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Author: William Clifton

Blog Post 11/16

Throughout Zinn we have learned about several systematic flaws within America. Examples of these systematic divisions include race, ethnicity, culture, and class. In both this weeks chapter of Zinn and the movie Sorry to Bother You we see the role that class division in American plays in the grand scheme of our national shortcoming. Class is something I think most Americans oversee. For me, I always thought that classes made sense. After all we do live in a capitalist country. I believed that meant we would naturally see large wealth gaps throughout different socio-economic backgrounds. What I realize now is that I severely underestimated how disproportionate and powerful the role of classes within America played on the quality of life for millions of Americans. Zinn goes as far to say that the division within classes might potentially be the most important and concerning of all systematic division within America. 

What role do we as Americans play in this division? What can I do as one citizen to make a difference? Do I rely solely on my vote to try and put leaders in power that have an agenda to tackle this national concern? I’m not sure. I feel like so often Zinn leaves me feeling educated and enlightened, but also kind of sad. The roots that this country was founded on have created a society that is not equal. And that is something I never thought could be true.


Blog Post 11/11

This is my first experience with Leadership. My eyes have been opened on so many different occasions regarding the fallacies and the misconceptions of much it of what makes the United States what it is today. Understanding the United States relationship with middle eastern countries has never been something I have thought about. For a place that is founded on a dream (the American dream). A dream that entices millions to immigrate away from their home countries in search of a better life. We certainly don’t seem to value or appreciate all races, ethnicities, and cultures equally. I am honestly surprised at how little attention the inequalities among different races and cultures has in America.

Having just recently watched Just Mercy the reality of the inequalities within the prison and court systems in America is a harsh reality I am just now understanding. While that is a powerfully painful reality, I think it is equally as painful to think about the inequality that middle eastern families experience in America. The generalization of the entire Islamic faith has brutally oppressed and changed the ways in which people view muslim people and families. I think that generalization is so hateful and so judgmental that the quality of life for muslims living in America has to be low. Through these two example of oppression and judgment, we are able to see the results of that mistreatment in the way school districts are drawn. Growing up in Richmond, there are several different school districts that I could reference that show great signs of segregation. There are socio-economic differences that can also lead to a pile up in low income areas having one or two schools that are poorly funded. While on the other side of the county there are several well funded public schools that the low income area communities don’t have access too. My question is why? Why in the year 2020 is there still such a strong sense of segregation? People’s hearts might have changed, but I still struggle to see how you can call this country equal.


Blog Post 11/3/20

Zinn’s Chapter titled “The Seventies: Under Control” talked a lot about the role President Nixon played in the US involvement in Cambodia. I was interested while reading for a number of reasons. The first thing that I found intriguing was how unwarranted the presence of US troops in Cambodia really was. The capture of US troops in some ways, could warrant retaliation. However, the fact that the US troops that were captured were not tortured, beaten, starved, or even really treated poorly, changes thing vastly. Once again I was given the impression that the United States does not always make the right decisions, especially regarding foreign affairs and our military involvement in them. The chapter goes on to talk about several other controversial events that unfolded during the 70s in America.

Similar to the current situation in American politics, there was great outrage in America after Nixons behavior in Cambodia. His successor, was not liked by the public either. In fact, some would say that Ford was even worse than Nixon. There are so many connections between this era in American politics, and the era we are currently living in right now. There will be outrage regardless of who wins this years election, and the trust that Americans have in their government officials is low. in the 70s, Americans had little trust in the federal government because they had a lack of understanding as to why the US once again was involved in a foreign affair that led to bloodshed and fear for American troops and citizens.

There are great parallels between the 70s and today, what brings me hope about that is the fact that we got through that era in America. Which has me believing that we will once again. Even though it feels like we just might not.


Blog Post 10/26

Vietnam has always been a question mark for me. I have never really understood all that unfolded during that era. All I knew is that a lot of people were dying, and people back home were outraged by our involvement in this war specifically. All of that being said it was awesome to be able to read about the reality of this war. It was rather disturbing unfortunately. I realized that the reason I was never taught about the Vietnam War was probably because the United States lied about much of what was unfolding in hopes of conveying the importance of our role to help calm the outraged citizens and protestors on the streets of America.

