I’ve been reading some excellent stuff by Howard Zinn of late. I’ve tried three times now to read his most excellent People’s History of the United States, but I have always failed for one reason or another. I guess it’s just too dense for everyday, casual reading. This time however, I stumbled upon a much more readable book by him, Passionate Declarations. It’s tying in rather well with some thoughts I’ve been having about our electorate system, so I thought I would post a quick quote from it to share the wealth:
What sorts of values and ideals are encouraged in the young people of the coming generation by the enormous emphasis on the Founding Fathers and the presidents? It seems to me that the result is the creation of dependency on powerful political figures to solve our problems.I don’t think I could put it much better than that, but in related news, I completed the first round of election pollster training today. Come February 5, I shall be a clerk of the polls (for better or worse).
We were being exploited by England? Well, the Founding Fathers took care of that in leading the struggle for independence. Was the nation morally blighted by the existence of 4 million black slaves? Abraham Lincoln solved that with the Emancipation Proclamation. Did we have a terrible economic crisis in the early 1930s? Franklin Roosevelt got us out of that one. Do we face enormous problems today? Well, the solution is to find the right president, to go to the polls and choose either the Republican or Democratic candidate.
Consider how much attention is given in historical writing to military affairs—to wars and battles—and how many of our heroes are military heroes. And consider also how little attention is given to antiwar movements and to those who struggled against the idiocy of war.
As a result of omitting, or downplaying, the importance of social movements of the people in our history…a fundamental principle of democracy is undermined: the principle that it is the citizenry, rather than the government, that is the ultimate source of power and the locomotive that pulls the train of government in the direction of equality and justice. Such histories create a passive and subordinate citizenry.
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