Howard Zinn

The Good Old Days

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.”

Edmund Burke

 

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts muses as to how conservatives and leftists view the past and the present:

 

Or not, depending on your point of view.  A basic difference between a more progressive spin on America and a more traditional spin is that progressives tend to believe America can be a great nation despite the evils of its past, while traditionalists tend to believe that America has been a great nation despite the evils in its past. Likewise, those who swing to the Left tend to see the changes happening as positive, while those who are more conservative will obviously see many changes as negative, especially if they’ve changed important characteristics of their society.  That Americans are divided along political lines over wanting America the way it used to be or not shouldn’t be surprising.  Nor should we assume that when people say they want the past, that they necessarily want the evils of the past.  An interesting, but hardly surprising, survey. Continue reading

Howard Zinn, Neo-Confederate

While I disagree with him on a host of political issues, I follow Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog at The Atlantic closely because of his consistently well written and fascinating posts on history and literature. Many of these are on the Civil War, which has in recent years become a topic of great interest to him.

There was a particularly interesting pair of these a couple weeks ago in which Coates and his commenters discussed (in the context of Ron Paul’s repeated statements that the Civil War was unnecessary) the fact that left wing icon Howard Zinn actually peddles the several of the neo-confederate tropes: that the Civil War was fought for Northern economic domination and had little to do with slavery, and that a the Civil War clearly wasn’t necessary in order to end slavery anyway. [First post on Ron Paul, Howard Zinn and the Civil War. Second, followup post.] The specific Howard Zinn text that they go after (because it’s conveniently online) is a lecture he gave called Three Holy Wars, in which he tries to make a case for why people should not see the Revolutionary War, American Civil War or American involvement in World War II as moral or just — something he argues is important because seeing any past wars as just allows people to justify other wars on analogy.

Zinn proceeds to run through most of the standard complaints against the “War of Northern Aggression”:
It was really, really bad:

Slavery. Slavery, nothing worse. Slavery. And at the end of the Civil War, there’s no slavery. You can’t deny that. So, yeah, you have to put that on one side of the ledger, the end of slavery. On the other side, you have to put the human cost of the Civil War in lives: 600,000. I don’t know how many people know or learn or remember how many lives were lost in the Civil War, which was the bloodiest, most brutal, ugliest war in our history, from the point of view of dead and wounded and mutilated and blinded and crippled. Six hundred thousand dead in a country of 830 million. Think about that in relation today’s population; it’s as if we fought a civil war today, and five or six million people died in this civil war. Well, you might say, well, maybe that’s worth it, to end slavery. Maybe. Well, OK, I won’t argue that. Maybe. But at least you know what the cost is.

The Civil War didn’t meaningfully free them anyway: Continue reading

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