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Author: Michael Childress

October 21 Blog post M. Childress

The second reading for Wednesday’s class gave me an interesting, new perspective that I had not really thought about before. It discusses the way that throughout history we tend to naturally adopt the “Great Man” theory. It refers to Martin Luther King Jr. in talking about how the black rights movement most likely would have followed a fairly similar course (big picture) whether he was involved in it or not. Hearing this left me somewhat confused. I know that I have always been told that Dr. King spearheaded the civil rights movement in the mid 1900s, which is still true. However, this reading showed the importance of the surrounding context of the United States at the time, rather that pinpointing the effect of the civil rights movement directly to the cause that was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This reading wanted the reader to realize that Dr. King was far more than a charismatic leader who was able to evoke the emotions of the black community to mobilize them in their pursuit for equality and opportunity. While Dr. King was, without a doubt, a model charismatic leader, he also had doubts and fears below the surface that displayed a different side of him. King pushed confidently against unjust government regulations and social inequality with pride and passion, but internally he may have masked some of the doubt he was feeling. He was very aware of his own limits and his own weaknesses, and often feared his own life and those around him. Why is it though that in a revolution such as the civil rights movement, we want to pinpoint the cause to a singular person? Furthermore, why do we automatically see this leader as something far more than human, expecting them to not have their own doubts or struggles? We see this often in Great Man theory, especially with charismatic leaders, but does our inclination to want a perfect, powerful leader come from our own doubts and fears about ourselves, hoping that a “Great Man” or woman could save us?

I think that it is very important to discuss the social trends around the civil rights movement in the mid 1900’s and not give all credit or blame to one or a few powerful individuals. Yes, they had significant influence in various ways. However, as this reading describes, the people, social forces, social inequality, hunger for change, and internal mobilization of communities are the catalysts for the revolution. In my mind, leaders such as Dr. King instill confidence in these followers to act on their own feelings and emotions.

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blog post 10/14

The Yellow Wallpaper reading by Gilman gave us a look into the struggles women faced at the time, but also shed light on some stigma around mental health. The first like that really surprised me was when the wife claims that her husband, John the physician, laughs of course at her serious remarks about her health, but claims “one expects that in marriage”. At this point, i notice that the wife struggles with her own mental health, but this issue is brushed aside by her husband. He claims that nothing is wrong, just that she needs to exercise and sleep and she will be fine. However, the wife notes that she feels unreasonably angry sometimes, and her husband, using his job title as a physician as authority, shuts down her concerns.

Next, I thought it was interesting that the wife realizes that those around her believe that her choosing to read and write somehow contributes to her sickness, and she believes she “must not let them find me writing” p. 650.

In terms of the yellow wallpaper, I believe that it is representative of the world around her, and also the world inside her own mind. For example, she begins by expressing her hate for the wallpaper, as she also first discusses her mental health. Next, she gradually begins to become more comfortable with the wallpaper and sees good things about it. I believe this is her struggling mental state taking over her perceptions and reality. Before falling off the deep end, she tries to bring up her struggles to her husband, but her shuts this argument down, even saying that for his sake, for her sake, and for their child’s sake she should not bring up her issues. This is representative of the way that women’s opinions, beliefs, and arguments were quieted throughout history, and they were expected to take care of the house and the family, disregarding their own wellbeing. This process continues as she claims to see patterns in the walls moving, and even a woman behind the wall “trying to escape”. At this point, the woman is stuck. She is not only completely delusional, but the people around her, especially her husband and his sister seem to be completely cut off from her life.

On page 654, she even goes to the extent of saying she is feeling remarkably better, but in my mind this is her mental illness taking over. It happens in the same way that she becomes fond of the wallpaper. Her perceptions are distorted due to her opinions and struggles being silenced and shut off for so long that to some extent, she loses touch with reality, feels disconnected, and is forced to struggle in the battle of her own sanity and wellbeing alone.

