Humankind rules over all the other living things on earth and never tire in looking for ways to extend its dominion beyond the limits of the planet. Man wants to rule the universe. But then again, perhaps there is no other specie of living things that is as destructive as the human race. Man destroys the planet and everything on it, even the human race itself all in the name of religion and conformity with the expected gender norms.
For this paper, I choose two documents that display the human traits mentioned above; these are the American Imperialism in the Philippines (1903) and Mary H. Fulton, On Christian Missionaries. Interestingly, the two documents are not only written years apart but also by the opposite sexes and for different purposes. And yet, both documents manifest the existence of similar human traits between two different races living on the opposite sides of the globe, the American men and the Chinese women.
First, both documents reflect a common drive to conform to gender expectations. On the one hand, in the document “American Imperialism in the Philippines,” the attitude of President William McKinley in defending the colonization of the Philippines is plain machismo and ego in action. McKinley said, “That we could not give them back to Spain — that would be cowardly and dishonorable.” Refusing to get the booty of war is in fact an honorable thing to do, especially when the booty which McKinley says “had dropped into our laps” has been fighting its own war against the Spanish regime for years already.
Insofar as the Filipinos are concerned, when the Americans came, they were already winning. They won the fight against the Spaniards; they were not rescued by the Americans. “The Filipinos had also declared their independence and established a republic under the first democratic constitution ever known in Asia. Their dreams of independence were crushed when the Philippines were transferred from Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1898), which closed the Spanish-American War.” (Philippine History)
However, because of machismo, America just had to have to get its prize. And in all its egotistical glory, declare that it is the honorable and most courageous thing to do: to rule over the Filipinos across the Pacific Ocean. Gender dictates that the male sex is courageous, brave and honorable. And to colonize the Philippines is what an honorable and courageous man would do.
On the other hand, Mary H. Fulton writes of the Chinese women, “Then they notice my clean, short finger nails, and contrast them with their long ones,—often a finger in length,— which indicate that they are ladies of leisure.” Again, this is the work of gender and the need to conform. Chinese women go through the inconvenience of unnecessarily long finger nails and the pain of bound feet all in the name of femininity and pride. Chinese tradition regards the lotus feet and long finger nails as signs of a good woman because its makes them the epitome of affluence and good fortune. It means that they can afford to pay for people to do the chores for them and even carry them on their backs.
The men in America celebrate while the women in China suffer all in the name of conformity with their prescribed gender roles.
Another human trait common to both documents is the belief in God. Broadly speaking, all man regardless of creed or religion believes in the existence of a supreme being. Even the self-confessed atheists have something that rules over their lives and to whom they turn to in times of need. To the believer, this God could be Jesus Christ, Allah, Yahweh, the Roman and Greek Gods or the pagan’s ancestors’ spirits. To the non-believer, this could be himself for it can be argued that if he does not believe in a god that rules over man, therefore he rules over himself and he is his own god.
McKinley admitted to have acquired the wisdom on what to do with the Philippines after he knelt down and prayed to God for guidance and enlightenment: “I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night.” Meanwhile, Mary H. Fulton also invoked the name of God when she says, “It is an easy step to tell them that God, who made us, has put women into the world for use, and not merely to live to adorn our bodies…”
The passages above reflect the authors’ belief in God in the person of Jesus Christ. They may belong to different Christian sects but they both have the common desire to profess their faith and to invite others to join them. Mary H. Fulton is more subtle in approach, preferring to lead by example and make her own feminine way of living a Christian show and tell, “I am doing what little I can in my small sphere to show an applied Christianity.” On the other hand, the masculine Christian in the person of President McKinley is more aggressive and straightforward in approach. McKinley bravely declares that “… there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.”
Indeed, human nature never fails to amaze and amuse. The human race is scattered around the world, divided by mountains and oceans. When these documents were created, there was yet no internet which has reduced the earth into the size of a newborn’s fist. When these documents were written, the world was still so huge that it would take half a lifetime to cross over to the other side and see how they live their lives. And yet, separated by time and distance, divided by race and language, the human race is one and the same. We all share the same traits because after all, we are of the same specie of living things. We are humans.
General James Rusling, ‘Interview with President William McKinley,’ in The Christian Advocate (New York), 22 January 1903, p.17.
James Harvey Robinson and Charles Beard, Readings in Modern European History volume 2 (New York: Ginn and Company, 1909), pp. 415-416.
Philippine History. Accessed on July 21, 2011. Available at http://pinas.dlsu.edu.ph/history/history.html