The Dread Contagion

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The political cartoon “The Dread Contagion” depicts the American community attempting to reach out and offer the Good Neighbor Policy to those in the Eastern hemisphere.

This cartoon was created during the time period of the late 1930’s, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was president.  This was the era of the Great Depression, in which the American economy declined drastically after a crash in the stock market in 1929 with statistics such as a rise in unemployment rates from 8 to 15 million as well as a GDP that had decreased from $103.8 billion to $55.7 billion (Great Depression). During this decade, FDR was elected president in 1933 and began what he called the New Deal, which was “a series of economic measures designed to alleviate the worst effects of the depression, reinvigorate the economy, and restore the confidence to the American people” (New Deal). Through usage of the media, such as radio and television, FDR was able to bring back the confidence in the depressed democratic community who began fearing that institutions such as fascism and communism could possibly be better than their own. One of the biggest policies that branched from the New Deal, was the Good Neighbor Policy.

The Good Neighbor Policy is essentially what it says, the nation being a good neighbor to its neighboring countries. Roosevelt’s ideal was to “dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others,” in order to better his relationships with the Latin American countries as well as the eastern hemisphere countries (Carlsen). The Good Neighbor policy was not actually thought out during the time that it was declared by FDR, but the importance of the declaration was the underlying desire to promote commercial relations with other nations to save the United States from its ongoing depression (Smith). In order to prove his ideals towards other nations that previously thought the United States to be an oppressive power, FDR began multiple reciprocal trade agreements with the Latin American countries. Alongside this, the Export-import bank began to provide the other countries with credit for importing goods from the United States. In company with the economic acts done in response to the Good Neighbor policy, militaristic actions were also taken in order to fully gain the trust of the foreign countries. With acts such as the Platt Amendment, the United States proved that they would no longer interfere with domestic affairs in other countries. To further prove they would not use their military to engage in domestic affairs, the U.S. government refused to send in troops when the U.S. oil companies were having conflicts with the Mexican oil companies. Instead of attempting to boycott U.S. imports to Mexico completely, the U.S. oil companies were pressed to come to a compromise with the Mexican president to further demonstrate the Good Neighbor policy (Foreign). FDR’s ideal was to lower the overall armaments in the world and slowly end the desire for war between other nations. The policy overall had the greatest impact on the majority of the western hemisphere.

While this policy had a great effect on the western side of the globe, the same could not be said about the eastern side. This cartoon was made only a few years before the beginning of World War II, and plenty of tensions were flaring up between nations. According to the article associated with this cartoon, Pax Americana, almost all countries can easily tell about how they desire peace while their actions prove the exact opposite. Lines such as “Hitler, with one foot on the Rhine, the other foot on squelched minorities is a man of peace and will sign any treaty to prove it” further implicates that actions towards peace speak louder than words towards peace (Knott). From the implementation of the Good Neighbor policy, the United States has proven themselves to be the nation that is truly pushing towards peace unlike all other nations in the eastern hemisphere. The cartoon shows the eastern hemisphere as it is plagued by the contagious “war fever,” showing the current war-torn state the east is in as well as the fact that war is “contagious” because war can breed more war. The people behind the fence in this cartoon handing out the Good Neighbor Policy towards the eastern hemisphere as a “medicine” in order to cure the eastern nations of their war fever. Essentially, if the eastern hemisphere could implement a policy similar, if not equal to, the Good Neighbor policy and prove their desire for peace with their actions, war could as a whole finally come to an end.

Works Cited

“The New Deal.” Rooseveltinstitute. Web. 27 Nov. 2014. <http://rooseveltinstitute.org/policy-and-ideasroosevelt-historyfdr/new-deal>.

“The Great Depression (1929-1939).” Gwu. Web. 27 Nov. 2014.  <http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/great-depression.cfm>.

Barry, Tom, and Laura Carlsen. “The Good Neighbor Policy – A History to Make Us Proud.”Peace. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.peace.ca/goodneighborpolicy.htm>.

“Foreign Relations between Latin America and the Caribbean States, 1930–1944.” Gdc.gale. Web. 27 Nov. 2014. <http://gdc.gale.com/archivesunbound/archives-unbound-foreign-relations-between-latin-america-and-the-caribbean-states-19301944/>.

Smith, Joseph. “Good Neighbor Policy.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert

S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 401-402. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

Knott, John F. “The Dread Contagion.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 2 Apr. 1936: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.             <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02261/cah-02261.html>.

Knott, John F. “Pax Americana.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 2 Apr. 1936, sec. 2: 2. Print.

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