History and America

by Chris Reimold and J.D. Cook

NOTE: this debate originated on Facebook, January 28-29, 2010.

Chris Reimold

Really? Catcher in the Rye the best book ever? Hmmm that’s definite NO! And hey Howard Zinn died as well! Where are your thoughts on that?

J.D. Cook

I’m not a fan of Zinn’s idea that you can just call something a “People’s History,” and then portray only his side of everything so that it’s not a “People’s History” at all. It is his. I also disagree with most of his ideas in the book. Columbus an evil rapist? The guy died dirt poor without having known he had done anything.

Then his idea that the Revolutionary War was due too an Economic crisis and not to dumb ass British policies just doesn’t make sense to me. Yet, despite all that, I still felt his passing heavily in an adversarial sort of way. I respect anyone who can convince millions that he is for the “people” while making vast sums of money from it. (Sarcasm, lol) I will always be saddened never to have met and debated him.

Chris Reimold

People are always going to publish a history as if it is the only view. For example, was it western expansion or western invasion? Depends on which side you view it from. And dude, just because Columbus died dirt poor doesn’t mean he wasn’t evil – let’s think about this – he enslaved and killed an entire populace. I mean, sure it was not him alone, but he contributed to it vastly. And in some sense you can say the Revolution was an economic crisis, because the British policies were all based off of capitalistic gains. Also, you may think he was not for the “people” but his books (yes there are more than just People’s History of the United States) and views always sided with the people over the government so it would be justifiable name his book the PEOPLE’s history…what we are taught in institution is the Government’s history and it is only taught through Paulo Freire’s “Banking” Concept of Education, where as it should be taught through a problem-solving concept. For example alot of schools are not aloud to use the term “Vietnam War” anymore because if we call it the “Vietnam Conflict” that means we did not loose a war and makes the government seem better.

J.D. Cook

First off, Columbus can not be blamed for what the Spanish did! He sought trade and friendship with people he believed to be the “Indians”. After all he was seeking an easier way to get to India because the Ottoman Empire, and Italy controlled the trade routes to India, and China exclusively. His idea was that by going straight around the Earth he could surpass those two empires, but of course he found America. Now why would he rape and pillage those very same people he sought so desperately to trade with?

Then there is, of course, the simple fact that Columbus didn’t know where the hell he was. How can he be blamed for invading and setting up the invasion of the Native Americans if he didn’t know they were a new people and didn’t know he was at a new place? Maybe we should blame old Amerigo for realizing Columbus’s mistake because that would make more sense then constantly killing Columbus’s reputation.

I don’t think the Revolution had diddly to do with economic gains. The fact was that a Parliament was never going to hold strong over the 13 colonies when an Ocean separated them from the homeland. Not to mention the people that lived in America were of a totally different breed then the English at home. These were people living on the frontier, and looking for adventure, and they weren’t going to be told what to do by a bunch of prima-donnas in red coats who sat drinking tea thousands of miles away.

How can it be a “people’s history” if only one side of everything is told? We are all people, after all. The fact is that Zinn was obsessed with class warfare which has never truly existed in America. Since the country of the United States was founded class had been essentially nonexistent. The poor will always be able to rise and the rich will always be able to fall, and in the middle a happy group will always prosper because that is what makes the country survive. Zinn preaches about the oppressed and the downtrodden when in America most (I believe gay marriage is the last thing that needs to be implemented for our country to be fully fair and balanced) people live without any prejudices or burdens holding them back from reaching the full potential of their own rational mind. Zinn and his socialist views could never understand that workers were only oppressed pre-government intervention or before Teddy Roosevelt laid down the law, if you prefer. Since then workers have been treated great. If Zinn was really a great hero of the working class he would journey to China and India and ask for worker’s rights there.

I love how workers in America complain of health care, dental, or retirement when workers in those countries are worked to the bone for their lives and then die as if they never existed on the earth. Quite frankly, Zinn is just a hypocrite who fought a government that never fought back.

Have you read a history book lately? The last time I did I could detect the slant of it from start to finish and it wasn’t siding with the government. It was without a doubt supporting the (so called) “people”. And as far as the Vietnam Conflict goes, I believe the reason it is not called a war is because Congress never declared war. John F. Kennedy just sent troops in and from there things got hotter and hotter, but Congress never declared war. So its considered a police action.

