Reading Report #1: A People’s History
I’m finally reading Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” after my copy has spent years on my bedroom shelf. It’s pretty great reading, and my perspective on the United States has definitely evolved since beginning it.
One view that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about is that the settlement and founding of North and South America is a result of globalization. I’ve heard a lot of talk about globalization lately and how a populist wave is sweeping the globe right now. This is in response to ISIS and the Syrian civil war, but also economic weaknesses in the European Union and the growing influence of Asia.
This kind of globalization is hurting a lot of normal people, but when has globalization ever not hurt a lot of people? European settlers and American imperialism destroyed and fundamentally changed indigenous populations in North and South Americas, and even Africa. The appetite for a growing nation seems boundless by borders.
The broader point I’m trying to make is, I think, we’re struggling to come to grips with our place in history. A lot of what I’m hearing about today, as reasons for government mistrust and anger, are apparently feelings that have been around since before the United States. The United States will always prefer to serve the interest of the wealthy, corporate class of America who owns a significant stake in the country. Apparently, based on my reading so far, the organization of the United States was planned by the wealthy land owners who had basic rights. As a result, a century’s worth of disenfranchisement of those viewed as undeserving of basic rights began (women and slaves).
As a new administration is being put together in the US, it’s shaping up to be one of the richest in history. The irony is that these cabinet officials are part of the corporate governing class, or wealthy land owners. These people have been, in part, responsible for the corporate flight out of America in recent decades, and are now being tasked with fixing that problem.
Long story short, there are bigger trends working in this country and the world. I think the United States, though its been around for a few hundred years, still owes a lot to its early years as a bunch of colonies. There’s a broader narrative at play that’s causing a lot of pain and divisiveness. I’m not sure that pain was ever fixed.
Fundamentally, though, I think the greatest success this country has had is extending fundamental rights to every citizen. It requires a certain amount of self reflection to understand that hearing everyone’s voice is a penchant of real democracy. Hence, the reason to read “A People’s History of the United States.”