Weight of Freedom

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Ye dare not stoop to less–
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.
— Rudyard Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands. McClure’s Magazine, February 1899.

I gave this poem to my South Asia Civ class in the Fall and asked for their response. Most had heard of the phrase “The White Man’s Burden”. Most had a negative opinion of this poem after reading it, despite having little knowledge of the conquest of Philippines or the historical debate on Imperialism produced in the aftermath of that savage war.
Listening to George Bush’s press conference, I was reminded of that debate and how similiar it is to the War on Terror/War for Freedom rhetoric nowadays. Just as the War on Terror masks wars on civil liberties or constitutional rights or sovereign nations, the calls for Freedom railroads the actual meaning of that term. The French are horrible because they are free to choose and they choose to be against us. The Spanish should hand the Iberian peninsula back to the Moors because they elected to get out of Iraq. You are free to choose as long as you choose what we want you to choose.

Freedom, indeed, is a genuine human right as Bush eloquently puts it:

>Some of the debate really centers around the fact that people don’t believe Iraq can be free, that if you’re Muslim or perhaps brown skinned, you can’t be self-governing and free. I strongly disagree with that. I reject that because I believe freedom is the deepest need of every human soul. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily — are a different color than white can self-govern. And if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.

In fact, then, shall we ask WHY did he throw away decades of [the semblance of] US neutrality in Israel-Palestine conflict?? Don’t the Palestinians deserve a fair chance to choose a solution for themselves? Those “facts on the ground” may be “Israeli population clusters” to Bush-cons but they represent colonial and imperial hegemony to the millions of disenfranchised Palestinians. You cannot decide it FOR them.

The silent, sullen peoples [who] shall weigh your gods and you are the same ones that you want to win the hearts and minds of.

oh hell. why do i bother? people, if we don’t get john kerry elected AND get the Senate, we are through. And the We is not the royal we. It is the We, The Sane, The Few, The Free We.

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