Chris Reimold

Your thesis is that Columbus didn’t rape and pillage because he wanted so badly trade with them? Usually when a “explorer” went to a foreign land to trade it was because he wanted to control that foreign land…not trade. And in that process the said “explorer” and his men would often rape and pillage. Westerners call this imperialism. Also, it was under Columbus’ commands that that natives be used as slaves. Spanish Historian Vartela says, “Even those who loved him [Columbus] had to admit the atrocities that had taken place.” And even if he was such a benevolent fellow why did he own ANY slaves then? Does society excuse him for that?

The Revolution was obviously and purely economic. The colonists got enraged at taxes that the British imposed on them…taxes, that means it is economic. These taxes were imposed on them to help pay back for the war that the Brits and colonists jointly fought in against the French and Natives. Perhaps you heard of it…it was a little number known as the 7 Years’ War. You also refer to the colonists as “frontiers men”. So the frontier they were exploring the people were extremely open to them coming there? Hmmm because the exploring frontiers men weren’t to nice to them. Ever hear of Indian Industrial Schools (there’s one in Carlisle)? Well, the white would force them into these schools using the quote, “Kill the savage in them, but save the white man.” (which can still be seen on above the doors of the one in Carlisle) Did you know that they often cut the Native’s hair when doing this? You might say so what. Well, to many native’s that is a huge symbol of mourning…this caused many children to take their own lives. Still nice little frontiers men?

Oh yes I have read several history books and political books. Here are some authors I suggest: bell hooks, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Christopher Browning, Chinua Achebe, Paulo Freire, Toni Morrison, Helen Vendler, amongst others. So since the US was founded class has never existed? That’s why to be able to vote in the early years you had to be a free, white, land-owning male. Obviously class existed if you had to be those things. Obviously class existed if we had slaves and women who were considered a LOWER CLASS. Obviously class existed if immigrants were treated horrible upon arrival and even after naturalization. You also mention Teddy Roosevelt “laying down the law” and since then proletariat’s working conditions have been good…funny thing labor laws weren’t passed until 1938 and declared in 1941, which means labor was pretty bad until then.

So, Vietnam is considered a police action. So, 58,260 men were killed in action another 1,724 went missing in action for a “police action”. Just by you using the term “police action” clearly proves that there has been a class war going on. See, capitalism creates such a division between the rich and the poor that a surplus population is created and the government solution is hiring petty offenses to cage them up. And further more to prove class wars that you say NEVER happened…abolition of slavery, women’s rights, African American rights, gay rights (which you mention yourself, but deny as having to do anything with class), just to name a few class wars past and present. Want some more? Lattimer Massacre would be considered class war (we should know that one) or if you want one on a larger scale one the Philadelphia Nativists Riots.

I do understand that congress never declared war in Vietnam (as they never did in Quasi-Wars, the Barbary Wars, Lebanon Crisis, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan, or Iraq). However, you cannot deny that they were still wars. Just because congress didn’t official declare them as wars does not mean the atrocities created by funnily enough our loving government did not exist! Here a another funny thing about the army. Who are the majority of the people enlisted in the army? The middle and lower classes, which also proves that there are still classes in America. Also, the reason it is mostly middle and lower class people is because they feel they have nothing else they can do to elevate their lives. Man, all they needed to do is talk to you and they could have clearly raised their status. Which is odd because you say, “since the country of the United States was founded class had been essentially nonexistent,” and then go onto to say,” the poor will always be able to rise, and the rich will always be able to fall, and in the middle a happy group will always prosper because that is what makes the country survive.” Dude, seriously? That is like the biggest contradiction ever. Basically what you said was there were basically no class, but the poor can do this, the rich can do this, and the middle can do this….does that not imply that there are class systems in America?

