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Anxieties Of "Global Terrorism" - As Early As 1791

This is an essay I wrote for my ‘Race, Ethnicity, Migration, and Nationalism’ class at University College Cork while studying abroad, drawing parallels between the tactics of Napoleon Bonaparte during the Haitian Revolution of 1791 and current U.S. President Donald J. Trump. In times of uncertainty, one must look to the past to ground themselves. Finding concrete parallels between Trump's horrendous policies and the actions of the dictators before him will solidify his place on the wrong side of history. A Works Cited with relevant sources follows.

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The nuances of the Haitian Revolution, which lasted from 1791 to 1804, echo a pattern that has rehashed itself time and time again throughout history, most recently under the American Presidency of Donald J. Trump and his recent executive actions regarding extreme vetting and the “Muslim Ban”. Propaganda and its consequential fear mongering can act as a bureaucratic tool, used in order to carve economic benefits out of misinformation – it is what Napoleon and the French government did to the Haitian rebels, and it is what Donald Trump and the American government are doing to the residents of seven nations – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. The mirrors between the two events are irrefutable, and one can only hope that history will not repeat itself so exactly.

As the Haitian Revolution grew to be more and more of a threat to the French way of life, French citizens began to fear not only the rebels themselves, but their entire lifestyle. Haitians were perceived as being barbaric and inhumane, and as having a sacrilegious pact with Satan. This extreme stance stemmed from the island’s Voudon practices, which grew from the rituals of the different groups who came to the island. Many Europeans were uncomfortable with certain aspects of this spiritualism, and used a differing point of view as an excuse to alienate the culture, and dehumanize the population in its entirety. During the years of the Revolution and those prior, Europeans looked down upon Hispaniola and its Haitian inhabitants as being undeserving of the cultured and supposedly correctly religious life of mainland France. This aggressive belief was encouraged by the propaganda strewn about by the French government, citing a pro-slavery agenda and maintaining that the Haitians weren’t people – not like the French were. In the eyes of the French populace, Haitians were terrorists, and didn’t deserve independence.

Unfortunately, it appears likely that the phobic actions of the French government had economic motivations. Haiti was a land of sugar plantations that were so productive that their spoils added up to roughly 15 percent of France’s revenue. France’s economy relied so heavily on Haiti, that slavery seemed logical and the inhumane treatment of the Haitian people felt justified. When rebels rose, demanding freedom from oppressive French masters, the prospect of losing a major source of income became a very real possibility. This threat is what spurred French officials to scapegoat the Haitians, and to use propaganda to turn them into a feared mass, undeserving of basic human rights. While the French government painted the Haitians as a barbaric settlement, Napoleon sent wave after wave of expeditionary forces to reclaim what he believed to be his. Finally, when it became apparent that the rebels weren’t going to back down, Napoleon agreed to stop sending soldiers so long as the Haitians compensated the French government for their “future losses”. The new republic was forced to pay 150 million francs to ensure their safety. Even in defeat, Napoleon Bonaparte turned a profit.

Presently, a corrupt man is running the United States of America. He is doing his best to not make the country a better place, but his business conglomerates. He assigns blame freely to anybody but himself, and his habit of scapegoating minority socioeconomic groups makes one worry that his actions will echo those of dictators of the past. The early wheels of his supposedly democratic dictatorship are already churning, with his recently passed “Muslim Ban”. Trump has executively commanded for the current refugee system to become even more confusing and difficult to navigate through an order full of vague wording and thinly veiled contempt for other creeds and cultures. The most major point of this jurisdiction is the ban of entry from seven mostly Muslim countries - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Inhabitants of these nations are, at the moment, unable to enter the United States; in some cases, even those who had jumped through the hoops of the legal process already and obtained the proper visas or other documentations were denied at the border. Even if one is to lay aside their outrage in regards to how blatantly inhumane these actions are, they will remain angry at Trump’s hypocrisy. Despite claiming that this ban is for the general safety of the American people, there are many other majority Muslim countries that are not mentioned in this ban. Those omitted are the nations that Trump does business with – Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, among others. Clearly, the President doesn’t want to risk cutting ties with these countries, as he has undeniable assets on their soils, including spas, golf courses, and real estate. Despite claiming to be protecting the lives of the American populace through his clearly flawed logic, he doesn’t seem to be doing that thorough of a job: he is allowing certain Muslims to enter the United States, so long as he can continue filling his pocket.

President Donald Trump, just as Napoleon Bonaparte did, saw a threat to his economy (though in this case, the economy was personal rather than national) and took executive action. He scapegoated the cultural group, used the media to monger unfounded fear, and then took executive action in order to take advantage of the mouldable minds of an uneducated populace. His “Muslim Ban” is reflective of the French attacks on Haitian rebels; government officials saw a threat to economy, and took action in the dehumanization of the threatening group, disregarding all semblances of humanity in order to allegedly protect the livelihoods of a ‘more important’ culture and population, while actually ensuring further economic growth. Ironically, Donald Trump’s actions, while claiming to be preventative of terrorist attacks, are an act of global terrorism within themselves. Hopefully, this example of history repeating itself isn’t indicative of Napoleon-esque actions to come.

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