Day 3 September 3, 2002
1. Names. List: for Th., WORTH Center, web site, issues, some proposals, Zinn, ideology, myth and symbols, “dissent without dogma.”
For Thursday, let’s start MP, assuming it comes in this afternoon as promised. I think we’ll skip or just skim a couple of sections to get back on schedule; for Th. everybody read the 1st asst., group A people do responses.
On WORTH Center, etc.: I talked with Kristin M., and she’ll contact them. I should have more for you on this by Thursday. First step, probably, a trip there to check things out. It’s a pretty interesting place.
Weird stuff in the news/web site of the day:
I hope everybody will take the test here (five or ten minutes) and see where you come out. I won’t ask where, but I do want to talk a bit next time about the grid they use to sort out political views, vs. the usual left/right line.
If, say, 30 of you will affirm on the Honor Code next time that you did the test I’ll tell you how mine came out . . .
2. Issues that came up last time:
International: Iraq; Israel/Palestine; Bin Laden and terrorism; Afghan atrocities
Business: Water; Gambling; Corporate accountability
Health: West Nile virus; vaccinations against biochemical weapons; smoking bans; anthrax hoax; government health campaigns; TANF (welfare) programs
Religion: Pledge of Allegiance controversy; Teaching religion in schools
Science and technology: Royalties for web distribution; webcasting and digital media
Entertainment: Sports; movies; Bad information
Justice: Safety; Child abductions; terrorism; suspected terrorists being held
Any observations about this list? What isn’t here? Anything about environment, energy, global warming? Race and diversity? Economic issues . . . a bit, under “corporate accountability.”
I heard this morning that in 2000 the mean household income in Ohio was about $40,000. Does that seem like a lot to you, or not much?
3. On Zinn, ideas, myths, effects, etc. Fascinating to read these responses, and see how different they are, from nearly complete agreement to nearly total disagreement.
Some propositions—see where you come out.
War is better than peace.
The Ten Commandments say “Thou shalt not kill,” and Christians should never kill anybody no matter what the circumstances.
Killing people whenever it’s to my advantage to do so is all right.
The United States should be given back to the Indians
In my personal experience, violence is usually effective as a way of solving problems.
When Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he really meant “Do unto others as they do unto you.”
It’s better to let somebody else have whatever they want than to do anything resembling violence.
When I am pushed around by someone more powerful than I am, it makes me respect them.
So, OK. If most of us find most of these statements too extreme, in one direction or another, maybe there’s a little less division, and more space to find some common ground for discussion, than we might think. Let’s think about what J/H actually say in that introduction.
Remember that “personal myth” stuff from FYS, Sam Keen, the idea of “myth” not as an old lie but as an organizing story, something people tell themselves in order to explain the world and their place in it?
The myth-symbol approach to American history and American studies. The American Adam, the Virgin Land, the wilderness as place of temptation and opportunity, on and on. The American hero, Daniel Boone, Natty Bumppo, Shane, John Wayne, on and on. D. H. Lawrence and Richard Slotkin and the myth of redemptive violence: that good people must kill in order to triumph over evil, and that if it’s done rightly all will be well afterwards . . .
Instances of this: the popular image of the American Revolution, surely, and other wars as well. J/H deal with this in some detail, so we’ll just mention it here. Where else? Can anybody think of a movie in which a reluctant hero kills a bunch of bad guys, spectacularly, in order to make things right at the end?
Isn’t this one of the standard American, maybe universal human myths? I read some version of this in a number of responses: “I don’t like war, but sometimes it’s the only way.”
So what Zinn suggests is that an “American ideology” exists, one that we accept as more or less given, so that even when we disagree with some particular element we’re likely to stay within the general framework or appeal to “common sense” as to what is possible or even thinkable. Two political parties, not 3 or 8 or 10; arguments about how much to raise the defense budget, not about what we might do with $100 billion or $200 billion otherwise. What if, for example, we threw all that money toward improving social conditions and economic opportunities and building democratic institutions in the Islamic world?
