming Germany and making them pay for the war. Wilson also wanted a league of nations, but Congress did its thing and shot down the idea after everyone else joined. Pride for Wilson's effort. Would have literally prevented WWII, at least from Germany.
Germany's War Reparations
Not great. Actually really terrible. Germany paid for the war. It had to take a lot of crap from Europe. Because Germany had to pay $55,000,000,000, its economy died. Everyone's economy died. Hitler told people he could fix the economy, but that was after 1920. Shame we had to give up on Wilson's fourteen points. Not really our fault, but it was a low point for us. Blame Germany.
"Hate The Hun"
In war, we demonize the enemy. We did in basically every decent fight in recorded history. No difference in WWI. Germany was evil in our minds, so we just had to eliminate its influence on our culture. Fine. Hamburgers became Salisbury steaks and less delicious German food was gone. This would be OK if we didn't lynch any German-Americans, but sometimes you don't quite have your way. Twelve coal miners turned my common enemy thing into violent discrimination. No. I will not acknowledge them. I am proud of American propaganda. Doesn't that face make you want to give money to the government?
(Finished 11:00 PM, 07 Dec 2015) Also, my internet does not like videos because of speed and data limits. Enjoy not clicking "Play."