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blog post 10/7/2020

Today’s readings reminded me of two recurring themes in this class. The first, that those who want a war typically have those less fortunate actually fight the war for them. We are often told that it was courageous, brave, strong spirited Americans that stood up to fight in WW1. While without a doubt, there was a huge portion of these types of individuals do so, we get a different point of view in Zinn’s reading for today. He highlights the fact that some Americans were deathly afraid of fighting in the war, even going to the extent of mutilating themselves so they were unable to be drafted. Along with this, there was a common theme of conflict of interest. Jeannette Rankin, member of the house of representatives, is quoted as saying “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for the war” (Zinn p 372). It is this difficulty that led so many Americans to struggle with going to fight for their country. In a land of freedom, Zinn did not make it seem like Americans had much of choice in terms of their personal decision to fight in the war.

The second theme I noticed in this reading is the theme that we often unite ourselves by finding a common enemy to direct our attention towards. Zinn quotes Joseph Tumulty, Wilson’s advisor, as saying “the conflict between Republicans and Democrats was unimportant compared with that which threatened them both.” (Zinn p. 375). Another example of this can be found on page 363 where Zinn refers to thoughts from DuBois as he says “American capitalism needed international rivalry- and period war- to create an artificial community of interest between rich and poor, supplanting the genuine community of interest among the poor that showed itself in sporadic movements” (Zinn p. 363). Zinn argues here that in order to suppress the poor, who may have different opinions and goals of the wealthy elite, American wanted to find a common enemy to direct its energy towards, that will distract the poor with fighting the war, and give credibility and authority back to the officials in power at the time. This was the best alternative to dealing with these uproars from the lower and sometimes middle class, as opposed to having the disagreements and opposition arising domestically.

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Blog post for 9/30 M. Childress

Today’s reading from PHUS showed me once again the true motives from post civil war America. I was shocked, yet still not entirely surprised by some of the tactics used in both the Spanish American war, and the conquest of the Philippines. First, as Dr. Bezio mentioned in class, an effective tactic to use when a large group of the population is frustrated, angry, upset, or has a lot of negative energy and hate is to direct it towards something else. In this case, early United States, with its’ selfish and still racist tendencies, turned their focus towards international conquest. With the industrialization of the country on the rise, there was a surplus of goods, and in order to capitalize on their excess product, the United States needed to turn to outward expansion. However, I do not agree with the methods they took, and the tactics they used. First, they looked to Cuba, who was inhabited by Spain at the time. Interestingly, president McKinley was convinced by Cabot Lodge that “bankers, brokers, businessmen, editors, and clergymen (not surprisingly, all white men) wanted the Cuban question solved. Masked by the claim to deliver Cubans from the harsh rule of the Spaniards, they overtook the country, and made it seem as if Cuba still retained freedom and rights to its own liberty. However, the Platt and Teller Agreements were put in place that essentially restricted Cuba to revert back to America to make any substantial decisions within the country, and the “right to intervene” (p. 310).

Secondly, the United States used black soldiers in this war and the conquest of the Philippines. This tactic showed the true mission of American imperialism. Zinn highlights the fact that blacks were at such a crossroads when it came to fighting for the United States forces here. First, they did not want to fight for the men who wanted them enslaved, called them derogatory phrases, and shamed their existence. On the other hand, and Zinn says, blacks needed to get ahead in society, and there was a “need to show that blacks were as courageous, as patriotic, as anyone else.” (p. 318) While their hearts may have lied in refusing to fight, feeling more closely connected to the Filipino people, they felt the need to fight for the United States as more important at the time. Blacks needed to start their new lives. Rich white men realized this desire, capitalized on it, and used blacks once again to further their mission of expansion and imperialism, this time, just outside of the borders of the country rather than within.