I’d like to make a plea for the big picture here, as he does. Not only regarding war and peace issues, but in every area, I think we’re prone to thinking within narrow limits, assuming that what’s possible is far more constricted than is actually the case. This is why studying history is worthwhile: because it hasn’t always been this way, and it won’t always be this way. In 1830 it took my ancestors two weeks to get from Wooster to Archbold . . . Friday we drove to Kansas, and Sunday we drove back again, and were tired but not utterly exhausted after our 1700 mile round trip.
What about Zinn’s idea that ideology normally operates not by overt repression but by “quiet dominance,” creating an “obedient, acquiescent, passive citizenry”?? Is that us? Laura’s response . . .
What does he call for, if we agree that we don’t want to be part of this obedient mass? Dissent without dogma, not some alternate orthodoxy but new approaches to human problems.
I can honestly say that I agree with the author on the fact that the
American people need to take a more active role in the government. However,
I do not think that we need focus on the mistakes made in the past nor the
idea that Americans are repressed. Mr. Zinn is upset because we do not get
choice e, f, g, or h. He fails to mention that the choices we do get are
more then many other nations will ever get. I also do not agree that we are
limited on our thoughts or the ways in which they are expressed. Many
people have made public remarks, long-term protests, and critical articles
about the about their ideas. I realize that everyone usaully agrees with
one or more of the general ideas Zinn stated in the article, but I believe
that everyone still harbors their own idea in the back of their mind. The
choice to speak out about ideas is solely our decision. We have the choice
to make protests about anything, including our government. And in some
cases of protest people do get punished, but at least the government crossed
choice e and f (life imprisonment and killing the protesters) off the list.
I do agree with Zinn's final statements that rebellion can spur a new path
of thought and that we must listen to everyone with skeptism.
Below I present my response to the reading packet. I hope this resembles the type of response you were hoping to receive! Thanks, Amy Simon
I must admit that reading this packet of materials, and particularly the piece by Howard Zinn, provoked a myriad of emotion. I must admit that I sympathize with the plight of Howard Zinn. It is true that our "freedom" has its limits--especially when those with money are also those who hold power, making many decisions "for the people". Yet, the basic principle of any government is that in return for the protection and a bundle of other services provided by the government, the mass of people living within the area being governed must be willing to lose absolute freedom. The question, therefore, seems to be in how much freedom we, living in a democratic society, should be expected to forfeit in exchange for the services the government provides us. Yes, there are abuses of power in the United States and in most other countries in this world. Yes, it is disturbing to realize such things and the realities that they present to many citizens of these places. Yet, this cannot keep me from hoping for a better tomorrow. In my mind, all efforts towards social justice are worthy. Hence, I will attempt to keep my critiques in the form of criticism rather than the cynicism that is occasionally portrayed by Howard Zinn. Somehow, a spark of idealism remains within me. I am not able to give up just yet.
After reviewing the materials that you had given us for review for class tomorrow, I have realized that I was extremely too harsh in my first response. Hence, I would like to submit a response that articulates my current understanding of the first piece by Howard Zinn. First, I know that the article was written as an attempt to plea for justice...a true democracy. Here in the United States, we are governed by the rich and elite--all of whom seemingly share in the same opinions and ideals. When one actually sits down to examine the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, it is fascinating to discover just how similar the two are in reality. These have historically been the two parties in control of the United States, and even today there seems to be no change immediately ahead. Unfortunately, this means that those with ideals differing from this elite group of governing parties are often not heard. Their pleas for justice and change are often silenced--even when our country desparately needs to hear what another unique voice has to say. In short, I agree with much that Howard Zinn had to say. However, much like him, I do not have a solution as to how to conquer this injustice. Unfortunately, this was probably the reason for my initial feelings of discontent. While this definitely illustrates one of the many issues that should be considered seriously in modern America, there seem to be no solutions beyond raising awareness, praying that someday someone with power will be able to view the rationale behind many of the issues presented by the minority. Only then does it seem that their pleas will finally be heard.
