Skip to content

Author: Mohamad Kassem

Blog Post 9 (20/10)

In “MLK: Charismatic Leadership in a Mass Struggle”, the idea of “King Myth” stands out. King’s role was underestimated however his power was exaggerated and overestimated and the civil rights did not solely depend on him, and without him, we would not have the civil rights movement. He is always seen as the idolized leader; a peaceful person leading a peaceful movement, however, fighting for racial justice is much more complex and controversial than that. Although his important role in the civil rights movement and work in ending the segregation of the people in the nation should not be denied, people should also look at his flaws as a person. Carson mentions that “because the myth emphasizes the individual at the expense of the black movement, it not only exaggerates King’s historical importance but also distorts his actual, considerable contribution to the movement” which I totally agree with. I think it was really interesting to see how this article explains how the more credit King is given, the less there is for the rebellion itself.

Zinn discusses the steps the government has taken during the civil rights movement in his chapter “Or does it explode?”. He explains how history has shifted in order to show how the United States government has played a great role in ending the struggle more than it actually did. He mentions that the federal government did not actually intervene to support the movement when the police and government involvement was mainly to stop the peaceful resistance. The government would only make small changes rather than fundamental ones to grab the attention and give people some sense of satisfaction with the actions they are taking. However, people were not satisfied and I feel that people are still experiencing nowadays a feeling that they are unprotected especially when it comes to issues of civil rights and the fight for equality.

3 Comments

Blog Post 8 (10/13)

The Yellow Wallpaper sheds light on the gender inequality issue in the nineteenth century. It was extremely disturbing to see how the narrator’s husband was controlling all aspects of her life. She even found his behavior at the end to be “queer” which worried and even scared her when she started to go nearly insane and imagine different things about the wallpaper. The author’s mental health became worse due to the fact that society has set certain expectations of women like maintaining a household and raising children and this job was seen as the only thing they are capable of. And because the author was not able to conform to these traditional stereotypes and do the work that is expected of her, her mental health became worse as she was seen as less of a woman in the eyes of society. She saw herself as a “burden” on her husband instead of being his “comfort”. 

What bothered me most was the fact that Gilman obeyed her husband and did not even question him in terms of his diagnosis as she saw him be superior to her; a doctor who knew what is best for her and her health. Women nowadays have gained more rights and empowerment in the West. In the Middle East where I grew up,  the Islamic patriarchal system has forced women to believe that they are given their rights and treated better than other wome under their religion. This upsets me a lot, as almost all Arab women are brainwashed to believe that they are equal to men and do not fight to gain their rights while in reality they are oppressed. I could relate Gilman’s ignorance and this childish state to almost every woman I know back home; unless women themselves are aware that their rights are violated, no actual will happen in this part of the world.

5 Comments

Blogpost 7 (10/6)

After reading “War is the Heath of the State”, one can see that it is clear that the United States government did not care about its own people but rather the economy. Although the US claimed that they would stay neutral at first, president Willson declared war when the Germans said that they would attack the ships that brought supplies to their enemies. Zinn discusses that this was just an excuse to get America to be involved in the war. The purpose is obvious; Zinn mentioned that “Hofstadter wrote of “economic necessities” behind Wilson’s war policy”, and explains that the country was going through a period of hard times when business was depressed, unemployments was a big issue, farm prices were low..etc and allying with other countries like England helped the economy. Thus, one can see that the purpose of this war was to benefit the economy and for the government to serve itself while putting its people at risk, as the socialist party said that the declaration of the war was “a crime against the people of the United States”.

The purpose of the war was capitalistic, as the rich elites had influenced the decision of the US to join the war. Socialism at that time had made a remarkable gain and became instantly popular as it advocated against war with its views criticizing the government for placing the economy before the people. Zinn mentioned that a newspaper wrote, “probably no party ever gained more rapidly in strength than the Socialist party just at the present time”. Besides, the government has restricted citizens from presenting their opinion if it goes against the war, taking away their right to freedom of speech. “The Espionage Act was used to imprison Americans who spoke or wrote against the war”. Again, we see how the American capitalist government has put the life of poor people at risk only for speaking against the first world war in order to benefit itself and the economy; this further proves that the American society would not survive without classism.

