February 25, 2013 By Jack Jodell.
This being the age of information, we are literally swamped with trivia, advertising, and a sorry lot of DISinformation as well as an ample supply of useful and factual data, all thanks to the internet and other forms of newly-emerging social media. The information we ravenously consume arrives through our televisions, iPads, and computers instantly, at the touch of a button. Disinformation finds us through lying, very slanted extremist media sources like Fox “News”, far right-wing talk radio (a la Savage Nation and Rush Limbaugh, to name just two), as well as crackpot journals like Newsmax. Irresponsible politicians like Ted Cruz, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Rand Paul, and Mitch McConnell constantly spew out falsehoods in an effort to warp or conceal the truth from our eyes. They do this in utter contempt of, and disregard for, the American voters who pay their bloated $174,500 annual salaries, and at the behest of corrupt corporate lobbyists, whose contributions to them vastly dwarf those salaries. Is it any wonder, then, that so many of these politicians lie as they constantly do, or that so many of our citizens, tired of unending political strife, accept what these liars feed them as the gospel truth? Is it any wonder that so many angry, confused, low-information voters respond heartily (with little critical thought) to the loudest and most persistent voices around them, namely those belonging to the Tea Party- infested, reactionary Republican Party?
It is a paradox (and a disgusting shame as well) that in this time of unprecedented access to factual information, so many ignorant and badly-informed people abound as they do. But that is unfortunately the case, and it is our duty as progressives to continually strive to transform these low-information types into much better informed citizens and voters. We should approach this task completely devoid of any airs of condescension or elitism. But complete this task we MUST, for the benefit of the country as a whole!
I would strongly urge each of you to read a most amazing book: A People’s History of the United States, by the late great Boston University political science professor, Dr. Howard Zinn. This phenomenal work was originally published in 1980, and was updated in 2010, just before the author’s death at the age of 88. It deals with the entire history of our country, only instead of focusing exclusively on the accomplishments of prominent political, economic, or social elites of each era as most histories do, it places major emphasis on history being presented through the eyes of ordinary common people (including minorities) instead. A look at the chapter titles, along with a very short digest of what each includes, will help you understand why this book should be on your must-read list:
Chapter 1 – “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress” – gives the story of North America’s indigenous population and includes info on genocide and enslavement practiced by the early settlers here.
Chapter 2 – “Drawing the Color Line” -examines African-American enslavement and the way poor British citizens were mistreated in the 13 original colonies.
Chapter 3 – “Persons of Mean and Vile Condition” – examines how poor people were treated in colonial America, and how their opposition to poverty was handled.
Chapter 4 – “Tyranny is Tyranny” probes the causes of the American Revolution and presents an outline by which our Founding Fathers and subsequent leaders have waged war to avert the nation’s attention away from undesired attention on the economy.
Chapter 5 - ”A Kind of Revolution” – deals with our Revolutionary War, its effect on native Americans, resistance to participation in that war, plus early opposition to federal taxation.
Chapter 6 -”The Intimately Oppressed” – features stories on early American feminists and how they resisted the gender inequalities of their day.
Chapter 7 – “As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs” – covers the 19th century struggles between native Americans and the American government, including Indian removal, particularly during the presidencies of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.
Chapter 8 – “We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God” – shows how, despite its unpopularity, the Mexican-American War occurred due to the expansionist policies of then-President James Polk aided by elements of the American press, which misreported the actual popular sentiment. Hmmm – sound familiar?
Chapter 9 – “Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom” deals with the Civil War, its effect on African-Americans, the abolitionists, plus slave rebellions.
Chapter 10, – “The Other Civil War” focuses on the abuses labor endured as it resisted the government control directed against it by domination from 19th century corporations.
Chapter 11 – “Robber Barons and Rebels” – features info on how corrupt industrial institutions like railroads and banks became so dominant and how various groups like the Knights of Labor, the Farmers’ Alliance, the Haymarket martyrs, and the Populist Party all emerged to fight this corruption.