J.D. Cook

My thesis is that too many people seek to change accepted history. He who controls the past controls the future after all. I absolutely cannot stand for the constant degrading of the United States’ greatest heroes. I believe it is part of an overall much larger movement to destroy the United States by creating apathy and hatred within, and to go farther I would say Mr. Zinn was an integral part of this movement. Essentially what you have is a country that is everything Zinn and his Communist buddies hate. The United States is Democratic, Capitalistic, and Individualistic. As opposed to Communism/Socialism ( Which I’m going to call Com/Soc for the rest of the argument.) which values Feudalism, Central Control, and Collectivism. (Why anyone would want a super-powered government is beyond me considering almost every great atrocity in the world was committed by one.) I guess I should explain Feudalism because it’s not something that is usually attached to Com/Soc. I say that they value Feudalism because that is exactly what they do. They have groups of people who are essentially controlled by one person. (A King of sorts) This King must command his subjects in what is right and wrong and control the economy. I’m sure your familiar with Marx’s idea that in order for Communism to work a Great Leader (King) would need to exist to help transition the world between Capitalism, and Communism. Unfortunately every time the Great Leader of Com/Soc has got into power he has failed to continue the transition to true Communism (the state where people all live in harmony and gum drops fall from the sky and there are no problems but the occasional chocolate milk rain). Instead the Great Leader purges his proletarian friends and commits mass genocide. Between the three great leaders of Com/Soc (Stalin, Hitler, and Mao) there are en estimated 13,000,000 dead citizens who died simply for being. Yet in Russia Stalin is still revered as a hero, and Mao is viewed by our own Presidential staff as a great philosopher (Doesn’t “Power comes from the barrel of a gun” sound like the exact kind of rhetoric an EVIL capitalist would use?) Yet, of course, the United States committed ten times worse Mass Genocide in the twentieth century right?

Now returning to my original point. I don’t like that history is being changer to suite people who’s goal is to destroy my country. Columbus once a simple dumb explorer is now an evil rapist who brought about the destruction of an entire people? Thomas Jefferson is a man who hated slaves and would never want them set free. (When of course it is common knowledge that he fought to keep his original draft of the declaration which was critical of the slave trade) Then there is my personal favorite – George Washington who, if you read about him you realize he was nothing but good, is claimed to have raped slaves and laughed with an evil grin. Let’s not forget Benjamin Franklin who was an incredible statesmen and genius, but according to popular belief today he was just a dirty old man. So that is my problem with the belief that Columbus was evil. Not only did he not do enough to warrant hatred he is part of a movement to destroy American heroes.

Yes, the Revolutionary War was economic in the sense of no taxation without representation and all that, but to say that the founders of the country only rebelled against England to hide the fact that their economy was failing is ludicrous. There were a great deal of reasons for the war and pretending like the war was fought in order to hide something is a great disservice to all the historical men who changed history with there democratic, and freedom-loving ways (except the South, and some of the North until the civil war when that would be rectified, but as you know Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, and a great many of the founders were in anti-slavery leagues.) So to just say they rebelled to hide something is down right stupid, and it is part of Zinn’s goal to discredit the United States as a great Capitalistic, Democratic, and Individualistic country.

As far as the destruction of Native American’s, go I agree with you. The destruction of their culture and people was a terrible thing. Unfortunately, when two new cultures come together the results are often bad. Not to mention the fact that the Native American’s fought against the United States in the Revolutionary War. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Sugarloaf Massacre when a group of Revolutionary soldiers were butchered in their sleep by a group of Native Americans?

I’m not saying what the United States did was right. It was dead wrong but it’s not as if the United States didn’t give the Native American’s many chances to stop and surrender. Unfortunately, after Custer was killed the country went into a frenzy that couldn’t be stopped. We did exactly what Japan did to the Samurai but apparently no one cares about them for some reason. Instead they just harp on the United States ( because we are a bastion of capitalistic democracy maybe?)

Now on to class warfare. I was born poor, yet I am attending college, but since the United States is based on class I should not be in College because I’m poor right? My best friend is poor. Yet he is in college, but that can’t be because he is in the lower class right? My girlfriend is poor, but she is in college, but wait that doesn’t make sense she is a low class how did she get into college?

The fact is we DO NOT have a class system. A class system is something inescapable like England in a Jane Austin novel. The only way to escape being poor was to marry above your class. Class systems haven’t existed in a very long time, and the only places they do still exist are in countries like North Korea. Almost everywhere else allows you to move to what ever class your own mind allow you to move to. Therefore, when I mentioned class before I was referring to an inescapable destiny which many people sought to escape (rightly so) in the early twentieth century via Com/Soc. Thankfully through their efforts the last bastions of class systems were toasted. Unfortunately after they won their class struggle some people continued to fight against the very good their cause had created.