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In response to the first article, I do believe the author has some valid points. However, I do not think the method used to portray his points is a "good" method, for lack of a better word. Many of the things said were very opinionated, which is funny, because he comments about that also. He talks of fighting for ideas that haven't been given much thought. Yet I feel the reason that some of these ideas aren't even presented as ideas is because they will not work by common sense. Getting rid of prisons completely would never work to cite a specific example. Many reasons for this could be given even by any person not highly educated on the matter. I do however agree with his thoughts of thinking outside of the box. In response to the review of The Missing Peace, the point of onesided views of history is a valid point. But, as it seems, the author thinks all war is evil and completely avoidable. I agree with this, however once sides have been choosen, it is to late to take action to try and stop the war. Some of the ideas in this piece I do not quite agree with. Didn't the early colonial union try to get the Brittish to let them be an equal part of congress? The whole " No taxation without representation!" pitch? Why would that have even been a part of our history books if they did not try a peaceful solution first. Along that path, didn't the allied forces sign around nine peace treaties with Adlof Hitler? In certain situations, I feel war is neccesary. Is it more "peaceful" to let Hitler kill the Jews and persecute others? Or is it best to stop Hitler, by war, which in that case was neccisary. As with Osama, if America did not retaliate, would he just stop? I think not. I agree that a non-violent alternative is the way to go, but it always depends on who you're dealing with. Its a two way street.
The idea that our "democracy" is a form of control is a little scary but I think may be true in some sense. Many times its seems that we the people are simply satisfied to say that "yes we have a say", but how many times do we actually say what we think. "We have the kinds of choices that are given in multipule choice tests, where you can choose a, b, c, or d. But e, f, g, and h are not even listed." This statement was interesting to me. I have been upset and angered at a number of unfair mulituple choice tests in my schooling career, but I have never been upset about the choices not given to me by my government. Is it because I have conformed the way they have wanted me to (to a point that I am pacified and don't want to take a stand) or is it that the importance of politics has not be made aware to me. I think that being raised Mennonite has in some way dampened my understanding or my want of understanding of the political world. Of course we take the pacifist stance when dealing in war time situations and that is a taking a stand in and of itself. But when going beyond that into the everyday policies and government issues, I have not been raised to take part. It is sad to think that we are part of a system of checks and balances, but nobody checks and nobody balances. We are thought to believe that it happens, but how can be believe that it is happening when we don't do some of the checks and balances ourselves. This idea of Howard Zinn's is a new one to me but it has gotten me thinking....
I liked these articles, the first one especially. I found it interesting that Zinn's article had been written 11 years ago....it seemed very pertinent to today. Statements from our president such as "if you're not with us, you're against us," exemplify what Zinn was writing about. With the administration speaking in such black and white terms, there is no room for dissent. I felt that Zinn's mentioning of the corporate owned "free press" was pertinent as well. The media outlets all seem to be saying that attacking Iraq is a good idea -- no wonder, since they're all owned by corporations that get rich off making war. In short, I appreciated Zinn's artice a lot. Though I do not agree with every thing he wrote (getting rid of prisons is a good idea????), he articulated many of my own beliefs well.
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In the writing "American Ideology" I found that the idea that the people of America are only being given the a, b, or c choice very true and a good point. Also that the other choices (d, e, f) are not even mentioned, such as the letter from Kissinger to Nixon about the Vietnam War, being a very good point. But I do not agree with all of what Howard Zinn is trying to say. I believe that only the facts should be used in this article, 40 million people dying during the Atlantic slave trade is only an estimate, there is no proof. Over all I do like what Zinn is trying to say in this article.
Here is my response to the assigned reading:
I think that the article called "American Ideology" has some very good points. In my media classes we often talk about who is excluded from the media and how "objective" the media really is. I am convinced that the popular U.S. news media gives a very slanted view of most things. Especially network news and CNN. I really don't pay too much attention to current events or news because often I am confused about what is going on in the world. My confusion is usually increased by the information I'm given about current events in church. On the news I hear about the horrible Palestinians who are killing Isreali's and in church I hear about the horrible Isreali's who are killing Palestinians, and so I wonder how one can ever really sort out all that information. I wonder if there is ever an completely objective source for information or if to get an objective source you have to read 100 different opinions and mesh them all together. If that is the case my gut reaction is to forget about even trying to understand. From reading the review of "The Missing Peace" I am very interested to read it because I have never heard of alternatives to wars that were fought in the past. I think looking at the alternatives to previous wars may help me understand what the alternatives could be in our current political situation. I am a pacifist but I often feel that pacifism can only be an individual response not a governmental one.
