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Walter LaFeber : Civilizing" The Filipinos
Walter LaFeber Americans saw the fighting in the Philippines largely in racial terms. The term "gook" originated in the Philippine insurrection 1899-1900. It would later be used in the Vietnam War. Americans looked down on the Filipinos as people who were uncivilized. In an odd way, they saw them as un-Christian, which was ironic since Spain, a Roman Catholic country, had been there for 300 years, but most Americans apparently felt that didn't really count. As a consequence, in 1899 and 1900 we looked at this as essentially a superior power fighting an inferior people who deserved their inferiority because they had not been able to organize their society, they had not been able to "uplift themselves," as McKinley liked to say. And there was the feeling here that what Americans were doing was pretty much what we had been doing in the western part of the United States. A large percentage of the American military commanders in the Philippines between 1899 and 1902 during the insurrection had been military commanders in the Indian wars in the western part of the United States in the 1880s and the 1890s. Theodore Roosevelt, who runs as McKinley's Vice Presidential candidate in 1900, put this very well. He said that "If anybody believes that we should return the Philippines to the Filipinos, these are the same people then who have to conclude that we should return Arizona to the Apaches." The belief here is that since we had civilized the western part of the United States, we are now going about civilizing the Philippines. Since they were racially inferior, they should be pretty much open to whatever we suggest that they do. And if they were not, the United States was willing to use very brutal force in 1899 to 1902 in order to bring the Filipinos around. There was one anti-imperialist poem about this, a rather bitter poem that circulated during the 1900 campaign. And it went, "G is for guns that McKinley has sent to teach Filipinos what Jesus Christ meant." And I think that caught the contradictions in the McKinley policy about civilizing and uplifting the Filipinos very well.

The United States sees itself essentially as the protector of these people. We have great difficulty understanding why the Filipinos would rebel against us in 1899 and 1900. After all, all we wanted to do was to restore order, end the anarchy in the Philippines, and then essentially develop the Philippines, especially as a great naval base. Why should the Filipinos object to this? There's great difficulty on the part of Americans to understand why the Filipinos would object or why in China, the Boxers, the Boxer rebels, would kill American missionaries or kill European and American engineers and business people. The belief here is that the United States is, on the side of the good people and on the side of the local people, and that we oppose the Europeans who want to move in and colonize and carve up these areas.

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