Friday, October 11, 2013

Uncomfortable Wall Mates?

This building is mural is on a building across the Denver Convention center. It is an interesting grouping of cultural icons, Theodore Roosevelt and Muhammad Ali. I have no idea why these two towering men are grouped together or even if they were painted by the same artist. As a fan of manly, sporting competition, Roosevelt would have admired Ali’s amazing skill in the ring. On the other hand he would have labeled Ali a “shirker” for having avoided service in Vietnam by adopting Conscientious Objector status. Moreover, Roosevelt’s social Darwinist thinking did not predispose him to look on African-Americans favorably. While he famously dined in the White House with Booker T. Washington, he also surrendered to his prejudice by dishonorably discharging 167 black soldiers for the Brownsville “raid” in 1906. I am not the only historian who feels that this was the low point of domestic policy in Roosevelt’s presidency. On the other hand Ali would like have been uncomfortable around Roosevelt for the same reasons, seeing him as a war mongering Jingoist who did not believe non-Europeans to be his equal. The war against the Filipino insurgency would certainly have reminded Ali of the war he opposed in Vietnam.