On top of this, the troops themselves were at a disadvantage. Much of the time spent in battle was spent under ambush attack. A major issue within the logistics of this war was that American troops didn’t know where or even who they were fighting a lot of the time. Making their performance and effectiveness plummet. President Nixon might be the most distasteful aspect of this tragic era in American history. Nixon ran on the promise and idea that if elected, he would get the US out of Vietnam and out of the war. Which once elected, proved to be a lie. The lives of thousands continued to be lost and the frustration and anger that Americans felt grew. I understand that it is our duty as a democracy to fight communism, but I don’t see how that can be an essential behavior when the efficiency in which you are fighting communism is so low. From my perspective, and I think the perspective of many Americans during the war it appears as though the Vietnam War was nothing more than a blood bath that resulted in lives lost and morale shattered.


Blog Post 10/19

In Zinn’s chapter titled “A People’s War” I read and learned a lot about the history of American government. On top of this, I learned that the United States not only promotes the support of right winged governments outside of America, but we go as far as to say that we identify with a lot of conservative customs. For example, we continue to use the United States Constitution as a major resource for shaping policy. The Constitution and countless other major documents that still hold relevance in America today reference spiritual and religious views. While I had never done so before, I quickly realized that I think Zinn is right about our direct affiliation with the right in a multitude of avenues. Then when I thought about the the religious aspect of our nations history, I realized that it seems as though the conservative christian man is the epitome of what America stands for. Not immigration, or diversity. Not half of the things we claim to stand for. This was eye opening to me and really helped me grasp the reality that is often hidden from Americans.

We also read an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr. This too sparked reflection in me. The Civil Rights Movement is remembered by Americans as a triumph for black people. As a time of great change. I think it is evident not a ton of change has been made. I was able to connect this piece to the chapter in Zinn because they are both examples of areas in which our country  has been able to manipulate the memory we have of certain events. Not many people look at the movement as a failure. Not many people look at America as a conservative affiliated nation. Yet they so clearly are both of those things. I really wonder what else we have a misconception of and what we can do to help change the false narratives we have in our minds.


Yellow Wallpaper- Clifton

For the first time I think all year I feel like I had some understanding of the topic of our reading before hand. While having some idea of the reality of gender roles in America today, I did not have the perspective or the understanding of gender roles and the toxicity that existed in the nine-tenth century. It was arguably worse back then than it is today. I think it might feel more prevalent today because for the first time there has been a fair amount of addressing of this issue. Gender roles within households and society is simply horrible. For men, they have always been expected to be successful, brave, and rather emotionless. Women have always been expected to put their husband before them, and their children before him. On top of this they are often seen as fragile and emotional. The problem of mental illness is something that is so severe today, and as the narrator describes in The Yellow Wallpaper, it was back then as well.

Coming from a family with extensive mental illness I was able to really connect with this story. I can feel her pain. I think anytime a writer can enable the reader to enter into the headspace of their characters, they have done something masterful. The societal expectations of both men and women, & husband and wife alone are at great fault for contributing to the unhappiness and dysfunction within relationships and households. I have a great deal of admiration for women, I feel like it is really evident that their role in society does not accurately reflect their values or what they are capable of.


10/6 Blog Post

When reading about America’s connection around the world a couple things stuck out to me. When thinking about countries inability to function within isolationism ideals a couple things struck me. I initially thought that the struggle to be a self sustaining nation was something that was understandable for small countries that might not have developed a strong and highly functioning system of trade within their country. Or maybe depending on their geographical location production of essential goods might not have even possible. When thinking about the United States however, I just assumed we of all countries could most certainly live self sustainably. What I learned is that for first world, major world powers like America, isolationism is nearly impossible. I think for a place like the US, there are a great deal of countries that rely on trade for their economy to flourish. America itself even relies heavily on countries like China for the production of the majority of goods sold in the United States.

