I read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States this summer finally after I had been wanting to for years since Matt Damon told me to in Good Will Hunting. The book drastically changed my view of America and the role of the government. It has sent me reeling trying to redefine all my political beliefs I had developed over my life time. The book is a remarkable achievement using mostly smoking gun quotes to make his case instead of opinion. Like this,
It was an old lesson learned by governments: that war solves problems of control. Charles E. Wilson, the president of General Electric Corporation, was so happy about the wartime situation that he suggested a continuing alliance between business and the military for “a permanent war economy.”
Awesome America! The most stunning chapter is the one on World War II where Howard Zinn challenges the notion (very successfully) that WWII was a “People’s War” and that we fought it to purge the earth of evil. Instead he states that it was a war for economic reasons and we would have never got involved if American economic interests where never challenged. (We did sit on our hands for several years well the Nazi’s invaded all of Europe and began exterminating Jews.) But, I digress.
Since then I’ve been interested in other commentary Zinn had on the the War, which he fought in. The most interesting article I’ve been able to find so far is one Zinn wrote around the time of the release of the best selling book The Greatest Generation. Take it away Zinn:
What makes them so great? These men-the sailors of Pearl Harbor, the soldiers of the D-Day invasion, the crews of the bombers and fighters- risked their lives in war, perhaps because they believed the war was just, perhaps because they wanted to save a friend, perhaps because they had some vague idea they were doing this “for my country.” And even if I believe that there is no such thing as a just war, even if I think that men do not fight for “our country” but for those who run our country, the sacrifice of soldiers who believe, even wrongly, that they are fighting for a good cause is to be acknowledged. But not admired.
Hit’em again Zinn:
I refuse to celebrate them as “the greatest generation” because in doing so we are celebrating courage and sacrifice in the cause of war. And we are miseducating the young to believe that military heroism is the noblest form of heroism, when it should be remembered only as the tragic accompaniment of horrendous policies driven by power and profit. Indeed, the current infatuation with World War II prepares us-innocently on the part of some, deliberately on the part of others-for more war, more military adventures, more attempts to emulate the military heroes of the past.
Zinn purposes if we most honor the action of those in violence we should honor the members of Shay’s Rebellion (not the Founding Fathers), the Seven Civilized Tribes that fought for their land.
Zinn also nominates for the honor of “greatest generation” the men and women of the sixties who marched for civil rights and the end of the Vietnam War.
Interesting food for thought. Read the entire article here.
More Howard Zinn on Memorial Day.