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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/6/11

Howard Zinn's "Ballade for Americans"

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment, In Series: Reviews



Howard Zinn's "Ballade for Americans"


In reading all 600+ pages of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States from 1492 to the Present (which was 2000, including the disastrous election), I find none of the canonical American heroes discussed in much depth. That includes all figures on Mt. Rushmore. Only Bill Clinton's administration is focused on, along with some of FDR's New Deal dealings and some of Lincoln's hypocrisy no one wants to know about. In the case of Clinton, the Monica episode is rightly set in its trivial place, but even this nineties hero's "paying down the national debt" is cast as a should-have-been reallocation, to--we the people, the same people to whom Zinn himself would like to reallocate the billions spent on national defense, amounts always increasing even though the cold war ended twenty years ago.

One good thing Bill did was to raise taxes on the rich and corporations by a few percentage points, Zinn does note.

Zinn's "Ballade for Americans" is an unstoppable lament about the misery of the numerous "underclasses," from the day Columbus set foot on the present-day Guanahani in the Bahamas, to the present, except that unions in the preceding two decades have made some advances, though they now constitute a low percentage of the total labor force--14 percent, the last I read.

Union triumphs in response to the most hideous work circumstances imaginable, are also recorded in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but such atrocities would have ignited anyone, especially those at the bottom of the sweatshop or miners' hell, working eighty hours a week or more--the forty-hour week is a recent innovation.

This stratum, the people--whether workers or indigent or indigent working women or Native American or African American, numbering in the millions, sacrificed their lives and civilizations again and again to give birth to the elusive America Langston wonders when his people will have.

How can they ever have it--just because their lashed bodies created and perpetrated an economy of racism to support a culture that still lives in the minds and hearts of many, even as we celebrate the election of the first black (actually mulatto) president in history.

How can America be America when it never was? A country named for an Italian mapmaker?



After reading Howard Zinn's five-hundred-year history, I find it hard to continue loving my country, even though I owe my life to its receptivity to immigrants before the 1920s (my father had to be sponsored by U.S. citizens [relatives, in his case] in the late 1930s). The majority of afflicted Jews were not let in--consider the bounty Hitler offered Roosevelt that might have avoided the Final Solution, for example. Others were kept away by severe quotas imposed by Congress in the 1920s.

Ruthless bloody massacres of Native Americans that dwarf the Boston Massacre, and stealthy wrenching of Africans out of their homelands under the most hideous of circumstance, families ripped asunder again and again--these were the tired, poor, huddled masses who first came to our shores, or begged to coexist peacefully with us here, en masse. So a wrenching of people away from their homelands and a massacre of those who inhabited our "homeland" and received us first so graciously (the Arawaks, some of whom were taken prisoner as guides to "where the gold was")--that is the earth we walk upon so uneasily in the face of the revolutions quelled with more and more difficulty as the years pass.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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