Many years ago, as I sat in the backyard of a comedy condo in Treasure Island Florida, a wild-eyed old hippy, with a broken down boat, suggested I read a book called A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn. It sounded sort of subversive, so it interested me.
I went to the library and tried to track it down. Couldn’t find it. Probably had the title wrong or something. But it stuck in the back of my mind. Then recently, I was watching Tavis Smiley and he mentioned the book and the author. This time I found it and read it. Frankly, every American should read it, or a book like it. Something by Noam Chomsky would be close. In fact, Howard Zinn makes reference to Chomsky’s writing several times in A People’s History Of The United States.
Why is this book so important, you ask. Because it defines, in great detail the fact that this country is and always has been run by a small handful of very rich douchebags!
Now, you might say, “Rich douchebags?” that implies that just being rich makes someone a bad person. That is nothing more than class envy.
Wrong. These people really are douchebags. By almost anybody’s definition, except perhaps their own.
I’m not even going to accuse them of douchebaggery due to the fact that many of these people, including the Founding Fathers, owned slaves. Lets pretend that was just a societal aberration of their time. Like wearing powdered wigs and having syphilis.
So what made and makes the one percent of our population who own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, so awful?
Well, for one thing, up until the last 80 or 90 years, they routinely ended any labor unrest, such as strikes or sit ins, with armed goons beating and shooting strikers. And these strikers would be people like children, working in coal mines and striking to shorten their 16 hour work days. After beatings and shootings and imprisonment, the bosses, many of whom were great heroes of American industry, like Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, would make sure that all strike organizers, who survived, would be fired and blacklisted.
In fact, all of the concessions won for labor by unions in the past century, came inch by inch with thousands of casualties along the way. It would be fair to say that the richest people in America were no more enthusiastic about the human rights of their workers than white Southerners were about giving black people their rights, during segregation.
It would also be fair to say that today’s robber barons earn the coveted Douchebag Award for outsourcing labor to sweatshops in the Third World, where the unsafe, inhuman conditions and the child labor of our past, still exist. Nike would be a good example of this, if you need one.
Now, you might say, oh yeah, but when there is a democrat in the White House, like that big Lefty Obama, certainly then things are better for the poor and disenfranchised.
Wrong. One might expect that a community organizer like Obama might cut military spending and beef up social programs benefitting the poor. You know, like he talked about when he was first running for president. Not the case. Our current annual military budget is estimated at $ 581 billion. That is more than the rest of the world combined spends on defense. If that seems absolutely insane, it’s because it is.
Imagine what half of that defense budget could do to improve our public schools, provide health care for the poor and middle class and create job training for people who need it the most.
Obama keeps talking about helping veterans, how about bringing back the G.I. Bill, to provide college educations for all veterans who want one.
As Zinn points out in his book, war has been used all along as a huge money maker and as a diversion for the poor and working classes, to keep them from thinking too much about how they are being treated. Lets all rally around the flag and not think too much about the fact that our boss makes hundreds of times what the average worker earns.
And this constant warfare has made us reviled all over the world. I will end this with a passage from A People’s History Of The United States.
Three years before the terrible events of September 11, 2001, a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Robert Bowman, who had flown 101 combat missions in Vietnam, and then had become a Catholic Bishop, commented on the terrorist bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In an article in the National Catholic Reporter he wrote about the roots of terrorism:
We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism…. Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children…
In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? That is the truth the American people need to hear.
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