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Remember the MAINE!

Reposted with permission by TACS

Written by Barry Haenisch


From your high school American History class, do you remember studying the sinking of the battleship Maine in the Havana, Cuba, harbor in 1898? You may remember that this event got us into the Spanish-American War. What started as a struggle by Cuba for independence from Spanish rule quickly involved the United States in the war against Spain when news reports blamed a Spanish mine for the explosion that killed 266 American military men who were aboard the ship on February 15, 1898. With the battle cry, “Remember the Maine”, war against Spain was quickly declared by President McKinley. No one ever questioned the involvement of Spain in the sinking of the Maine. The war lasted ten weeks, but it had a lasting impact on the future of the United States, Spain, and at least one American participant in the conflict. Because of the United States superior navy, the fighting was short lived. America quickly won the war. As a result, the United States gained ownership of the Spanish possessions of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines Islands. The defeat and the loss of the territories ceded to the United States brought the Spanish Empire to an end and had a negative impact on the country’s standing in the world community. Soon after the sinking of the Maine, Theodore Roosevelt recruited a band of patriots, many lounging in the lobby of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, to travel to Cuba to help defeat the Spanish. Nicknamed the Rough Riders, “Teddy” rode the heroic tales of the Rough Riders exploits in Cuba to national fame and eventually into the United States presidency. The United States rise in power and world leadership, Spain’s decline, and Teddy Roosevelt’s place in U.S. History were all based on the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine by a Spanish mine. However, as early as 1911 questions about the accuracy of the “facts” of the sinking of the battleship began to surface literally. In 1911 the ship was raised from the bottom of the harbor.

An examination of the ship’s hull left many observers believing that the explosion that propelled the U.S. into the Spanish-American War was caused by a blast from 20,000 pounds of powder from the inside of the ship! In 1976 this conclusion was confirmed to be accurate. For over seventy-five years, U.S. school children were taught that Spain’s aggression caused America’s involvement in the Spanish American War. Regretfully, inaccurate information is alive and well today. It can range from exaggerated claims by products in commercials, to biased news reports, to even political campaigns. In fact, recently I heard that a Texas politician said, “Misinformation is the best political information.” Since Texans are involved in early voting now and Election Day is only a week away, it is important for voters to know the facts before voting.Researching at the League of Women Voters’ VOTE 411 site, Texas Educators Vote, and ATPE Teach the Vote are good sources of accurate information about candidates. This election is a good time to research candidates’ platforms, to make good decisions at the ballot box, and to create a culture of voting in your district. Good voting decisions are the first step to a legislative session that puts public education first! In 2022 our battle cry should be, “Make public education the first priority!”

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