I’m pretty sure we’re on week 9 of A People’s Readalong. A (shrinking) group of us are reading one chapter a week from Howard Zinn’s classic history book, A People’s History of the United States. We hope to finish sometime in July. And now that we’ve moved to posting every other week, I’ve discovered that it’s just that much easier to procrastinate.
This may not be a change for the better after all.
This week’s (and last week’s) reading covers chapters 8 and 9. I thought chapter 8 (We Take Nothing By Conquest, Thank God (and if ever there was a chapter title chock full of irony, that’s the one)) was a bit of an odd duck, with it’s focus on the Mexican-American War. Sure, there’s the recurring theme of conquest (but only because people want it), but this chapter focused primarily on one war. One. Something that I was beginning to think Zinn was incapable of doing. Usually, he likes to pack in as much detail and facts and skirmishes and rebellions as he possibly can, so this chapter was almost refreshing in its lack of overwhelming fact (not that I generally consider war to be refreshing). Also, I pretty find military history mind-numbingly boring (I had to take an entire quarter of military history in college, and I still haven’t recovered from the trauma of listening to wanna-be soldier boys discuss and plot troop movements).
Anyhoosie. Chapter 8. Mexican-American War. More westward movement. The rich get richer. Who cares what the little people think about war. Forcible conscription. Senseless death. The US grows by leaps and bounds. Blah blah blah.
And that brings us to Chapter 9: Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom. I’m not really sure, but I think we cruised right by the Civil War (which is weird, since we just had a chapter that focused on another war). Zinn talks about how, for one brief shining moment, things were on track in the South after the Civil War (for example, blacks were voted into public office). And then, whammo. Things got ugly again. And no one of any importance (importance being those in power) cared.
I know, I sound a bit blase about it all. That’s because I’m ready to move on to some new themes. In my opinion, Zinn is a master at beating a dead horse.