GAP is selling a black shirt with the words “MANIFEST DESTINY” written on it. I’m sure I’m not the only one caught off-guard by the GAP’s campaign but I’m wondering if the wearers know what those words imply. Of course the t-shirt is marketed to kids and teens who are probably clueless of it’s implications in history.
Manifest Destiny was a word used for justification for overthrowing just about everyone. It was mostly used between 1812 and 1860. It invoked the idea of divine sanction for the territorial overthrows by the United States. In other words, in the name of GOD the United States can take whatever we want – then we can DO whatever we want to you – AFTER we take over your land. In retrospect, the most obvious example of Manifest Destiny is the justification of acquiring our own homeland from the Indians.
We came .. We saw .. We took .. We now own it .. It was destined by [our] God .. Deal with it.
aka US Imperialism.
The implications of the words “Manifest Destiny” is American Imperialism at it’s worse. It is said to be the underlining cause of attacks against the United States and a possible underlying cause of 9/11. Our internal “Manifest Destiny” (ie: War of 1812 and the Civil War) was a global beacon of justification for war if we wanted to take over someone’s land … We’ll just do it in the name of God.
Historian William E. Weeks has noted that three key themes were usually touched upon by advocates of Manifest Destiny:
- the virtue of the American people and their institutions;
- the mission to spread these institutions, thereby redeeming and remaking the world in the image of the United States.; and
- the destiny under God to do this work.
Examples of Manifest Destiny, promoting the annexations of Mexican territories acquired in the Mexican-American War. The Alaska Purchase of 1867 and other acquisitions outside the continent, such as Guam and Hawaii, are examples of manifest destiny in action and were promoted as such. All sanctioned by God of course.
Gradually the phrase was seen as a cover for imperialism and political support died out, but to see it on a t-shirt is disturbing. Given the power of marketing, reinventing a Manifest Destiny attitude today would only create an unwanted hostility towards Americans overseas (and at home). Even the perception of Americans imperialists wanting to overthrow the Middle East is something we just don’t need so soon after 9/11
Change.org started a petition to stop the GAP’s marketing of the t-shirt as fashion. PETITION