Zinn breaks down the false sense of unity within the global power that is the United States. The ability to aid countries around the world should in fact bring the country together, but in reality it tears the country apart. Due to the United States constant role in foreign affairs I believe it has lost sight of some of the issues that Americans face at home and within communities. I believe in the majority of the work that the US does outside of the country, but I believe that we must first formulate plans and have conversations as to how we can help improve our own affairs while still being able to provide for nations outside of the US. I think it all comes down to balance, and the United States hasn’t quite figured out the perfect combination of both foreign and domestic affairs just yet. Someday I am hopeful that we will.


09-29-20 Blog Post

Imperialism is an ideology that does not stem from the US though for a time we adopted the framework soon after the revolution had been won. Why? Why would America adopt a policy that represented everything that they hated about Britain? Why start a nation reborn on the foundation that reminds us of the very life we wanted to escape?


Imperialism offers an opportunity at expansion at rapid rates. It was through imperialism that nearly every world power gained and acquired new territory. A major way in which America used imperialism to quickly rise as a world power was through military force. The Spanish-American War was The US’s  way of quickly acquiring foreign territory. With their victory over Spain they colonized Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. While thinking about imperialism, and specifically American imperialism, it begs the question of what that says about who we are as a nation. In the defense of American imperialism, as a newborn nation, we were vulnerable. With world powers like France and the threat of Britain returning to begin a second war, it is in fact fair to say that The United States were in need of expanding and growing their new born empire, but at what cost? Does that threat in and of it self make imperialism acceptable? I’m not sure.


When thinking about what American Imperialism says about the US as a country, I think it is no wonder we view ourselves as so important. American exceptionalism in my eyes is a result of professing the narrative that the United States is “big”, “strong”, and “brave”. Through American imperialism we shaped the minds of our ancestors into believing we were inconceivably stronger than all other nations. On top of this, we had just taken down arguably the strongest nation in the world, granting us our freedom. Not only was Britain a world power, but we were nothing more than a collection of colonists that in no way should have been able to defeat the British military. All things considered I think our American exceptionalism stems from the birth of our nation.


Blog Post 9/21/20

Chapter 7 of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, we see yet another first hand account of the brutality of culture and social class in America, specifically early America. As a past chapter taught us, the colonists decision to revolt against Britain was a decision made by the few, at the expense of the many, and for benefit of one single demographic and economically affluent group, the land owning white male. The reason I reference this is because we see the same narrative in this chapter. We see the same social group, the powerful white men, driving out a demographic that had every right to inhabit the land that they did. Native Americans during this time occupied large regions west of the Appalachian mountains. Once Jefferson was elected he drove them out of their native land to help cater to the westward moving Americans. While this moment in time was powerful and without question a horrible act, I want to connect this behavior to a more current affair.

In a similar fashion, African Americans once free, were driven into inter-cities and areas that had poor access to essential needs such as fresh food. This is a result of many things, but perhaps most importantly, the reflection of the segregation and oppression that this demographic and race has faced since their arrival in America. My question to you all is who is at fault for this? Is it people like Thomas Jefferson? A man that taught modern day Americans that this behavior was acceptable. Or is it the people of today that haven’t done what is needed to change this narrative and this reality for black and other minority Americans?




Hamilton/1776 Blog

One thing that really stuck out to me during Hamilton was just how detailed the storyline was. After seeing that and realizing how long ago that was it really makes me appreciate historians and the people that documented the lives of so many influential people in our history and history from all around the world. The duel between both Hamilton and Aaron Burr was a powerful one. While ultimately it did come down to an actual duel, the duel I am referencing is the one of power. The two constantly fought for power and recognition from both the public and General Washington. As this duel continued on, it reminded me a lot of our current climate in America. There is a constant battle for power. Whether it be between states and federal governments, within congress, or even between races. There seems to be a major underlying theme of power-seeking behavior. Why is that?