3 Comments

Blog Post 6 (9/29)

 

Zinn talks about how America is involved in making affairs with other nations and the need to economically expand in his chapter, “The Empire and the People”. The first line instantly catches one’s attention as it says that ‘Theodore Roosevelt’  said that he would “welcome any war” which would be considered to solve the economic crisis the country was going through as it was believed that it would unite the people against the external enemy. America portrays this image of war as a good thing for the nation, an act that brings people together. The author describes the Spanish Cuban American War and how the United States used force to enter Cuba and fight the Spanish people. Such wars happened for more financial and economic development for the country with no consideration of the effects they have on the middle and lower class citizens as well as minority groups. This annoys me as it seems more important for the leaders of the country to start a war that would benefit the rich wealthy elites instead of fixing the injustices and the social issues existing in the country.

The fact that this country would do anything to support the economy and to be seen as the ‘greatest’ links directly to the idea of American exceptionalism which I feel that a lot of people in this country believe is true. This assumption that America is the best and is superior to all other nations due to its history of being the first to break from colonial governments is dangerous and creates sort of a superiority complex among its citizens. I believe that such a problem would also create other social issues like xenophobia; the only way for a government to actually keep progressing is by acknowledging that it has flaws and issues that need to be solved. This issue can still be seen nowadays especially with doing anything to maintain a stable economy as the President refused to shut down the country in the current pandemic which resulted in the loss of thousands of Americans. Many other lives are still in risk just because of greed and the capitalist system which only sees the money.

4 Comments

Blog Post 5 (9/22)

In chapter 7 “As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs” of Zinn’s book the author focuses on describing how indigenous people of colonial America were mistreated through the westward expansion. I was always aware of how badly indigenous people struggled as America was always described to me as “the stolen native land”. Western immigrants and Andrew Jackson did horrifying murders and were disturbing to me. However, what I am really shocked about was not the struggle of the indigenous people but to see how lots of Americans are not aware of this part of the history as a lot of Americans believe that westward expansion was one of the best things that happened and they still view Jackson as a great president. 

Jackson supported the cultural belief of the manifest destiny which implanted the idea that American settlers are more superior and were destined to expand the lands and move North towards Canada and Florida. Jackson was described to be a “land speculator, slave trader, and the most aggressive enemy of the Indians”. He killed many people and justified it by the idea that Americans were biologically more fit to live in these lands than the indigenous people; he wanted to completely remove the natives from this land. Such actions had an effect that lasted until nowadays in terms of associating indigenous people with negative stereotypes and not recognizing native tribes or giving them their rights. 

4 Comments

Blog Post 4 (9/15)

Hamilton and 1776 present to the audience a picture of actual historical stories through music. The music in both pieces was very engaging but one can notice that the songs are sung by the main characters of the story.

Hamilton is set in modern times and describes how America was in the past. It uses a modern type of music like hip hop and Pop. What is really interesting about the cast is that they are all nonwhite and the story addresses racial inequality through representing the minorities who are oppressed. It tells a story about their American dream. This is a great opportunity for society to move forward from the dominating white culture by having a diverse cast combining African Americans and Hispanic people. Although the play might not accurately tell the right history as some critics would say, the retelling of the forgotten story of the founding father who raised from being poor and played an important role in the American Revolution in such a diverse and unique way is what made it so popular and appealing to the audience. This play has opened my eyes and taught me things that I was never aware of before.

On the other hand, 1776 does not tell the story of one person specifically but it represents ideas. It talks about freedom and loyalty to Britain; arguments in favor and against slavery. I learned from it a lot as it tells us about the American future, liberty, the Declaration of Independence, and the Continental Congress. It has a more classical style of music representing an older school of arts and celebrating the courage of Americans who fought for freedom. The characters were not as diverse as the ones in Hamilton as they were all white. Besides, I feel that one should be skeptical about the legitimacy of the information in the movie as some scenes might exaggerate the reality of how the actual characters were.

5 Comments

Blog post 3 (9/8)

I was surprised by how much I learned from the third chapter of the book ”Persons of Mean and Vile Condition” which talks about how servants were deprived of their freedom, united with black slaves and indigenous people to rebel against the early English colonies in America. The way servants were treated fascinated me, how brutal and inhumane the American system was who promised them a different reality. Only the minority of the upper class were able to achieve freedom and wealth while the majority of people (women, slaves, natives, and the poor whites) were deprived of their rights, seen as just a labor force, and were just a tool for the government and the rich to benefit from. 

