What it Means to be American: Manifest Destiny and the Language around “Civilization”

The narrative of western expansion and Manifest Destiny tell a split story. One story is that settlers moved west in an unpopulated, untamed land and brought civilization to it. The other story is how the “west was won”. In this story, native populations existed, but they were uncivilized, which is often coded for savagery, and the settlers civilized and “saved” these populations. Invasion of the New World by French and Spanish monarchs stemmed from their belief in a divine mission to evangelize the Native populations. Manifest Destiny was a religious claim that it was self-evident God meant for settlers to have the American land; Manifest Destiny was simultaneously a white supremacist doctrine that denied any land claims to non-white, specifically Native American, persons on the basis of their skin color and culture. Settlers believed that if they could survive and thrive in this wild land, then that was a sign from God that they were meant to be there and meant to cultivate it in God’s image.

“American Progress” by John Gast Shows Westward Expansion, Abuse of Resources and Genocide of Native Populations (and America, in essence) as Divined by God.
Civilization and Barbarism

Drake University International Relations (MENA focused), Socio-Legal studies, religious studies and Arabic graduate. This is a blog-like post to learn and share