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"The People Speak"

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The History Channel premiered a "revisionist" version of American history,"The People Speak," Sunday evening that has created a stir here and there. Here, I was moved by both the readings and the words, and--finally--having these words included into American history as a persistent theme, not just as spicey-but-errant noise in the background of Manifest Destiny or What's Good for General Bullmoose. Howard Zinn, is preachy, and if you are not careful, or don't have a Ph.D. in History, you might easily miss the point that his is definitively not THE history of the American republic. He never says it is, but he says his history ... which is a social history of politics, rather than a political history of society ... has been glossed over and sometimes left completely out of the picture and narrative of American History.

The stir "there" has been very mixed. Tom Shales, (yes, I know you have never heard of him), at the Washington Post did not like the four hour show all that much. People further right or those inclined to be supporting the status quo, take your pick, have even nastier things to say. On the other hand, perhaps predictably, Mary McNamara, of the Los Angeles Times was strongly supportive of the History Channel effort.

I don't know when or even whether the two part documentary ... sorry, Shales, these are real words by real people who were really consequential in American history ... will air again, but I certainly recommend it. I recommend it with the proviso that it be understood as just the tiniest beginning of a popular social history of the United States. For those of you on school boards, I frankly do not see how you can continue to teach American History as if these things were not said and the circumstances of their being said did not happen!

Finally, after watching this show I watched a documentary on the narcotics problem along the Mexican border, within Mexico, and within the United States. The problem was distilled succinctly by a narrator whose name I missed. The problem is that narcotics are the largest single business in the world. The United States is the biggest market. The market is billions and billions of dollars. "Apparently, Americans cannot face their democracy without drugs," he said.

Well ... sooner or later people are going to see a connection between our national obsession with drugs and the cognitive dissonance of our mythologies!


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese History, (more...)

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I have seen many things on the History channel and... by arlen custer on Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009 at 7:32:53 AM
Arlen you are a died in the wool conservative.It w... by liberalsrock on Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009 at 9:43:19 AM
Conservative? Boy are you wayyyy off. What turned ... by arlen custer on Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009 at 9:00:33 AM
It is true that History Channel does not have enou... by James Brett on Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009 at 10:07:59 AM
If you want to better understand ABC since CIA Di... by Richard Lee on Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009 at 9:55:29 PM
In any case, the presentation this discussion is a... by James Brett on Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009 at 12:16:33 AM
We should be studying all sides of Our Story. Then... by Daniel Penisten on Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009 at 5:23:58 PM