What are you talking about? In our society today there is the smallest gap between rich and poor ever because of a huge and expanding middle class. As far as the civil rights movement goes the fantastic people who fought for their rights may have been held down socially but they weren’t really kept down in any other sense. People like Langston Hughes, Sir Duke, and women like Amelia Earheart still found ways out of being truly poor and broke out of their class. You are talking about a class of people and I am talking of the class warfare referred to by Zinn. The poor against the rich. It is that class struggle that hasn’t truly existed in a century. I’ll end with asking you why you seem to believe only poor people should serve in the military? I personally love any man who serves his country wealthy or not. I don’t believe being poor makes a difference in military service especially since you get college for free after wards.

Chris Reimold

No history is exactly accepted. There is always two sides to every history, the history of the oppressor and the history of the oppressed. So, no matter what texts you read they will always appear to be one-sided. And it is true that he who controls the past controls the future and it is evident that the government (not just in the US, but elsewhere) control the past. In every school the government mandates what is learned, directly and indirectly. It is the government who decides what is important and unimportant for young scholars to learn. Also, the way in which the scholars are taught is a tool of control. The vast majority of teachers use what is known as the banking concept of education, where they are right, the student is wrong, they are knowledgeable and the student is not. They should use a problem-solving concept that allows the student to question what he or she is learning so that thye can develop their own conscience of what is occuring around them and what has occurred.

Now calling Zinn a radical leftist would be fair, but accusation of socialistic intent is a tad cruel of anyone. Remember MacArthur’s witch hunts? I do not believe anyone has the right to condemn his neighbors of any atrocities without verifiable proof…and having opposing political views is not verifiable proof. In sincerity I do believe Zinn was trying to point out the flaws of America in his writing, but only to awaken its peoples so that they could try and resolve such issues not to destroy the nation. Now you mention a king that would have to reign in socialist government to mandate right from wrong. Funnily enough Aristotle proposed such a king known as a “philosophy king” many, many years prior. However, what he proposed is that this “philosophy king” would have to exist culturally not politically. Every culture that is or was has had or has this said “philosophy king” that decides for his people what is right. And our “philosophy king” decided many centuries ago what would be right even if it was wrong…such as idolizing men who commended slavery as Columbus. And if you are implying that Washington didn’t own slaves that is quite blind of you. Now I am not saying that he raped them because I do not know if he did or not, but he did in fact own them and one slave woman managed to escape, but had to always be on the run. Why? Because he spent much of his time up until his death trying to recapture her. Now he may have done other great things, but there were bad things about him too. Its called the duality of man. All people suffer from duality. It is not something we can control.

The Revolution. I do not believe they were hiding anything at all. I believe it was purely economic. We don’t want to pay your taxes. We’re rebelling. The end. Well that’s not really the pure end France was aiding us economically only to enrage Britain. There now that’s the end.

The reason people harp on what the US did to the Indians is in fact because our major status in the world and how we claim to be the “greatest” nation, but in fact we try our best to cover our atrocities. And of course I heard of the Sugarloaf Massacre that’s what I get for growing up in Hazleton. Well, then again most Hazleton locals never heard about the Kelayres Massacre that can be related to government control.

Now not to sound offensive, but I doubt you grew up as poor as you think. I would say we both grew up middle class, maybe lower middle class, but not poor. Remember we went to Height Terrace together (random, but remember that bitch art teacher we had in like kindergarten…can’t remember her name)… and we were also acquainted through Brittany and Marie. Then I lived in a “slummy” part of Hazleton only to move to a trailer park in Hazleton finally ending up in a large Victorian house in Weatherly and too went onto college. So clearly this does indeed show that people can rise. But how far did we truly rise? I wouldn’t say that far…maybe lower middle class to upper middle class.

Poor, as you refer to yourself, friend and girlfriend, I believe describes a completely different class outside of what we grew up in. Poor more so refers to those who live on the streets because of homelessness. Now I have heard many people say just get them a job and then they won’t be homeless. Funny thing is that to get a job you must first have a home…seems like our government doesn’t want them to rise. Also, panhandling is illegal just about everywhere and the vast majority of shelters are overcrowded…so how are they to rise? I believe we rose because we are of a proletariat class, where as anything below that can truly never rise. Find me a homeless man who did not die on the streets, but who rose to riches and I will show you that I was wrong.