Chapter 12 – “The Empire and the People” – shows how the Spanish-American War, which obtained Cuba and the Philippines for us, was imperialist and racist in nature, and was once again sold to an unwilling American populace by a trigger-happy, jimgoistic American press.
Chapter 13 – “The Socialist Challenge” – describes the rise of socialism and anarchism as popular ideologies in the U.S. and covers the radical activities of the slowly-emerging American labor movement.
Chapter 14 - “War is the Health of the State” – covers World War I, our opposition to, and eventual entry into it, and describes how we became involved to expand our foreign markets and gain greater economic influence.
Chapter 15 - “Self-Help and Hard Times” – shows how our government worked to destroy the radical International Workers of the World labor movement, and points out how the notion of 1920s’ prosperity was a myth to all but a privileged few. It provides solid info on the real causes of the Great Depression.
Chapter 16 – “A People’s War?” – here Zinn, a World War II veteran himself, presents little-known facts on widespread opposition to the war among minority communities as well as covering the effects of Japanese internment. This chapter also offers evidence that use of atomic bombs may not have been necessary and explores sordid government attempts to control public opinion during the early days of the Cold War.
Chapter 17 – “Or Does it Explode?” – deals with the civil rights movement, and alleges that our government often made reforms simply to improve its international image, and often did not fully enforce the civil rights laws it passed.
Chapter 18 – “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam” – presents a very accurate view of the Vietnam War in that it examines in detail the intense opposition to it among all classes of American people and the complete ambivalence toward it which existed among the Vietnamese people themselves.
Chapter 19 - “Surprises” – covers the myriad of new movements which sprang up in the 1960s, from modern feminism to abortion rights to the counterculture to the Native American rights movement and even beyond.
Chapter 20 – “The Seventies: Under Control?” – explores America’s growing disillusionment with its government during the 1970s and the political corruption it exposed among the CIA and the FBI. Zinn maintains that corrective measures taken by the government were superficial and merely cosmetic, and failed to truly reform it as should have been done.
Chapter 21 - “Carter – Reagan – Bush: The Bipartisan Consensus” – describes how both the Democratic and Republican parties came to their current practice of producing legislation favorable to corporations as opposed to the people themselves.
Chapter 22 – “The Unreported Resistance” – describes important movements which rose up but were largely ignored by the pathetic mainstream media from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. These movements included The Council for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze, the Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Nuclear Waste, LGBT social movements, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and a very great many others.
Chapter 23 – “The Coming Revolt of the Guards” – offers Zinn’s view of a possible leftist revolt against the growing inequality now existing in the country. He predicts it will even include the middle class, and he may not be too far off the mark…
Chapter 24 – “The Clinton Presidency” – examines the effect that era had on the U.S. and the world, and the assertion is made that, while Bill Clinton offered a great amount of change, once the dust was all settled, we ended up with pretty much the same scenario as we had during the Reagan-Bush years.
Chapter 25 – “The 2000 Election and the War on Terrorism” – covers the fiasco of the Bush / Cheney years, and strongly suggests that the 9/11 attacks did not occur because these Islamists hated freedom (as W had claimed), but rather in direct response to American foreign policy (support of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, the stationing of American troops inside Saudi Arabia, etc.).
Howard Zinn was a most remarkable man. He became a pacifist after having come to the realization that he had murdered an unknown (and unknowing) number of people by dropping bombs on them in France during the closing months of World War II. The horror of what he had done began gnawing at him and eventually led to a lifetime of pacifistic and social acyivism. His story can be ciewed in a phenomenal documentary called You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, which is shown occasionally on LINK-TV, but may also be purchased through Netflix or Amazon. com. He was also interviewed regularly on Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now. Clearly, were his book to be read by a few of the ignorant Tea Party faction, it would have a transformative effect on them. I urge you to buy a copy and give it to a reactionary right-winger you may know for his or her birthday or Christmas gift!