Seven years ago this month, I finished reading A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, 2003 edition. I have posted blogs about the first part of this book in March, 2017 and April, 2017. In these blogs, I have noted events described in the book, as well as my thoughts on them. The book had a powerful effect on me, supporting and expanding my beliefs about under-reported US history. This May, 2017 post covers the final section of the book.
FINISHING A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, HOWARD ZINN
Monday, May 3, 2010—I read some People’s History, now at World War II and how brutal the US was, dropping the nuclear bombs on Japan for no good reason except economics, killing 100,000 people in Hiroshima, mostly civilians, and 50,000 or more in Nagasaki.
Why oh why would people do this, I wondered. It explains why people are so afraid now, why Americans are such mealy-mouthed wimps.
Thursday, May 6, 2010—I spent the afternoon reading People’s History, up to page 462. Now into the race riots of the 1960s and 1970s, the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. The FBI apparently did everything it could to intimidate King.
I can understand why people are afraid of government, and it is becoming more paranoid all the time. I’ve always believed blacks are inherently peace-loving people, and Martin Luther King personified that spirit.
I wonder why I’m so fascinated by People’s History, because it implicates the federal government as a vicious, tyrannical bunch of mobsters since the land’s discovery. Yes, it gives me even more data to support my beliefs. It reveals what hasn’t worked. Zinn focuses so intensely on the hatred and violence, though, that I wonder what ultimate purpose it serves.
While I believe the government is justifiably paranoid, I have to respect its power to hurt. I’ve learned my lesson, I hope, about pissing the wrong people off.
As Malcolm X said, if you remain radical long enough, you win your freedom. This is my belief, too, because I’ve come back from the “lunatic fringe” with more elbow room, maybe.
Fidel Castro in 1959 pissed the US off by confiscating land held by US corporations, then distributing it to landless peasants. The Bay of Pigs was a manufactured crisis by John F. Kennedy and associates to stir up revolution against Castro in Cuba, but Fidel was too popular. The US was embarrassed because its tactics, so successful everywhere else, failed with Castro.
Saturday, May 8, 2010—I read some People’s History, now up to page 490 in this 688 page book. We’re in Vietnam now, and it is astounding. The US has made a career of sadism, so no wonder we have a nation of victims. We have the CIA actively stirring up trouble in a pacifist, land-based, family-and-tradition-based culture, but the CIA couldn’t seem to control the outcome, no matter how many cities and fields they bombed, people they slaughtered, or poisons they sprayed and dumped hither and yon. They couldn’t understand how the revolutionaries managed to maintain morale, and I contend they weren’t fighting governments but for a way of life. Ho Chi Minh, the North Korean leader, was immensely popular among the people, because he confiscated land of absentee landlords and distributed it among the landless, similar to what Castro did in Cuba.
Ngo Dinh Diem, the CIA/US plant in South Vietnam, was hated by the people, and South Vietnam was essentially a US government invention. When Diem became an embarrassment to the US, they allowed him to be captured and assassinated. Three weeks later, JFK was assassinated.
Castro and Ho Chi Minh understood Communism in the communal sense of the term, by giving land to the landless, and this is why the people were so willing to fight for it. They weren’t defending ideological political battles for governments, or other people’s turf. They were fighting for their homes, families, livelihoods, and way of life.
It amazes me the CIA could be so stupid, because it is obvious to me. Their self-defeating, blind irrationality did more to promote Communism–in the communal sense—than any leader could have achieved alone.
Perhaps if we thought of people as belonging to the land, rather than the other way around, we would have a more solid footing.
Friday, May 14, 2010—I’ve been reading People’s History tonight, wondering how people can be so cruel for so long, such that it is institutionalized and considered normal, including the lying and deceit in government and the military.
I read about the Attica prison riot, followed by other prison riots, all turned into massacres by federal troops, FBI, and militia. The prisoners’ non-violence was more threatening than if they had been violent. Same with the American Indians, who occupied Alcatraz, a deserted federal prison, on a rock in the San Francistco Bay. There were forcibly evicted from there and also from land at Wounded Knee they had by treaty; but that was given to the government under “eminent domain.” This occurred in the 1960s or 1970s and hundreds of Indian men, women and children were slaughtered after the government tried to starve them out first.
