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Author: Pierce Kaliner

Blog Post 11/18

In “The Coming Revolt of the Guards” Zinn talks about how the elite oppress the ordinary people.  Writing, “All those histories of this country centered on the Founding Fathers and the Presidents weigh oppressively on the capacity of the ordinary citizen to act.”  The Founding Fathers of course being elites themselves wanted to make sure that they were able to control the common man.  That’s why only the rich white landowners had voting rights back then.  Now however, the elite displays their control in different ways, “One percent of the nation owns A third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled.”  The elite want to put the rest of the United States against each other for their own gain, and that’s not right.  

Zinn says that there is a growing dissension in the 99 percent, and that it isn’t just the poor people.  However, “Now alienation has spread upward into families above the poverty line. These are white workers, neither rich nor poor, but angry over economic insecurity, unhappy with their work, worried about their neighborhoods.”  This dissension doesn’t bode well for the establishment because they just want to keep the normal.  The establishment doesn’t want the rest of the people to focus on them, but they want to keep the rest of the people fighting amongst themselves.  This is because they are able to keep their power when there are disputes amongst the rest of the people.  


Blog Post 11/10

It’s obvious that Islamophobia is on the rise in America and in the world.  And the rhetoric being used now is much more openly Islamaphobic instead of the coded messaging used before.  I never really thought about Islamophobia before 9/11, and I thought it was interesting how Elba brought it all the way back to slavery.  Once again I was ignorant about some African slaves practicing Islam, as I was alway taught about Traditional African Relgions.  Although it makes sense that many slaves would have practiced Islam when they were brought to America, as it is one of the oldest and most widely practiced religions in the world.

I found the article’s definition of Islamophobia to be very interesting, “The presumption that Islam is violent, inassimilable, and prone to terrorism.”  The amount of Americans who believe that Islam is a violent religion by nature is drastically high.  Where Pew Research Center did a poll and found a whopping 41 percent of Americans believe that Islam encourages violence.  Overall, the rate of Islamophobia is definitely on the rise.  Recent rhetoric has shown that Americans aren’t only indifferent to it, rather they invite anti-islam rhetoric.  If we are supposed to be a “melting pot” we need to be accepting of all cultures.  Unfortunately it seems like we are failing.  


Blog Post 11/4

During the 1970’s Americans increasingly had a distrust in government.  A multitude of events like the anti-war movement, and the Watergate scandal caused trust in government to crater.  The, “National mood of hostility to government and business came out of the Vietnam war… political disgrace of the Nixon administration in the scandals that came to be known by the one-word label “Watergate,” and which led to the historic resignation… from Richard Nixon.”  By the end of Nixon’s Presidency people were fed up and just wanted to go back to normalcy.  When Nixon finally resigned people were very happy and thought Ford was the right answer to the problems we faced, “When Nixon resigned and Ford became President, the New York Times said: ‘Out of the despair of Watergate has come an inspiring new demonstration of the uniqueness and strength of the American democracy.’”  

Under Ford the Mayaguez Affair happened where a US cargo ship was taken by Cambodia.  Ford then acted to solve the problem without Congressional approval.  And, there were American casualties Zinn writes, “Why the rush to bomb, strafe, attack? Why, even after the ship and crew were recovered, did Ford order American planes to bomb the Cambodian mainland, with untold Cambodian casualties? What could justify such a combination of moral blindness and military bungling?”  If Ford would’ve waited for Congressional Approval they could’ve made a solid plan instead of being blindsided.  Or, the Cambodian’s may have actually returned the ship.  This along with Vietnam caused trust in military to drop as well as government, “Confidence in the military during that period had dropped from 62 percent to 29 percent, in business from 55 percent to 18 percent, in both President and Congress from 42 percent to 13 percent.”  Overall, people just wanted to be back to normalcy, yet Ford failed to do so and the public’s trust faded.  



Blog Post 10/28

Before reading this chapter I never really understood exactly what happened in Vietnam.  I knew about the Pentagon Papers and how the government was lying to the US public, yet it still never registered exactly how shady this war was.  I thought it was very interesting to see the differences for why we were going into war with Vietnam for example, Kennedy’s Undersecretary of State U. Alexis Johnson said, “Why is it desirable, and why is it important? First, it provides a lush climate, fertile soil, rich natural resources, a relatively sparse population in most areas, and room to expand. The countries of Southeast Asia produce rich exportable surpluses such as rice, rubber, teak, corn, tin, spices, oil, and many others.”  However Kennedy would talk about freedom and democracy, this is likely because of how the war would play out in the public.  

