Alternative American History

This is a version of an email I sent to a small group of friends that includes some quite vehement libertarians and a nutty tea partier or two, as well as at least one progressive supporter.  (smiley face here)
One thing I think I detect that separates liberals from conservatives in our country is that liberals acknowledge the reality of some of the nastier things to be found in an honest perusal of U.S. history, to wit:

  1. Racism and bigotry
  2. Tribalism
  3. Aggressive wars
  4. Genocide
  5. Slavery
  6. Wide disparity between the rich and the poor
  7. Discrimination in the workplace, schools, and in the community
  8. Xenophobia and isolationism
  9. American arrogance
  10. Special privileges for the rich
  11. Tyranny of the majority
  12. Cover-ups and propaganda
  13. Intrusion of government into the sexual lives of consenting adults
  14. Welfare for the wealthy and privileged

This list was paired with another list of positive U.S. values in an essay I found by searching "traditional American values" on the internet.  Here is the list the author of that essay offered by contrast as good, conservative American values:

  1. Belief in the god of the Bible, regular church attendance

  2. Sex permitted only within the confines of heterosexual marriage

  3. Hard work and sacrifice
  4. Ambition
  5. Capitalism and free-market competition
  6. Frequent and open displays of patriotism
  7. Generosity toward the disadvantaged
  8. Democracy
  9. Honesty
  10. Importance of family

There are probably other items that could be put on both lists.  And, of course, not all conservatives sweep the bad realities of American history under the rug.  Liberals, though, are more apt to recognize and acknowledge the imperfections in the American character as revealed in a realistic study of American history.  I strongly urge you all to read Howard Zinn's, A Peoples' History of the United States.  It is a classic and a must-read for all serious liberals (progressives) like me.  If you want to know what I am talking about, read that book or at least dip into it here and there.  It is the history that "they" do not want you to read who want you to think in only idealistic, rosy pipe dreams about where we came from and the fine things on the "good" list.

As my brother the libertarian has pointed out to some of you, I was more or less conservative in most things until I began to read some of the alternatives like Zinn and especially some things about the history of the labor movement in the USA and now the "occupy" movements around the world.  I also highly recommend The Occupy Handbook, edited by Janet Byrne, for an understanding of current liberal thinking expressed in numerous essays by numerous authors.  Of course, there is always Noam Chomsky too, although his name lights a fire for some of you, I know.

I dare you to try some study outside your comfort zones.  For those who do not read much, maybe you can get it on DVD :-) .  Come to think about it, there are some good sources on DVD too: The Grapes of Wrath, or how about that movie with Kris Kristofferson, Heaven's Gate, about the Johnson County war of 1892 in Wyoming.  Do a search on the Johnson County War for some interesting history and how that bit of history influenced Hollywood and American mythology.

Anyhowever, that's it for me for now.  Hasta la vista.  That's until next time for those of you who do not speak America's second language (thus speaks the provocateur :-).


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