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Blog post M. Childress 9/23

In today’s reading, Howard Zinn highlights a specific example of a person who’ s story and character has been told in a way that is not entirely accurate, Andrew Jackson. On page 130, Zinn describes the way in which in most historical textbooks, Jackson is characterized as being a “frontiersman, solider, democrat, and man of the people”, then draws the comparison of another fitting description of Jackson being a “slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, and exterminator of Indians”. It goes back to the common point that we refer back to so frequently in this class: the victors get to tell their story and we tend to accept it, and pass it along. What about the other side of the story though? In this case, it is the native American populations. Furthermore, as mentioned in the podcast, grouping all native Americans together is not necessarily the best thing to do, because they were not all the same, the did not share the exact same beliefs, actions, or specific experiences. However, the thing that I will unite them under, is the immense oppression by white settlers. This extortion of native populations is shown beautifully in the reading “Welcome to your authentic Indian experience”. Trueblood (the main character) is victim to a series of events that turn his world upside down. First, “white wold” (coincidentally named), seems to be down and wanting something more out of his experience. Trueblood, representing the Native population, invites him to become friends, goes to a bar, and spends time with White wolf. However, White wolf turns around, steals Trueblood’s wife, home, job, and sanity in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, he makes Trueblood feel ashamed and guilty of his actions and identity. These tactics are so cunning and sly that native populations were blindsided, as such greed is not prevalent in the majority of their cultures. In his farewell to his home, Blackhawk says that “he (the white man) would be put to death and eaten up by the wolves (based on their behavior)” (Zinn 131). 

What I am most interested in talking about though is the extent to which the native American’s stories have been silenced. Black and female rights movements have taken place and moved somewhat in the right direction towards progress, but is continuing to offer native tribes (relatively) small amounts of money, and letting them govern by their own rules in their own small reservations enough for the widespread pain and horror that was brought upon them? To be pushed further and further away from their own lands, and have “the white man warm himself before the Indian’s Fire” (Zinn 135), is nothing short of widespread, large scale robbery. 

Lastly, I think it is interesting to go back to the point of comparisons of superiority and inferiority. Colonists assumed that they were superior to the native people because they had superior weapons and were Christian. They hoped that “Indians will cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community” (Zinn 140). That obviously did not happen. but the podcast and Zinn both discuss ways in natives were far superior, in terms of lack of greed and selfishness, respect and connection to the Earth, and unity among the tribes. Before this class, I would have assumed that the colonizers had good motives behind their conquest, but the more we read the more I realize their motives were far more selfish and greedy, with insufficient excuses as support. 

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Blog post 9/16 M. Childress

The Hamilton soundtrack was awesome in the way that it made very early American history feel like it was happening today for me. I was interested in the plot of the story the entire time, and was especially interested in why Hamilton did not get the authoritative opportunities he wanted so badly from Washington. There were 6 or 7 songs that brought back a common theme for Hamilton not to “Waste his shot”, and I began to wonder why this was. The more I listened, the more his background and heritage was brought up. Being an immigrant from Nevis, brought to New York as an orphan to continue his studies, Hamilton was not viewed as entirely equal to the rest of the “American” people. Because of this his genius was somewhat restricted to writing and drafting of papers. While he was extremely successful in doing so (he drafted 51 of the of Federalist Papers), it seemed to me that he always wanted more, almost demanding Washington to raise his position as he pleaded to not be called “son”.

One interesting point in the soundtrack to me was back to back songs “Yorktown” and “What comes next”. Here, America wins the revolutionary war, but then has to begin setting the foundation for what is to come next. It was interesting to think and hear the early debates between Hamilton and Jefferson, and I especially liked the song “What’d I miss”. I thought it made irony of the fact that Jefferson was so vocal about the formation about the United States, but wasn’t here to be a part of the revolution.

Another thing I thought about here was that today if a woman had been cheated on, I would expect to see her divorce her husband, but I had to remember that women were not seen as equal at this time, so she continued to stay with him, even on the morning of Hamilton’s duel with Burr. Then, in getting into Hamilton’s life, I wonder if he would have had won the presidency if he had not cheated on his wife and been caught. Would his election have substantially shifted American life today? It is interesting to ponder how much seemingly small events in this time period have led to such significant movements and institutions over the last 200 years.

 

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Blog post 9/9/20 M. Childress

Today’s first reading showed me exactly how rich whites in early America gradually turned a new land with potential for equality and prosperity into a land of continued oppression and systematic inequality. In my mind, it all begins with the need basic need to survive. Zinn describes the hardships that early settlers faced in terms of lack of food as he quotes Wilcomb Washburn on page 40, “there was genuine distress, and genuine poverty”. He continues to describe a “dry summer” that ruined the corn crop, leaving a lack of food, and destroyed the tobacco exports, leaving a lack of money. However, a small percentage of wealthy white businessmen and land owners were able to keep their head above water and survive more easily than the rest. This inequality would only grow, and eventually be used as a weapon by the wealthy elite to further their own agenda. As times in the colonies progressed, it got better for a few, and worse for many others. Zinn writes that in 1770, 1% of people owned 44% of the wealth of the country. A key point to remember here is that only landowners could vote. Therefore, as financial inequality progressed, the ability to vote and have a say in this new society became less available. At this time, poor whites were struggling, native Americans were struggling and victim to oppression, and imported African Americans were also persecuted. 