Well this is a rather rambling email. I hope it makes some sense.
I am in strong agreement with this article. I understood this article to be talking about the U.S. and even though we claim we are a country of free choice, free chances, and everyone is treated freely, we definetly are not that. America is suppose to be the land of new beginnings, a new chance to start out right. But that was a false impression for immigrants when they did arrive here. They found it hard to live in a world were their language was not understood, were the color of their skin caused people to be judgemental. Even though this occurred in the late 1800's, it is still happening in this country today. America claims to be a country of social justice, but really it is a country of social injustice. As a social work major, I get discouraged when I read about other countries providing their poor people with ways to get their life back together. In other countries, such as Sweden, people no matter what their problem is they are able to receive help. In America, we have to qualify, and then have to what another year before we get any help. Isn't the United States suppose to be the best place to live but yet we are not willing to help our people, instead we blame the victim. I believe that America is becoming currupt. We no longer have values and morals, we have t.v. shows that have ruined those. My children will grow up in a society much worse than the one I did, and the society I grew up in is nothing to brag about. It also seems like this world is full of violence, and yeah, maybe it is, but it seems to be the only thing our government is worried about. They don't want to help the children of their country who are being abused, and neglected, they want to cut funds for families to give to the military. I just feel that our country as a whole is losing sight in what is happening right in front of them, and in the long run, we will start falling.
Here is my reading response to
the book review and articles on "The Missing Peace": by Suzy Bauman
The ideas and points that are emphasized in these articles and book reviews on the book "The Missing Peace" really made me think. The first article, "American Ideology", by Howard Zinn, really made some good points regarding the way that we are brought up as Americans. The historical events talked about in the beginning of the article, for example the Atlantic slave trade, really proved the point that the views and beliefs that America has had as a whole have cost millions of lives. Zinn also shines a light on the fact that the "democracy" that we live in is not true to its label. Our "pluralistic" society is more limited than we think, with controlled choices and government branches. Certain ideas have been driven into our brains, disguising things as acceptable that may not follow the ways of our Christian beliefs, such as the issue of war and peace. This article gave me energy and gusto to stand up for my Christian beliefs when American ideology disagrees. The ! quote that stuck out to me the most in this article was, "For citizens to do this on their own, to listen with some skepticism to the great thinkers and the experts, and to think for themselves about the great issues of today's world, is to make democracy come alive." Robert Kreider's book review recognizes the author's goals in "The Missing Peace" as "demonstrating that violence in the U.S. has done more harm than good, offering a different lens from which to view history - one of mutuality and interdependence, and providing hope and encouragement for a less violent future by remembering those people and events that worked for nonviolent alternatives." As a pacifist, I am looking forward to seeing what the authors are going to say in this book. I also believe that every crisis has non-violent alternatives and I believe that the U.S. many times doesn't recognize these alternatives. A point was well made by Kreider when he wrote, "The master narrative of American history! is the struggle for freedom and democracy within the epic of human progress. Progress is realized through violence..." and then goes on to describe America's triumphs through violence. My question to this is: Why does America focus on historical events that include violence? I also ask, as the authors do, were there other non-violent options to these events? I am looking forward to reading this book and hoping that it will help answer the questions that I have.
In this excerpt, I was shocked by the fact that it is true.
We really are fed what to believe by the people in power. The media selectively
chooses what side of a story they want the public to take and reports the facts
in favor of that one side. A great example, "The idea presented by
political leaders and accepted by the American public in 1964, that communism
in Vietnam was a threat to out 'national security' led to policies that cost a
million lives, including those of 55,000 young Americans." The American
public was told that communism was wrong and most of the public believed it. Another
example that goes right along is the fact that once the president declares war,
the majority of the county follows his belief that war is necessary. We are
brainwashed by those in power.
