In this chapter, Zinn essentially summarizes his purpose behind writing this book. He asserts that history has been told from a very one sided view point, and that this book’s mission is to tell the other side of American History, which gets nowhere near the same amount of intention as the predominant viewpoint. He argues that United States culture idolizes the presence of a savior. Zinn writes ” histories of this country suggest that in times of crisis we must look to someone to save us” (p. 631). He then offers examples such as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Carter. Next, Zinn wants to highlight the fact that the 1% of wealthy, land owning elites, throughout American history have attempted to make the other 99% feel so divided that they are able to keep their money, power, and rule by keeping the majority of conflict within the 99% group as opposed to at the 1% group. Zinn argues that their prime method of accomplishing this is to use the middle class as a barrier. He believes that in a capitalist society, the poor will always struggle. However, the middle class is essentially baited with the promise of equality and hope, causing them to submit to and obey the wealthy elite. This, in turn, allows the wealthy elite to maneuver the middle class to oppress the lower class, as the wealthy remain in power. Zinn describes this middle class as “guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes” (p. 635). On this same page, he brings up a very important point: “If they stop obeying, the system fails”. Zinn later writes that if this revolution would occur, “society’s levels of power would have to be taken away from… the giant corporations, the military, and their politician collaborators” (p. 639).
Throughout this book, Zinn has shown us how the upper classes have quieted revolutions and made small agreements to pacify the needs and wants of the lower and middle class in order to maintain their rule. I find it interesting that Zinn pushes so hard for the middle class to become aware of the system. I do believe that a system like this can lead the middle class to be unconscious of their role. They see the lower class struggle and believe that they are better off because of their hard work and opportunities given to them from the upper class. However, if they were able to become more aware of the system in place, I do believe that they would push against the upper class, and fight for not only their equal treatment, but also that of the lower class. As I have learned in this class, and my sociology class this semester, some level of discontent is healthy. It leads to improvement of a society, and a better life for those who realize the need for change. As Zinn consistently refers back to, it is the middle class that has the power to make this change.