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Mark Twain's Anti-Imperialism

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from another essay on the American flag (1901):

I am not finding fault with this use of our flag; for in order not to seem eccentric I have swung around, now, and joined the nation in the conviction that nothing can sully a flag. I was not properly reared, and had the illusion that a flag was a thing which must be sacredly guarded against shameful uses and unclean contacts, lest it suffer pollution; and so when it was sent out to the Phillippines to float over a wanton war and a robbing expedition I supposed it was polluted, and in an ignorant moment I said so. But I stand corrected. I conceded and acknowledge that it was only the government that sent it on such an errand that was polluted. Let us compromise on that. I am glad to have it that way. For our flag could not well stand pollution, never having been used to it, but it is different with the administration.


from "True Patriotism at the Children's Theater" (1907):

"This chief point of importance relates to citizenship. Citizenship? We have none! In place of it we teach patriotism which Samuel Johnson said a hundred and forty or a hundred and fifty years ago was the last refuge of the scoundrel -- and I believe that he was right. I remember when I was a boy I heard repeated and repeated time and time again the phrase, 'My country, right or wrong, my country!' How absolutely absurd is such an idea. How absolutely absurd to teach this idea to the youth of the country....

"Yet to-day in the public schools we teach our children to salute the flag, and this is our idea of instilling in them patriotism. And this so-called patriotism we mistake for citizenship; but if there is a stain on that flag it ought not to be honored, even if it is our flag. The true citizenship is to protect the flag from dishonor -- to make it the emblem of a nation that is known to all nations as true and honest and honorable. And we should forever forget that old phrase -- 'My country, right or wrong, my country!'

"It may be that we must learn our lessons of citizenship on the East Side in the Children's Theater. There the true principles of true life which mean true citizenship are being taught to those boys and girls who are to be the future citizens of America. First of all they are taught self-respect and confidence. They are taught that the true motives of life are to reach for the highest ideals. The dramas that they play have morals that tend toward this aim. And best of all, they are taught to act for themselves and to think for themselves. It is this self-thinking that goes to make up the true public opinion. We say we have public opinion in America. We have none. We only think second hand. How many of us are there to-day who know whether it is better for the country to have a tariff or free trade? The only opinions most of us have on this subject are the opinions derived second hand from certain men who seek to influence us to their way of thinking, and their way of thinking is generally in a direction that will subserve their own private ends or the ends of the party which they represent. So, you see, we have no citizenship, and our so-called patriotism is a patriotism that is employed for the benefit of political parties and is made a party cry."


A Salutation Speech from the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth

Taken down in shorthand by Mark Twain

"I bring you the stately matron called CHRISTENDOM -- returning bedraggled, besmirched and dishonored from pirate raids in Kiaochow, Manchuria, South Africa and the Philippines; with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and a towel, but hide the looking-glass."

—Dec. 31, 1900.

Give her the glass; it may from error free her
When she shall see herself as others see her.
(Just change the placenames... and the more things change the more they remain the same, don't they?)


"The Battle Hymn of the Republic", Updated (1901)

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps --
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;*
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom -- and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich --
Our god is marching on.

* NOTE: In Manila the Government has placed a certain industry under the protection of our flag. (M.T.)


For more, check out BoondocksNet.com's Mark Twain site at www.boondocksnet.com/twainwww/index.html

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