Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is one of the most influential books I have ever read. One reason why it took me so long to get around to reading Zinn’s masterpiece is that the title is misleading and I didn’t just to read yet another U.S. history book; a better title would have been something like “Untold Stories of American History”, “American History Reconsidered”, “U.S. History: A New Narrative”, “The Secret History of the United States of America”, “The History of the Oppressed”, or “Who Writes the History Books?”.
It is one of the most controversial history or “political science” books of all time simply because Zinn is openly biased to tell the story of the American narrative from the oppressed: the poor, American Indians, blacks, Latinos, citizens from the countries the U.S. bombs, farmers, workers who strike, and women. The minority viewpoint is real and genuine, so if it offends you, you probably should take a reality check if you have problems understanding why they felt that way. The book is against the upper class white folk and elite government officials who only care about profit by exploiting. But it’s not a rant; it was well researched and published the primary source material and used direct quotes from actual people living at the time period. This is NOT revisionist history. It is NOT retroactively continuity; all of these events and opinions already had existed- it’s not “new information”, we were just not exposed to it via our text books and mainstream media.
Yes, A People’s History of the United States is Marxist and socialist (in its purest Utopian form). Howard Zinn does not present both sides of history. He openly admits that his book is a reaction against the mythology contained in the text books and mainstream media. This is an alternate viewpoint, and is extreme because it has hundreds of years of propaganda to chip away at.
(He does get out of hand when he ignores the atrocities and defends the actions of Fidel Castro, the Vietcong, and terrorists- that is the slippery slope that all liberals, and libertarians, generally slide all the way down. The U.S. gets demonized, but their victims who commit further acts of evil aren’t demonized.)
Anyway, you my friend have been duped by almost every president, military general, big business CEO, Supreme Court judge, and government spokesperson. How do you feel about living in ignorance and supporting the super rich elite and multinational corporations and war mongers every time you vote for a Democrat or Republican in the presidential elections every four years under the guise of “change”?
A People’s History of the United States is a reality-buster: it enables you to see through a lens that shows you the 1′s and 0′s about U.S. foreign policy, class warfare, racism, war, nationalism, the media, the justice system, historical traditions, the economy, and it exposes the Big Lies that The Establishment have been spoon-feeding you since you were born. Yum, yum. Do you like the baby food? Let me wipe you chin, baby. Your paternal figure Ronald Reagan bailed out Continental Illinois National Bank in 1984 for $9.5 billion. S.& L. crisis anyone? Taxpayers had lost $130 billion back then. Eat it.
Guess what? Zinn’s alternative narrative makes sense, and requires less of a stretch than the conservative and traditional view of history and U.S. government that gets exposed time and time again. It has reaffirmed my suspicions about society. Yes, there are times when Zinn is overboard and a border-line NWO conspiracy theorist like his friend Noam Chomsky. But the alternative history narrative from Day 1 until today fits. Do you know why? Because it answers all of the questions that have plagued thoughtful American citizens:
Why does the U.S. overthrow some dictators and not others?
Why are some world leaders “good” one day and “bad” the next day?
How can the federal budget allocate so much money to the military industrial complex yet cut funding for school lunches for poor kids?
Why do presidents make promises and then continue to push the same old shit, just with different gift wrapping?
Why do history books make general labels and statements about time periods “The Progressive Era” and pretend everyone was okay?
Who controls the president?
Why do experts and government officials base their assumptions about the economy on the stock market and the upper class as opposed to the bulk of Americans not being rich and many not having basic needs?
Why do the police, military, and courts really come down hard on protesters?
Do you ever feel that the The Establishment and the tools they use (like the media) play the middle-class against immigrants, splits the country left vs right, black vs white, landlords vs renters, skilled workers vs unskilled workers, rich vs poor, and direct our hate to an overseas threat?
Why are local, state, and national elections rigged for the two-party system?
Did everyone really support World War II and was the nation full of blind patriots?
Did the United States jump the shark? If so, when? Or did North America jump as soon as the genocidal maniac Christoper Columbus set his foot on the ground?
Do you personally have upward mobility in the U.S. or have you remained in the same (or worse) financial state for a while now?
What’s up with that Patriot Act?
What is the American Dream?
Why does the U.S. trade with China even with China list of human rights violations?
Why did the U.S. declare war on Mexico and the Philippines in the 1800′s?
How powerful is the military industrial complex and which corporations profit from war?
Was the Civil War really over the emancipation of slaves?
How was the U.S. government allowed to break every American Indian treaty ever written?
What were the motives of the Founding Fathers?
Why do prisons punish and not rehabilitate?
…and much, much more.
Again, I “knew” a lot of this material, and suspected the motives, but the fact that the entire narrative was told in one place is the refreshing part. I am so sorry I didn’t read this years ago. Glenn Beck should read it.
And as equally important, after reading this book, since your blinders will be lifted, you will no longer cling and be attached to defending The Establishment. You will realize the YOU are their Guardian and their TOOL.
After you read Zinn’s take on the government you can see why Obama didn’t keep his promises, and why we are still in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. You will no longer believe the talking heads on FOX, CNN, and the AM dial: you will see how they are the Guardians of Lies and you are no better for repeating and defending the talking points of the left and right. Because the talking points just turn you against your fellow human being and keep you DOWN.
You will see how there wasn’t much of a difference between Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, or Obama; even though the details and styles differ, the bottom line is always the same.
And what is the bottom line, right? As Batman asks, “Who benefits?”:
One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another…These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.
Against the reality of that desperate, bitter battle for resources made scarce by elite control… I have been writing a history that attempts to represent their submerged, deflected, common interest. To emphasize the commonality of the 99 percent, to declare deep enmity of interest with the 1 percent, is to do exactly what the governments of the United States, and the wealthy elite allied to them-from the Founding Fathers to now-have tried their best to prevent. Madison feared a “majority faction” and hoped the new Constitution would control it. He and his colleagues began the Preamble to the Constitution with the words “We the people …,” pretending that the new government stood for everyone, and hoping that this myth, accepted as fact, would ensure “domestic tranquility.”
The only solution Howard Zinn has is to refuse to be the Guardian of the Establishment, and for you to protest, whistle-blow, have empathy to different types of people, and revolt via non-violent means. Don’t be the silent majority or a Guardian of The Establishment.
I don’t follow everything Zinn says as gospel- he wouldn’t want me to. There is more research to be done. But A People’s History of the United States accomplished his goal to present the alternate perspective and making meaning of the senseless things that happen in our world.