Zinn’s chapter “The Coming Revolt of the Guards” mentioned several points that are extremely relevant to today’s political climate that I found very interesting. The first idea mentioned is that the Founding Fathers and extreme presidential power prevents the common person from acting and involving themselves in politics. This can be seen by looking at the role of political elites in the nation and how difficult it is for people in minority or not elite categories to have a voice in politics. Zinn stated that while we have elections, the majority of them have been deciding between which white, politically elite man do we want to run our country. This worry about elite control, especially the economically elite, is seen in Madison’s Federalist Paper 10. Madison’s main concern is that majority factions will have the most power in a government and this should be avoided. Zinn feels as though this concern has not been addressed and we are still struggling with giving the common person a voice in political affairs. He asserts that the Preamble pretends that the government stands for all people, but in reality it’s just the elites that benefit from having a voice.
What I found really interesting was Zinn’s mention of the different dichotomies that construct the United States. He talks about “small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled” (Zinn 632). Zinn marks the root of these divisions as the 99% of people that don’t make up the third of wealth needing to compete with each other. At the end of the chapter, Zinn brings up these dichotomies again, but with the idea that we could bridge this gap in the future so long as we create “friendly communities” and a “nonviolent culture” that will allow all different forms of expression to coexist (Zinn 639). He says that in time this is possible, but I question this claim because we have already been working towards this for such a long time without much success. Especially with the middle class as a sort of buffer that Zinn mentions, it’s difficult to imagine a peaceful bridge between upper and lower classes without competition and some form of disobedience. I also think it’s really interesting how Zinn claims that factors such as alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, and mental illnesses are all signs of discontent with the government. I’ve never really seen someone attribute all of these issues to the poor performance of the government in addressing the people’s needs, but after reading this I definitely see this as being a possibility. I don’t think we can completely blame the government for these issues, but when basic needs aren’t addressed by the government, it is their responsibility to listen to the people and address them.