Knowing that this was the way American society came to existence, it does not surprise me now to see all the racial acts and violence in the country that happen nowadays. The system from the very start deprived servants from their rights made them a property; they even needed to get permission to get married and have kids and much more. This for me is just another form of slavery. Zinn mentioned that” Beatings and whippings were common. Servant women were raped…Servants could not marry without permission, could be separated from their families, could be whipped for various offenses”. These rich white people consider themselves better than the indigenous and people of color and were discriminating against them throughout that time. This kind of treatment led to Bacon’s Rebellion against the colonial government and the racist acts of the powerful rich people. “Violence had escalated on the frontier before the rebellion. Some Doeg Indians took a few hogs to redress a debt, and whites, retrieving the hogs, murdered two Indians. The Doegs then sent out a war party to kill a white herdsman, after which a white militia company killed twenty-four Indians”. This sparked fear for the rich minority who wanted to maintain their status. As a result, the controlling minority created a division and separated black slaves, the Indians ( indigenous people), and poor white people. Thus, they benefited from the rebellion using racism and classism.  

Class still plays a role in the American system to this day. It intersects with the race so that white rich people feed on the black poor minority and make them poorer. After BLM riots sparked in the county, white rich people used the strategy of addressing the issues of the lower class while still being in power.

4 Comments

Blog-post 2 (9/1)

Reading Zinn’s second chapter, “Drawing the Color Line” was really interesting and offered me another viewpoint about American Slavery. In this chapter, Zinn sheds light on the “importance” of racism in the United States and tackles this issue from different angles. He explains the history of slavery and links it to the present-day issue of racism; which makes you wonder whether racism is actually natural or not. The racial feeling of hatred or pity or inferiority as Zinn mentioned were developed from when slavery became a normal labor relation between blacks and whites thus it made the feeling of one race being superior over the other present until today which creates racist thoughts.

By looking back at the very start, when blacks first arrived in Virginia, it was believed that they were servants which were not accurate because they were treated differently than the white servants and denied basic human rights. I was amazed at how brutal and different American slaves were treated in comparison to slaves in West Africa. In the chapter, it was mentioned that “African slavery is hard to be praised. But it was far different from plantation or mining slavery in the Americas, which was lifelong, morally crippling, destructive of family ties, without hope of any future”. The reason behind it is so bad is the fact that the American system was a capitalist agricultural system which made it necessary to enslave people and the fact that they did not consider slaves only a labor force but also used racial hatred to show their superiority. Even the word “black” was defined in the “Oxford English Dictionary” as “…soiled, dirty, foul. Having dark or deadly purposes, malignant; pertaining to or involving death, deadly..”. This led to the bigger inhuman issue of racism where whites believed that they are better than other people just because of their color. The definition of the word “black” had a bigger purpose which benefited the whites by making them automatically associate the idea of blackness to something that is bad.

Understanding these actions that were intentionally created by white people proves the idea that racism was not a result of a natural deep-seated feeling of dislike, but rather an intentional series of acts that whitewashes history and favors the conditions to develop oppression, discrimination, and racism.

2 Comments

Blog Post 1 (8/25)

I believe that the only way to be able to move forward is to look back at past experiences and analyze them and see what mistakes we have made. I really enjoyed reading “why history matters” by Corfield where he mentions that history is not only useful for us but rather essential and needs to be taught and remembered. This importance comes from the fact that every human being on earth has their present knowledge linked to past experiences.

 I always thought that present knowledge is wholly dependent on people’s history and I was amazed to see that Corfield has mentioned this claim and backed it up with scientific evidence such as genetics. Learning and understanding how history is so vital in shaping individual lives from an expert’s perspective were interesting as his arguments were really engaging. It allows every person to sit down and look back to reflect on past experiences and understand how they can shape their present knowledge, morals, values, and beliefs. Such an act as Corfield explained is essential because being rootless causes harm not only to oneself but also to people around in society. Therefore, rather than following the steps of people in power who always tend to write and change history the way they want and the way they benefit from it, learning about one’s past allows people to weigh what they think is right or wrong and derive into their own personal conclusions. Personally, I think this is the best way to change the present and be able to move ahead as I mentioned earlier because this task helps individuals develop their critical thinking and gain more information from several resources that are not biased.

 In addition to that, I liked how Cortfield presented a counterpoint to his argument by Henry Ford who tried to prove that history is “bunk”. He weighed his arguments precisely and refuted Ford’s point with evidence, and finally came to the conclusion that history is with no doubt important even if studying the subject does not directly affect one’s life. I agree that every chance to gain education about the past is not useless. For humans to be able to further evolve we have to look back and dig deep into our ancestor’s history and understand it. This opportunity allows a person to learn how to be a leader. Therefore, the subjects of history and leadership complete and even rely on one another; when we realize our past mistakes we grow and become better leaders.

1 Comment
css.php