Saturday, May 15, 2010—Reading books like People’s History shows I am not alone in my understanding—far from it–as people like Howard Zinn have tracked this for years and were even given a voice. He makes no reference to the bankers’ playing both ends against the middle and leaves the stock market out of it, although he cites illegal campaign donations by specific corporations, like ITT and 3-M.
Reading about the American Indians validates my beliefs about the native American cultures, which respected the earth and all its creatures. I wonder how much violence they had before the Europeans arrived. I believe it was probably minimal and was developed in reaction to the European invasion and introduction of guns.
Sunday, May 16, 2010—I read more People’s History, through Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr. All continued to serve the government/corporate marriage. Pacifist Jimmy Carter increased defense spending significantly. Zinn says the Democrats did more to impose regressive taxes—Carter increased payroll taxes—than the Republicans.
Zinn claims legislation like the Clean Air Act and OSHA were deprived of teeth by subsequent caveats, administrative decree, or insufficient funding. He does not go into the ways these bills helped the monopolists by stifling competition.
Zinn also seems to have a shallow idea of the domestic spending programs. He implies they are good and necessary, but he doesn’t recognize they wouldn’t be necessary if the poverty weren’t artificially created by government’s social engineering.
Zinn says Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. used CIA to interfere in Nicaragua, Panama, Granada, and El Salvador, under various pretexts. Bush Sr. hoped to restore American confidence in the military, since the Soviet Union collapsed and was no longer an excuse, so he created a war in Iraq. They and all their aides lied throughout. Congress had passed limp dick legislation to pander to public disgruntlement, and to curb presidential powers, but Ford ignored it, and so did Reagan. No one objected. Congress looked the other way, and the Supreme Court, of course, felt no obligation to reprimand the presidents.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010—Now into the Bush Sr. years in People’s History of the United States. Apparently HKW Bush was determined to do Desert Storm.
Zinn’s approach is becoming trite. He emphasizes the contest between military and social spending without questioning the spending itself. The idea that it’s a rich vs. poor issue, without understanding—as I suddenly did—that it’s a government control issue, as in controlling economic narrows.
Thursday, May 20, 2010—Down to the wire on People’s History. We’re now into all the pacifist movements during the first Iraq war. They were ineffective.
And on to the Clinton years. Bill Clinton was as much a war hawk as any of them and cut social programs but not bureaucracy.
Government has appropriated unto itself responsibility for every area of people’s lives, so it needs the bureaucracy to dole out the money it has stolen, to return it piecemeal to those it deems worthy.
Zinn has some good ideas about how to rebuild America from the ground up, but he is still too tied to money, according to me. The notion that everything must be tied to a monetary scale, like community involvement, restricts the flow of energy and diminishes the value of time, as well as other factors that have no monetary equivalent.
Friday, May 21, 2010—People’s History gives an account of the protests from many camps over the quincentennial of Columbus’ landing, on Columbus Day, 1992, so that hero has toppled from many pedestals. The media ignored the protests.
Saturday, May 22, 2010—I finally finished People’s History. Given his era and background, Zinn does a remarkably good job of describing the brutal history of the US and the rampant disregard for the very principles that citizens believed it stood for. Rather than protect rights, nurture freedom, democracy and capitalism (in the human capital sense), it has made a mockery of all three, preying on a naive and gullible public to twist noble ideals into their opposites.
The current economic crisis is bringing it all to a head, I believe, because taxpayers are finding they have been used to dig their own graves. The country is morally bankrupt, and there is no one to blame. As the state assumed the role of lord, master, and god, acting as legal and moral judge, guard, and executioner, taxpayers must look in the mirror and see we are the state, and we are responsible for the monster it has become.
In People’s History, Zinn mentions protest against the bombing of Afghanistan following 9/11. I remember being the only person I knew objecting to retaliatory gestures, and people around here hated me for it.