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Blog Post for 10/7

The ideas in this chapter of The People’s History of the United States, one again talk about the class conflicts. The involvement of the US in the WWI was something that divided the nation more than united it. The efforts of the government, with newspapers and advertisements to unite the people created an even worse sense of community because of their extreme punishments for any opposition to the opinion of the government and the upper class. WWI was just another example of how much power the wealthy held, and how the lower classes suffered from it. The lower classes were the ones that were actually going to battle, when they didn’t even want to be in the war in the first place. The interesting part to me is how this percentage of people, these wealthy individuals, have such an effect on the country and the economic and political state of things, when the lower classes, the majority of the country hold no power.

In the opening paragraph of the chapter, Zinn mentions how in Europe, with the war “governments flourished, patriotism bloomed, class struggles was stilled” (359). So then, why did it enhance almost all these problems in the United States? Class struggles got even worse, and socialism grew in an effort to stop the war. Only the economy seemed to get better, helping those wealthy. What surprised me even more is how the government handled this class conflict. The Espionage Act seems outrageous to me, for punishing someone so cruelly for voicing their opinion. There must have been a reason the government was so worried about people opposing the war. Zinn also mentions how even before we were involved in the war we were sending ships full of supplies and weapons to German enemies, which in itself makes us involved. Then how we lied about the Lusitania cargo adds to the idea that the government had an ulterior motive for their involvement in the war than the rest of the nation. 

This constant divide between the wealthy upper classes and the middle and lower classes has been evident all throughout history, although it seems to get worse and worse. During WWI it seemed to be much more political than it had been in the past, when most of the problems were race related. This recurring theme is still present today, although it seems that more and more people are gaining a voice and being heard, not just the wealthy class and government.

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  1. Christopher Wilson Christopher Wilson

    I am glad that Zinn touched on how the inequalities between socio-economic classes continued to be a problem for America, even in the 20th century. History tends to overlook this when we begin to consider many of the tactics the U.S. federal government employed just to ensure that the elite and wealthy could avoid actually being willing to die for their country. Simultaneously, the poor and lower-income brackets of society had to sacrifice their lives for a country that did not really provide them with many benefits. I wonder what will it take for our leaders in the federal government to stop enforcing policies and legislation that support trickle-down economics so that they can actually forward that money to people in the lower-income brackets so that the wealth can build its way back to the top.

  2. Julia Borger Julia Borger

    I also found myself shocked at many of the US government’s tactics during the war, especially the Espionage Acts and the sinking of the Lusitania. I remember briefly touching on the Espionage Acts in previous history classes, but that was all it was- very brief and we did not go into the detail that PHUS was able to describe, which gave me a completely new perspective on the number of people they arrested and why. In addition, I either don’t remember or have never learned that the US lied about the Lusitania cargo, which I believe is a very important fact that should be made extremely clear. Like many previous chapters, after reading I am struck by the idea that I have been misinformed about our country’s history, and very disappointed in the new concepts that I learn.

  3. Julia Leonardi Julia Leonardi

    The wage gap; the menace of society. This gap is the source of many, if not most, wars. It is the root of most political problems and the thing we most desire to escape. It was definitely a source for WWI and without this imbalance of power, more people would’ve had a say and maybe prevented it.

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