The Shenandoah Papers Chapter Two: Manifest Destiny and Selective Education

Enter Wichita, Kansas — Kansas’ biggest city, and yet unimposing all the same, practically centered in a state that is primarily composed of plains and endless seas of wheat. Although Wichita lacks extravagant sights such as the breathtaking mountains of its neighbor Colorado, it does have a more poignant landmark on its Riverside: The Keeper of the Plains. The obscure structure towers over the bustling banks of the Arkansas River, seen and observed by many, and yet, its message hides in plain sight. The Keeper has the potential to be the herald of a new era of reparations and reform, but it has become Ozymandias. In the spirit of the Keeper and the Natives that it proudly stands for, forgotten history needs to be corrected, even at the cost of the comfort of a clean conscience.

Manifest Destiny was America’s equivalent of the concept of divine right. Religion is a powerful practice, it can lead to wars, murder, and turmoil, but on the same day, it can bring a community closer together, spread a message of love, and inspire masses. In the case of Manifest Destiny, it did just that. Settlers believed that God had destined them to expand westward, claiming the territory of Natives for the sake of America. The dangerous part about Manifest Destiny is that it was an ideology, rather than a policy or form of legal action. Policies and mandates can be debated and excised from a nation, but ideologies and convictions cannot be torn from the clutches of the power of belief. In the wake of this ideology, land was stolen from underneath the feet of women and children, and those who led the charge were praised as visionaries, rather than murderers. After all, ignorance was bliss — as long as the territory of the bright young nation kept growing, what did it matter where the land came from?

In modern America, history has been rewritten to soften the blows of the harrowed past of the very land it rests upon. Manifest Destiny, perhaps the most dangerous ideology to ever exist, is taught in schools as the movement that brought about the wonderful westward expansion of America. This fluffy recollection of history not only promotes the idea of imperialism and romanticizes hyper nationalistic viewpoints, but it also discredits the blood that was spilled on the same soil that the American schools are built upon.

Being selective in the curriculum and education of the darkest parts of America’s history will only lead to more bloodshed, and it will threaten the very idea of reform and equality. Giving Natives land and reservations that are comparable to third world countries are is not the way to go. Recognition of the crimes of the forefathers of the nation and working towards building an honest nation in the wake of that recognition is the true message of the Keeper of the Plains, one that hides in the plain sights of America’s schools and teachings — one that needs to be realized to usher forth an era of accountability and humanity for the past, present, and future generations of the world.

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