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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 10/19

The Swanson article and Zinn’s (1980) chapter on “A People’s War?” did an excellent job of presenting another narrative about WWII. It amazes me how the United States continues to instill certain narratives and ideologies into its youth even after WWII ended 75 years ago, just so that the youth will not collectively overthrow the government and form a more just union and society. What specifically astonished me about WWII was this particular paragraph from Zinn’s chapter. Zinn writes, “Roosevelt was as much concerned to end the oppression of Jews as Lincoln was to end slavery during the Civil War; their priority in policy (whatever their personal compassion for victims of persecution) was not minority rights, but national power” (410). A recurring sentiment Zinn highlights throughout this chapter is how the United States’ involvement in WWII was not for humanitarian efforts. Instead, the U.S. was eager to feed its exceptionalism ideology by expanding its values of capitalism and democracy across Asia and Europe while maintaining those same systems and structures domestically. In response, I believe this is why Zinn questions Americans’ validity calling WWII “a people’s war” when so many wrongs against people- both domestically and internationally- were occurring at the hands of the United States government.

 

Moreover, I discovered another danger to the exceptionalism ideology. Suppose that you become the best at everything you wanted to be superior in after much sacrifice and effort. Is it equally possible that you would not be satisfied with your status in the world, and so you would continue to exploit others to feed this twisted hunger of yours? And, by twisted hunger, I mean the feeling of being chosen by God to lead everyone else through the darkness that surrounds our world since everyone is less than compared to you. Zinn presents a similar message as he quotes revolutionary pacifist A.J. Muste, “‘The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?’” (424). While there may be anticipation surrounding WWIII, I do know one thing: killing human beings is wrong no matter which side of the war you are on, and there’s not anything “good” nor “just” about that.

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2 Comments

  1. Sara Moushegian Sara Moushegian

    I find it enlightening to hear Zinn’s arguments about how the majority of the United States’ War efforts were not fueled by humanitarian efforts, but instead just to increase their political and economic power in the world, but the narrative that our history preaches is that we joined wars for the greater good of society. This specific narrative seems to be created so US citizens support the national government, so without this narrative what would our society look like? Would we be a united nation, or in constant revolt against the government if we knew the truth of their motives?

  2. Maggie Otradovec Maggie Otradovec

    I like your analysis on the “danger to the exceptionalism ideology,” especially your comment on the possible “feeling of being chosen by God to lead everyone else through the darkness that surrounds our world since everyone is less than compared to you.” You see this repeat itself throughout history in so many forms (I think of the Crusades, Hitler, etc), and the U.S. is no exception. In fact, it’s a repeat offender and uses this “moral” strategy for just about everything it does (Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, WWII, etc).

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