The handout we received was very interesting to me. The first one on "American Ideology" gave me a lot to think about. I really liked the analogy he used when he compared the choices we have about government policy and a multiple choice test. There really are times when the answer that we think of when trying to solve a problem or give our own opinion is the equivalent to an e or f choice on a multiple choice test of a-d. The book review on the Missing Piece was very informative. It sounds like a good book. I am not Mennonite but I have always been drawn to learning more about anabaptists and the peace/ nonviolent view towards many issues.
I feel Zinn was, sadly, born about 4000 years to late. If a man of his ideology were to have been present in the anarchy of the warring tribes in the Mesopotamian River Valley he would have faced no competition. He would have been free to vote for any letter of the alphabet he liked with no resistance, and he may very well have become one of the leaders of the “free” developing world, but sadly Zinn was born in our day and age, and here his ideology doesn’t fit so well. He doesn’t agree with the machine that has evolved out of centuries of civilization, especially the last two, which have been the most formative on our continent. I’m not saying that the inequality in our society is good, no I believe much the opposite, but I feel Zinn is in no way helping the situation. His goal of a completely reworked social structure is about as likely as my hoping that every man woman and child will live unselfishly and with respect for one another. There is a difference between hopeful goals and delusions. I know that my idea is a delusion, but Zinn doesn’t see his ideas in the same way. He has lost touch with the reality of the people in our world and has started yelling with resounding resolve that his ways are the best ways, even if they are no ways at all. Zinn may drum up enough followers for a rebellion against “the man,” and you might even hear about it in the news, but realistically, the nation we live in will continue to define itself within its box that it has laid out for itself. We as people can effect those around us, and so we should do the best we can to be the best we can, and maybe in that we might make a little change. Thus we can be realistic and still hopeful. We just shouldn’t forget that some people will still vote A even if there were a million letters to chose because they think A is the best. In short, not every one thinks we are right just because we do.
I would like to first reflect on Howard Zinn's "American Ideology". I feel that in this article Zinn is such a left wing liberal that he sounds like a total idealist and not a realist. I agree with some of what he writes, about how it is easy to accept the ideas that are presented in front of us. The example he gives of the multiple choice test makes good sense of the way things are in the United States. We only see the problems that the media want us to see, and nothing else. Even though answers e, f, and g are real and present they are not made public because of a hidden agenda. However through Zinn's continual whining I find many valid problems, but no apparent solutions that are practical. Zinn's liberal, hippie ideas that slam conservative thought, is a voice that has already been heard in the 60's. Rebelling against society does bring about new ideas, but does society more harm than good.
I had many different responses to the " American Ideology" by Howard Zinn HarperCollins. I was very surprised that an american would write such things about his country. In two years I have heard people talking about America with pride only. It was very rarely that someone would disagree with what government did. I agree with many things that " American Ideology" talks about. I agree that this country is not that free as it wants to appear. I agree, that government is not always fair. I agree that the wealth rules in this country and the gap between those reach people and poor ones is getting bigger every day. I disagree with some of the ideas that are preferred in this country. I disagree with those who say that if you are poor it is your own fault, because I have seen people in my country working days and night without getting paid anything. I disagree that the US need nuclear weapons to prevent war, because even those two words scare me. I disagree that the United States must intervene in various parts of the world with military powers because it is only that country's business. The US have nothing to do with that. I agree that freedom of speech is desirable, but not when it threatens national security.
This article was very interesting. I can talk a lot more about it and I am afraid that the space that this e-mail gives me will not be enough to tell everything about my reactions to it.
