I’m currently in the midst of reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. I mean really, I’m about to graduate from graduate school and my knowledge of American history is basically nill — granted, my undergrad and graduate degrees aren’t in history, unless we’re talking about film history…but shouldn’t we be required to know how this country ended up so uber-politicized and crazed? (Hint: It goes way back to the days of Columbus).
I became fascinated with the history of Native Americans and settlers while reading William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways last month - he visits many sites that were important early settlements for the colonists. (or rather, were the end of the line for the Indians.) Being part Native American, Least Heat Moon spends much of his time on the road talking with Indians from the various tribes and reservations that he drives through. The Indians’ take on how to best balance their past and present histories within the cultural landscape of the United States is a story unto itself…
…but back to the matter at hand.
What the U.S. Government should do to quell the influx of those horrid illegal immigrants (i kid i kid - love you guys) is hand out free copies of Zinn’s book. After reading, it really makes one question why anyone would want to live in a country with such a short yet sordid past full of massacres and inequality. As Zinn puts it:
My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different. That we must not accept the memory of the states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family conceals the fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is a job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.