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War is The Health of The State – 9/7

Zinn’s chapter “War Is The Health Of The State” was especially interesting to me. This chapter discusses America’s involvement in World War I, and how the government controlled the media and speech of citizens to paint a certain patriotic picture of the war.

Entering World War I was publicized as an act in response to the sinking of the Lusitania, which supposedly had been carrying innocent American citizens. This was a lie. The Lusitania was actually heavily armed. The Lusitania’s “manifests were falsified to hide this fact”. This truth was shocking to me because I remember being forced to memorize in my history class that the killing of innocent cargo on the Lusitania was the reason America entered World War I. The actual reason was much less driven by morals and instead by the greediness for new foreign markets that America could attain through the war.

Citizens were cleary opposed to the war, but through the Espionage Act, they were forcefully silenced. The nation was left to only be represented by “military bands, flag-waving, the mass buying of war bonds” and support for the draft. In my history class, we briefly touched on the Espionage Act and given the example of Charles Schneck, but that was the only example of anti-war efforts we were given. It made it seem that the majority of American citizens were not adamantly against being a part of the war.

A common theme in how we are taught history that I am noticing is we like to portray the nation as always being on the same page and constantly preach ideals about unity. Not only that, but history tries to illustrate that the side of controversial events that has the most support, is the side rooting for the United States government. This could be why American history does not portray the anti-war side of WWI as the majority -when it in fact was-  since it would undermine the perception that the majority of America is on the government’s side.

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  1. Tess Keating Tess Keating

    I also found it surprising when Zinn exposed the real reason for entering WWI. Given how the US is known to act it is obvious that they would insert themselves into the war no matter what, and it is weird to me that the real reason has been covered up.

  2. Kayla O'Connell Kayla O'Connell

    I definitely was interested to learn more about the Espionage Act throughout this chapter. The way our government withheld the freedom of speech rights for U.S. citizens was definitely surprising. This act also highlighted our country’s constant effort to appear unified to not only each other, but internationally as well.

  3. Zariah Chiverton Zariah Chiverton

    That is definitely a common them we are seeing throughout history but apart of me thinks that it is not something we are guilty of. I think that other countries might do things like this to an extent because for example, in the text, Zinn talks about the massive body counts for the war but how nobody ever actually talked about that problem at the time. This goes back to Zinn’s point at the beginning of the chapter that “… no one since that day has been able to show that the war brought any gain for humanity that would be worth one human life.” Although Germany was to take the blame for the war, I think other countries also held responsibility and wanted to hide that from the people, especially since the war wasn’t necessary in the first place.

  4. Alexander Barnett Alexander Barnett

    I had little knowledge of the Espionage Act before this reading. It is crazy to me that one or a small group of people can make a decision that does not sit well with the rest of the population. Does not seem like it would bode well for morale either.

  5. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I found it interesting that America was so quick to go against what the people truly wanted and enter into the war. This is not the first time our country has put other needs in front of the needs of the citizens themselves, and that is a pattern I will definitely keep an eye on.

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