The US is an imperialist country. There, I said it. Controversial opinion, I know. And on a nation that was founded on the premise of freedom from the grips of an oppressive government, I find the imperialist tendencies of the United States hypocritical.
Imperialism (in the United States) has its roots from the time when the United States and other world powers expanded their territories with freakishly rapid progress. This period is better known as the “Age of New Imperialism,” when the “[governing] states established vast empires mainly in Africa, but also in Asia and the Middle East” (1). The silver lining here, however, is that American imperialism is heavily influenced by American exceptionalism, which is the idea that the United States is uniquely fit to be an expert in the mission to spread liberty and democracy.
American exceptionalism has its origins in the American Revolution, cemented its position in the hearts of Americans through the Cold War, and is heavily toyed with today, based on the executive administration’s actions. Personally, I find the concept of American exceptionalism as highly arrogant, a viewpoint I no doubt share with the citizens of countries that experience American imperialism. How can a nation be so blindly arrogant as to consider themselves the true and only harbinger of democracy and liberty? The US should first look inward at itself before trying to fix the systems of other countries. And yet still, despite the growing trend of Americans who support focusing on America, exceptionalism-heavy imperialism still exists today.
There are three types of imperialism that exist today, that are “colonies, protectorates, and spheres of influence” (2). Today, the permeating idea of American imperialism is that it isn’t the classic example of imperialism we typically associate the word with. Rather, today, American imperialism is thought to be assembled around the third type: spheres of influence. Foreign policies such as the Iran Nuclear deal and invading Iraq are all examples of the dangerously potent spheres of influence the US has. I beg to differ from this idea of the singularly imperialist convergence of influence. Colonies, the first type of imperialism, is very much still in existence under the jurisdiction of the United States.
I am speaking of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is regarded as a US territory, but it may as well be a “colony.” I use this comparison because of the way Puerto Rico is governed. Puerto Rico exists “without either the advantages or burdens that come with being a U.S. state or an independent nation” (3). Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the presidential election, revealing the representation limbo they are in. And even “after 120 years of a relationship, [Puerto Ricans] still don't call [themselves] 'Americanos,'" said Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá (a former governor of Puerto Rico) (3). This level of disconnect and lack of representation is concerning, especially for a land mass that is regarded as a US territory.
At the governmental level, there is very little support for Puerto Rican statehood, with the GOP being worried that the island would primarily lean Democrat. But even so, the continued disregard the government of the United States has regarding Puerto Rico is condemnable, and revealing the intrinsic nature of its imperialist sentiments. It’s important to reevaluate this nation’s effects on its territories, and different countries, all the while keeping in mind that imperialism is still obviously inherent in the US today.