This book has given me a lot to reflect on. It's difficult and seemingly anachronistic to critique a man, considered a progressive 100 years ago, whoThis book has given me a lot to reflect on. It's difficult and seemingly anachronistic to critique a man, considered a progressive 100 years ago, who clearly was of his time rather than ahead of it. Roosevelt comes across as highly educated and highly opiniated. He's humble at times and yet distinctly aware of his former position as a US president and Calvary colonel. He describes with such passion the animals he hunts for museum collections, which funded his Brazilian exploration. Yet, he describes the people he encounters in South America, from crew men to rubber men to women and children the same as he describes the animals. They are of a certain stock, a certain body, a certain skin color, a certain temperament. He categories them as one does cattle. Yet, he writes of his fellow Brazilian colonel, a naturalist, and his son who have accompanied him with compassion and, in the case of his son, pride.
It was hard to read about the animals he hunted, and this is where perhaps anachronism comes into play. He explored an entire area of Brazil uncharted by geographers and his expedition came across tens of new animal species that they wanted to capture and send back to New York for further study. Roosevelt writes of being interested in these creatures for science, but it's clear that he also enjoys the sport of hunting jaguars and tapirs. While he writes in detail about the hunt, including the trails he took, the arms he used, the physique and character of the game, including what the stomach contents were, he leaves out exactly how he, the naturalists, and the crew disposed of the carcasses after examining and eating them. Later he explains that their skulls and hides have been sent on to Paraguay and then to New York, but I was still left curious as to how this all worked out while on the expedition in canoes carrying big game. I figure that if he can describe in gruesome detail the kill, why not the rest.
Roosevelt spent a full chapter on describing in detail what equipment he and his team used on this exploration. This part fascinated me as it was educational to compare his equipment of a century ago with the equipment travelers and explorers use today. Many of his suggestions, including what size and type of tent, including material, to use, are very helpful today. He definitely was pro -American made, as he was clear in his descriptions that all materials that he used, as well as food, were made in the US and were of superior quality to anything else in the world.
I had to read more in other articles about what type of illness Roosevelt suffered from towards the end of his trip. I didn't get from his description of him being laid out with a fever that he actually had a flesh-eating bacteria caused from a gash he received in the river. He provided more description of the books he read and the languages he read in than his illness, which showed his humility and his intelligence. He, his son, and the other educated men in the group actually lugged tomes of English, French, Brazilian, and German literature with them. They couldn't bear to part with many of their books even when they were forced to lighten their load to the bare necessities.
Reading more about this adventurous, educated, and opinionated man enlightened me. He seemed to appreciate hearing other perspectives even if he didn't agree with them. He was clearly popular, well-received, and well-respected in all of South America, even in the small jungle towns.
I've spent much time over the past few days imagining what he would have been like as president and what I would have thought of him 100 years ago. This, of course, is highly anachronistic of me here in 2017 in a country where Civil Rights apply to all, where it's no longer agreeable to describe black men like cattle. He clearly put logic and science first and valued that above religious thought. And yet he was fallible, he didn't see men as equal. He saw those natives as he called them with as generous eye as he could have, but it was still limited to describing them by physical characteristics, their good stock, just as we describe cattle and horses today. And animals were specimens to be hunted, to be appreciated, but to be hunted down as specimens to put into museums.
I don't have a clear consensus on my viewpoint of what I would have thought of Roosevelt as president, but as another reviewer wrote, it's incredible to imagine another president leading such a vigorous and adventurous life as Roosevelt did. If it came down to it, though, I'd take his geniality and level of intelligence and education over Trump any day.