Further, I didn’t really know about the extent to which the US public disapproved of the war.  And, I find it interesting that Zinn doesn’t really mention the hippie movement in this chapter.  Because, I had always learned that it was the hippies who were really pushing against the war, while the “silent majority” still was in favor of the war.  Yet, Zinn cites polling showing that as the war went on, more and more people were in favor of pulling out of Vietnam immediately.  ZInn also writes about how the Civil Rights Movement coincided with the Vietnam War, and talks about how many activists were opposed to the war.  And, I found it interesting to see how connected the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-war movement really were, as leaders of the Civil Rights Movement called for an end to the war.  Overall, I have a new appreciation for the History surrounding the Vietnam War.  I feel Zinn did a good job at enlightening me to new parts of the War that I didn’t know about before.


Blog Post 10/20

I find it interesting how King has almost become an American myth.  Carson mentions how MLK is a, “Black counterpart to the static, heroic myths that have embalmed George Washington as the Father of His Country and Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.”  I feel like it has gotten to the point where like Lincoln and Washington, we really aren’t taught what they actually did.  King is typically viewed as the “leader” of the Civil Rights Movement, however, “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.”  Carson mentions how many actions taken by Civil Rights activists are seemingly viewed as at the directive of Dr. King.  

Many of the activists looked up to King, but many other important leaders are overlooked because of his portrayal.  For example, “Local black leaders such as E.D. Nixon, Rosa Parks, and Jo Ann Robinson started the bus boycott before King became the leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association.”  This is detrimental to the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, because it’s important to recognize all the sacrifices these people made, not just Dr. King.  Carson uses the examples of the sit-ins and bus boycotts, MLK was not a leader of either of these actions, yet he gets credit as leading them.  

King’s importance however should not be discredited.  While he should certainly not be considered the sole leader of the Civil Rights Movement he was certainly an important figure.  The Civil Rights Movement’s success was in large part due to, “King’s wide range of skills and attributes prepared him to meet the internal as well as the external demands of the movement.”  King can definitely get credit for being an excellent leader, and he was able to mobilize both white and black people to support the movement.


Yellow Walpaper

The role that gender plays in this short story is very evident.  It seems that the narrator has been put into some kind of mental institution and struggles to find her identity, while explaining how much she hates her room.  It seems that after having her child the narrator was admitted to an institution of some kind because of depression.  While, John her husband says that she is fine, and that she will be back to normal soon, the narrator obviously is not okay.  The idea that a woman is dependent on a man is evident, “John is a physician, and perhaps—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.  You see, he does not believe I am sick!”  The idea of male superiority shows in John’s actions, because instead of listening to the narrator’s problems, he doesn’t believe her.  Meanwhile, the narrator has given up trying to convince people otherwise, “And what can one do?  If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?”

Towards the end of the story though the narrator begins to become more defiant of these gender stereotypes.  She doesn’t always listen to what John says becoming more and more defiant as the story continues.  Until the very end of the story when she finally breaks out of her shell.  She was able to pull off all of the wallpaper that made her so unhappy.  While admiring the wall she writes, “I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.”  This signifies how she has broken out of the shell that she was in, and is now able to defy John and become her own person.  This continues until she locks everyone out of the room and is by herself contemplating how to escape.  Finally, she says, “I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane! And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”  This is the final stage in her evolution, because the narrator has fully escaped the grips that John has kept her in, and she now feels free for the first time.



Blog Post 10/7

I find it interesting how Zinn is almost always defiant towards the stances of the government.  And, a lot of it is with credence, Zin realized that the government uses war in order to serve its own needs.  As, “War is the health of the state”  While its own citizens are dying in a war between almost all nations their governments are thriving.  In America Zinn claims that we didn’t go to war out of a need to protect our citizens but because of, “The balance of power and economic necessities.”  Further, “But by 1915, war orders for the Allies (mostly England) had stimulated the economy, and by April 1917 more than $2 billion worth of goods had been sold to the Allies. As Hofstadter says: ‘America became bound up with the Allies in a fateful union of war and prosperity.’”  So, Wilson entered the war out of spite, and because of economic interests.  And, while the US was ultimately successful I think we all agree it’s not worth it for 116 thousand Americans to die out of economic interests.  

