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.