Fizzy Jill and I (and some others… although I think the original number is dwindling as the weeks drag by) are reading a chapter a week of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Feel free to join us in whatever way you prefer—by reading along, commenting, or writing your own posts. To keep things organized, link up posts over at Jill’s blog as she is the quasi-official host who designed the button and reading schedule. (By the way, we’re doing posts every other week now instead of every week.) This post covers Chapters 8 and 9.
Chapter 7: We Take Nothing By Conquest, Thank God
The chapter title is sarcastic because, if nothing else, the United States took almost everything by conquest. In this chapter, we learn how the U.S. acted like a big spoiled bully and wrested the states of Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California and parts of Colorado away from Mexico. Using the important sounding phrase “manifest destiny” to justify its actions, the U.S. acted very much like a spoiled child who sticks its tongue out at you and waits for you to retaliate and then socks you in the jaw and calls it your fault. Another proud moment for the U.S.!
Chapter 8: Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom
In this chapter, Zinn covers the Civil War and the “freeing” of the slaves. In typical Zinn fashion, Lincoln is presented more as a shrewd businessman who freed the slaves as a mere consequence of attempting to win the war and bring the South back into the fold. In addition, Zinn makes the point that, although the Emancipation Proclamation did TECHNICALLY free the slaves, it offered no follow-up support and left the freed slaves in a very precarious and difficult situation that wasn’t all that much better than when they were enslaved.
I’m starting to dread reading this book. I must have fallen asleep while reading Chapter 9 at least four different times. I actually resorted to reading the kid’s version of Zinn’s book to get the basic points as Zinn’s writing is starting to get to me. Plus the relentless Debbie Downer attitude about everything is starting to affect me as well.
A friend of mine warned me when I started this book that I would find it “stultifying” (which means “cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, esp. as a result of a tedious or restrictive routine”), and I really can’t think of a better way to describe my feelings about reading this book right now.
Still, I shall forge on because I seem to be genetically unable to stop reading a book no matter how much I’m starting not enjoying it. (What makes matters worse is that I’m currently trapped in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on audio right now –a journey I’m not really relishing either.) As a result, I’m starting to get cranky and irritable and doing this readalong is starting to feel like homework.
This is not to say that the information Zinn is writing about isn’t important (cuz it is). Rather, I’m starting to intensely dislike Zinn’s actual writing style. It is, as my friend said, stultifying.