A People’s History of the United States
The Untold History of the United States
If you saw these books in a store you might mix them up. At least you might mix up the titles. First, “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. Took me a lot of years to finally get to this book. Had it on loan many years ago and I think I might have even started reading it back then. Some of the text seemed very familiar. Nomatter. I bought the Kindle version this time and got through the almost 800 pages in a zip. This book is a narration of how the United States came to be starting from 1492 and the poisoning of natives with chicken-pox laden blankets to contemplating how to legally go from one form of authoritarian governance, i.e. the British King, to a new form of authoritarian governance, i.e. the monarchy of a Constitution. From there the story of protecting the rights of the rich and exploiting everybody else continues. Howard Zinn tells our story and he does so with gusto. But there is something tainted about his book that might stir many a reader, especially readers who aren’t used to certain things because they think they payed attention in school. I’m worst-writing, of course, about the truth. This books doesn’t go into the Disney-like stories of natives and grimy Europeans eating together while the leaves turn golden brown. No. There’s a different kind of truth being presented here. So be careful. Reading this book might give you a new perspective on being a consume to survive slave who thinks they are free.
Next a change-up when it comes to history-telling. But a few words on Oliver Stone first. Ever since “Platoon” Stone has been my teacher. Even when he makes films like “On Any Given Sunday” or “Natural Born Killers” I forgive him. Because he also makes films like “W”. What a seething cinematic expose of a person he obviously hates and loathes. Stone’s portrayal of the protected, isolated and spoiled upbringing of the 43rd President is funtastic. Stone is a master of subtlety in the movie. Without over doing it, which might turn off viewers, Stone portrays George Dubya Dipshit as the dipshit he really is. And while watching the movie you can feel Stone’s contempt for a president who practically ruined the United States (internationally he did ruin it!). If you listen carefully Stone goes he-he-he-he-he more than once in the movie. But I’m off subject.
“The Untold History of the United States” is a chronicle of modern empire building, including all the skewed politics that goes along with that. Unlike Zinn’s book, Stone’s isn’t as well written and I found the text to be a bit bland, especially as it gets bogged down in explaining how many military bases there are or how many bombers and fighters and nuclear bombs are being made and sold and to whom. But that’s neither here nor there. This is a chronicle of The United States and it’s overwhelming power and how it got that way. From this book I got the feeling that America has always been an accident waiting to happen. The end of the cold war was our moment of truth and we masochistically went head-on into the train wreck we are now. But Stone avoids placing blame. Instead there is a subtext to this book: we’re all doomed. Nomatter. One of the things the book does really well is paint a picture of various historic figures trying and failing to provide warning signs for the future. Stone and his co-writers detail not just what happens but who does what in our history. To me this is the great political left-right battle. Stone doesn’t say directly that the right has won but I think most readers know that already. I also enjoyed reading about the Russians. It’s a long time coming that the real winners of WW2 be recognised.
Two great books. Two great reads. But steer away if you can’t take some truth about who and what America really is all about.