At this point I began to think: “Why don’t the poor whites, native americans, and blacks join forces to push against the white elite?”. The more I read, I realized the answer to this stems back to biological human needs. Native Americans and blacks were kept at a distance from wealthy whites. However, poor whites were able to intermingle with both the rich whites as well as the Native Americans and the blacks. While native Americans and blacks had a population large enough for the poor whites to join and potentially overthrow the rich white elite, the poor whites wanted food, security, and community with the rich white elite. The white elite understood the potential for a revolt from poor whites, natives, and blacks, as Abbot Smith says, “it is a lively fear that the servants would join with Negroes or Indians to overcome the small number of masters” (pg. 53). However, rich whites used “concessions” (pg. 57) to the middle class, using them as a “buffer” pg. 54 to continue westward expansion. This Zinn describes this concession as the upper class using promises of “liberty” and “equality” that got their attention enough to push for a revolution against England, but not for the liberty and equality of those building the country, natives and blacks. 

This chapter especially made me want to ask the question: “What if?” so many different times. What if the dry summer hadn’t caused such struggle and inequality, and the wealthy elite weren’t able to control the actions of the poor? What if poor whites would have joined forces with natives and blacks, rather than furthering the agenda of the wealthy elite? Would we have had to go through the systematic racial inequality in America if they had?

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Blog Post M. Childress for class 9/2

Today’s reading in “A People’s History of the United States” shocked me by the way it seemed like the African Americans helped the Americans when they needed help the most, yet were then subjected to increasingly brutal conditions, regulations, laws, and oppression. Not that I was unaware of it, but reading about how the blacks taught the whites how to cultivate crops (pg. 24) and showed them ways to survive on their own without relying on cannibalism or other barbaric actions, then were still massacred was eye opening to say the least. I then thought about a point brought up later in the chapter: what would American be like without the hundreds of years spent in slave labor by blacks? Furthermore, if the initial African Americans hadn’t taught the Americans how to survive on their own, would the blacks have potentially taken over control?

This reading reminded me that early America was not only exploitation of labor of blacks, but also a robbery of their relationships, a stealing of their culture and resources, and a thievery of the African American’s pride, esteem, and self worth. However, the most thought provoking aspect of this reading was the inequality in punishment for crimes that, in my mind, was the beginning of systematic racism in the early Americas. For example, if a slave were to steal something they realistically probably needed to survive, they were commonly killed. However, if a white man stole from the slave nobody would bat an eye. Even if the white stole from another white, such an intense punishment as execution would never enter the debate.

Lastly, I wanted to highlight a very important point in the “Cape Comfort” reading. It highlights the fact that African Americans are more interested in connecting to their “roots”, showing that history is interconnected throughout time, and the relationships between people and families lead to beliefs, culture, and customs which form the identity of the individual. Without an understanding of this history we lose connection to our past, and in turn lose connection to the present.

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M. Childress Blog post 8/25

Wednesday’s readings sparked two thoughts for me. First, in Bass’ “Concepts of Leadership”, he points out that famous philosopher, Aristotle, believed in the need to teach the youth about leadership, yet some 2500 years later, we still struggle to find an accurate description or definition of leadership. However, I noticed two different leadership styles and goals emerging at different times throughout the reading. First, are the leaders who “create myths that allow dominance over subordinates” and use their power and authority to get what they want, or serve the mission they desire in a sort of narcissistic way. On the other hand, the Iliad describes a sort of servant leadership in which the leader that “serves me most, or serves his country best” is the most effective leader. Taoism takes this a step further to empower followers to believe that the successes were due to their efforts, and the leader’s role is to cultivate the self belief and confidence for his or her followers to succeed and thrive, I am very interested to learn more about these tactics, see how they have developed, and also how they have shaped the cultures they consist in. 

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