One thing that made me mad in American Ideology, was when they talked about the poor. They talk about neglecting the poor, "thus permitting terrible living and working conditions and incalculable suffering and death." While being in Chicago for one week this summer doing different service projects, i learned alot about the poor and low income people in the city. One day my group and I went to a convention center right after they had a food show. After this food show, all the food that was left over would have gotten thrown into the trash. We had the opportunity to go in and salvage all the food that was leftover. When we had everything packed up, we ended up with 50,000 pounds of food! And that was just from one food show! All this food went to the food depository where it was distributed to about 800 different food shelters. Later on, when we gave our program at church, someone me a comment that nobody in the United States should be going hungry. And he is right. America throws away so much food, everyday, if we would be more conservative, nobody should be going hungry.
One other thing that disturbed me, was the saying, "If you are poor, you have only yourself to blame." That is a big sterotype a lot of people think, but it is not true. A lot of poor or low income people work really hard, they are just in a bad situation, or have grown up in the wrong place, and can't pull themselves out of their suituation. Some of the hardest workers I know are poor, and it makes me mad when people say it is their own fault and that they could change it if they really wanted to.
After reading the excerpts from "American Ideology", I definentely have some mixed opinions. While I think free thinking and "challenging the system" is a good idea, I cannot agree with all of Zinn's contentions. First, I think Zinn, is right on some things particularly that some wars, such as Vietnam were not directly a United States problem, that we were "scared of Red", so to speak, however I think some wars are necessary. The United States is the most powerful nation in the world, and although a cynical approach is to compare us to animals, but in the animal kingdom, you do not become the alpha male/female by staging sit-ins or picking the alpha based on his/her ruthlessness. Does the media control what we watch? Yes, it does, but at the same time, we may live in an country where broadcasting only 2 political parties is done because only 5% of the public believe in what people like Mr. Zinn is saying. In my opinion there are always two sides to every story, and what happened (history) is skewered somewhere in the middle. While I respect Mr. Zinn's opinions, I cannot agree with much of it.
I guess that I am one that tends to be satisfied with the the a, b, c and d choices that we have. I haven't actually given much notice or thought about why there aren't any additional "choices" than what is put in front of us. I have always found myself to go along with what the government chooses, because of strong support of the militaruy by family and close child influences. When occurances are described in a new light, one has nothing else to do but second guess what is familiar, (at least one might hope so). Yes, people of power do influence ideas of society, this I don't doubt. But I also wonder if it's such a bad thing. Besides, I've lived a very good life thus far under such conditions... can it be so bad? I want to become more aware and critical of my surroundings and what controls me. Perhaps in reading the Missing Peace, I can be more aware of past events and more critical instead of having a simple blind acceptance...
The articles that we had to read brought up many issues that I had surpressed back in mind for some time. To brush a couple of those issues are the problems with the government and the wealthy, plus the issue of violence. I would like to talk about those, and voice my opionion.
The article over "American Ideology" raised many issues of power and wealth distribution. As the article states, I also believe that as a "free country" we are limited on what we can do or even say. Take for example the television. This so called "free press" isn't really free to do what it wants. The government and other regulators have final say on what is published and not. Another thing that the article talks about is how the government helps out those who don't need any help, and forgets those who do need it. Cutting tax deals for the wealthy, and forgeting about the poor. How is our society to be equal if even the government doesn't help? This can go along with the baseball strike that has happened for the past couple of months. Do these individuals who hit a ball with a bat really worth an average of 5 million a year? And still asking for more because they think they don't make enough. What about Joe who work 80 hours as a police officer who helps keep our cities same and risks his life everyday. Don't you think he is worth more than a ball player? I do. Like what HarperCollins says, I also agree that we need to re-think some of the issues that go on today. New ideas brew everyday, and should be implemented to help solve some of these everyday problems.
The other issue that I would like to discuss is that with violence. I don't agree that America's identity is formed by war. This article goes on to explain that there were alternatives to our past wars in our history. Can't that be true with any war? Isn't there an alternative to any problem? I believe for the most part, sometimes violence,that of war, is the only solution to problems. I'm sure there is many that disagree with me, but where would we have gotten if WWII didn't happen? Germany would have taken over most of Europe, and the majortity of the Jewish population would have been wiped out. Now after the war had happened, Germany is one of our, and Europe's, most reliable ally. Personally, I'm not saying violence is justified, but to say that America identity is that of war is just untrue.