Alexander Hamilton had access to something most Americans never have the opportunity of having. Education. It was through his education that he was able to represent himself well enough to become General Washington’s right hand man. I found it comical how frustrated this made Aaron Burr. While this story does a beautiful job or portraying the unbelievably successful life that Hamilton lived. It was hard for me to not acknowledge how privileged he was. However, the more I continued to watch the more I realized that he wasn’t nearly as privileged as many white males in America at this time. I was inspired by his ability to overcome his lack of affluence growing up.

After our class discussion today, I am overwhelmed with questions concerning the revolution. Hamilton helped paint a clearer picture for me as to the circumstance of the war. While I do not agree with the idea that our schools teach students that everyone that colonized in America wanted to revolt. I am confident that the revolution itself was one that did not only promise Americans the opportunity at wealth and prosperity, but I think it gave them a better means of life. Of course I am not speaking to the enslaved people of colonial America because their vote was not valued when deciding whether to revolt or not. On top of that, they would have had no choice in whether to fight or not during the war. I am still unsure what to make of that reality. Ultimately, I believe America is a broken place, that has broken policy, but I do believe that today it is a place of freedom.

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Twitty Readings- Clifton

It is amazing for me to have the opportunity to read these stories from the prospective of the oppressed. Being a white male from the south I now know the voices I often heard growing up were those of the oppressor. This new found perspective not only allows me to better grasp the gravity of our nations history, but also the impact our ancestors have left on us and the state of our culture. In a prior podcast Dr. Bezio talked about the idea of living in a world with hundreds maybe even thousands of cultures. Having a new and more accurate definition and understanding of what culture really is I am able to see how we arrived to our current state in America. Our past has impacted the lives of all Americans but none have been impacted more than the black community.

When I think about all that we have begun studying thus far, culture sticks out to me. The ability to identify with a group or culture of people is something we are all entitled too, or so I thought. In Twitty’s chapter “No More Whistling Walk For Me” he describes the attire worn by cooks during their time on various plantations. As he continues to describe the treatment he received as a cook I could not stop thinking about how he was being robbed of that freedom. I am humbled by his resiliency. To have your identity stripped from you due to the color of your skin is crime that cannot go without punishment. I am speechless at all of black Americans that were able to rise above their oppression a hundred years ago, and today.

Twitty refers to American plantations as a “Labor camp system for exiled prisoners of war and victims of kidnapping”. I was intrigued by his description of these plantations because prior to now plantations had always been described to me as big beautiful farms. Again, that is a result of the oppressor. What else about our nations history has been tainted to fit the narrative? I wonder

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Blog Post #2

“Concepts of Leadership”


I found it particularly interesting towards the end of the article when Machiavelli the Prince was introduced. His thesis provided a great description of what it takes to be a leader. How as humans, it is not in our nature to lead. Leadership opens the door for failure and ridicule. I would argue fear is not experienced at any greater time than when the potential of ridicule by the masses is on the table. That is simply why I believe we view our nations presidents and positions of great leadership as fascinating and impressive. They are doing the job that few can, and I think that is what Machiavelli was trying to convey.

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Podcast #1

Roughly two thirds into the podcast you referenced the idea that history allows us to predict the way humans might react in a given scenario. That idea immediately reminded me of the racial movement we find ourselves a part of today. My question is do you believe we have learned from our history when it comes to civil outrage and protest? Granted, you conveyed well the idea that history classes display and reveal information in a biased manor, so my understanding of the civil rights movement might be less than accurate. What I do know about that era is that is was undeniably successful and I wonder why the protests we are seeing today are not resembling the protests we saw less than a hundred years ago that proved to be so successful.

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Blog Post #1

“Meaning of Leadership”

While reading what seems to be the first of many readings I asked myself a simple question. What do I think a leader is? What I found in my answer and what I believe to be true is that all of us have a similar image when we think of leaders. I would be willing to bet we would likely be able to point out members of American and global societies that are somewhat “universally ” seen or viewed as leaders. That being said, my question is does that make the lack of a single definition for a multi-faceted word a bad thing? The way I see it is that makes perfect sense. How can we describe the leadership we saw with MLK the same way we see leadership from President Trump? Simply, you can’t. That’s why this word continues to lack a universal definition. There are qualities to leadership that make it a unique and undefinable term.

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