“In our society today there is the smallest gap between rich and poor ever because of a huge and expanding middle class.” If there is a huge and expanding middle class this obviously means there is a great schism between the rich and the poor. Civil Right Movement…you say that they were not really kept down except for not having their rights. How do you expect them to rise without their rights?

Lastly, I do not believe that only the poor should serve in the military. Au contraire, it should definitely be the rich as well. More to the point it should also be the family of those who decide that our troops need to go to places that they do not. What I was saying is that our military is mostly composed of middle class and poor individual because they feel there is no where else for them to turn to rise. I too support our troops and wish that everyone man and woman could come back alive, but I do not support what our government has them doing.

Thanks for the compliments and I likewise return them to you. I’m just glad I found someone who cannot debate and not get offended and just yell random bullshit 😀

J.D. Cook

I understand your view that history is written by the victors, and it is true, but it is not the only view. Multiple views on any historical event can be found via internet, or library. It all depends on your level of desire to seek education. Obviously you should not accept the teachings of your school as law, and to do so would be silly. You must question everything. As far as the banking concept I don’t believe that is mandated at all except maybe in elementary school. My High School years were filled with diverse teachers from the open carrying and interesting to the dogmatic, but I never saw them as anything other then guides. In truth everyone must be his own teacher. Lastly isn’t government control exactly what Zinn would want? We certainly don’t need to debate that he was a devoted Big Government man.

Zinn said his goal in writing a “peoples history” was for the worker to take control back of his life. Those are the words of a man lost in struggle that truly died with Lenin, a man I do admire. You see I respect early Socialist’s because they were battling injustice, but after Lenin I’d say the movement became corrupt and died. Stalin, Hitler, and Mao all took Lenin, and to a degree Marx’s ideas and sickened and destroyed them until they became what today’s average lunatic liberal worships. Stalin even killed a great member of his own movement (Trotsky).

Your dead on with Aristotle, but dead wrong too. It was Plato’s The Republic that talked of “philosopher kings”. It is said that that work is the beginning of Socialist thought. I think it is very noteworthy that many great capitalistic and socialist ideas came from the same source. Although I hear it is rumored to have been written by a different person then Plato, but I can not attest to that.

I was not implying that Washington didn’t own slaves just that he was a great man with few weaknesses. He did in fact suffer from the great weakness of the day and I wish he hadn’t but when a man is great in just about every other area of life I guess I can forgive him for doing what so many other fools before and after him did. Perhaps I just lie within the dying breed of Flag Waving Americans who tear up at the Star Spangled banner, but I understand how you can view the Revolution as simply economic, even if I disagree.

You forget, my friend, that before World War I the United States was very low on the economic, and influence scale. I think the reason the U.S. got away with so much was because we were a developing nation, like Japan at the time. Plus, how many Europeans were going to risk their neck for Native Americans? How does not some blame lie on them?

Wow dude! You handed me an easy pitch on your homeless spiel. You must remember to honor your agreement though because I know of one particular homeless man who rose to riches directly from the streets. His name is Chris Gardner look him up if the name does not ring a bell.

Also the number of homeless people is very low at the moment. Thanks to things like Social Security it’s hard to become homeless unless you are mentally ill and then it is sad, but hopefully they will be identified and taken care of. The ones who are not are sad stories, but NO society has figured out how to keep EVERYONE happy and alive, unfortunately.

Lastly, the Military. I did not mean to insult you as we all want the troops home safe. I simply meant to expose the fact that not all troops are poor, and that not all Soldiers do it because they have nothing left to do. I actually don’t know ANY soldiers that joined because they had no where else to go. The military offers some very good things. I actually considered it heavily, but If I joined I would want to be on the front lines, but before I die I’d like to have a child to pass on my genes, and so those two things were at odds. Not to mention I’m just not made to fight. I’m made to write, lol. Yet if my country really needed me I believe I’d be there.

I’m so excited to find someone to debate. Thank you very much for being smart and knowledgeable everyone else I talk to can’t put an argument together if it were handed to them. I salute you!