Zinn takes the stance of popular resistance like many socialists during this time.  And, Zinn realizes that the war was massively popular during this time.  Mostly because of the booming economy, which is basically the reason why we entered the war.  But, Zinn claims this is mainly because of government propaganda.  Writing, “The government had to work hard to create its consensus. That there was no spontaneous urge to fight is suggested by the strong measures taken: a draft of young men, an elaborate propaganda campaign throughout the country, and harsh punishment for those who refused to get in line.”  Wilson realized that if the war was unpopular they would be largely unsuccessful, as public opinion is everything in a democracy. 


Blog Post 9/29

In The Myth of American Exceptionalism Stephen Walsh explains how the strong nationalism in the US leads to us lying to ourselves about the importance of the United States.  As Americans, we generally view the United States as by far the most important country in the world.  He uses five different points to prove how American Exceptionalism is really just a myth.  First Walsh says that American Exceptionalism is actually nothing special, and uses the British and other colonial powers, to try and show that American Exceptionalism is no different.  However, I believe this not to be true, he claims that we are just “They are simply the latest nation to sing a familiar old song” yet, the other examples that Walsh uses didn’t have the same global connectivity that we have today.  The United States is the world’s only true superpower, and there are certain duties only a superpower has.  

Walsh also says that there is another myth that the United States is responsible for most of the good in the world.  I definitely agree with Walsh in that the United States is not responsible for most of the good in the world.  However, Walsh uses dismantling Nazi Germany as one of the examples of American Exceptionalism.  He states, “For starters, though Americans watching Saving Private Ryan or Patton may conclude that the United States played the central role in vanquishing Nazi Germany, most of the fighting was in Eastern Europe and the main burden of defeating Hitler’s war machine was borne by the Soviet Union.”  Yet, the United States did have a very big role in defeating Nazi Germany.  Yes it is true that the fighting happened in Europe, but the Lend Lease Program was very important in helping the British stop the Nazis advances in Western Europe.



Blog Post 9/22

In As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs, Zinn focuses on the perpetual mistreatment of Native Americans in the United States.  Andrew Jackson wanted to expand westward as the idea of manifest destiny started to burn through the hearts and minds of the American people.  While many Americans have long believed that westward expansion was glorious, Zinn explains how that is not the case.  Under Jackson and Van Buren, “Seventy thousand Indians east of the Mississippi were forced westward.”  While Jackson is celebrated as a great president by some, many are now changing their tone on Jackson because of the mistreatment of Native Americans.

 Jackson’s mistreatment of Native Americans can likely be attributed to a mixture of racism as well as American imperialism.  One of his main arguments was that Native Americans just weren’t fit for American culture.  For example in a speech Jackson said,  “They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.”  Jackson’s goal was always to make America the best country it could be, no matter the human cost.  His utter disregard for human life is outright horrifying to me, and he committed a genocide out of greed.


Blog Post 9/16

What I found most interesting was just how wrong I was about the Declaration of Independence.  I was always taught that there was a unified fight for independence. I knew that the Continental Congress fought over funding for the war, but I never knew the extent to which the Southern States didn’t want to secede from Britain. I found it interesting how 1776 was able to tell a serious story through music also while using comedy. I never realized how much the other states didn’t like Adams and Massachusetts, and I think 1776 did a very good job at displaying this. 

PHOUS makes me question what actually happened during these time periods.  In 1776 the people in the Continental Congress are portrayed as regular people, while in reality the delegates were some of the richest people in the colonies. I know that the film is probably inaccurate, yet I was still able to learn a lot from it.

Contrasting the style of 1776 to Hamilton 1776 uses a more classical style of music, while Hamilton is much more modern and upbeat. Both are very successful portraying their story while using different strategies. Hamilton represents a more modern America while telling a story about the past. The play accomplishes this by using minorities as all the characters, and using rap and hip hop music to tell the story. Meanwhile, most of the main characters in 1776 are white males representing what the Continental Congress actually looked like.


Persons of Mean and Vile Condition

Jamestown was founded on an ideology of classism along with racism. It’s disheartening to know that the first English settlement was a pretense to what was to come before even getting settled in. The new settlers not only thought they were better than the Indians but, they were also just racist as well.  Bacon’s Rebellion was not only just about being oppressed, “That might explain the character of their rebellion, not easily classifiable as either antiaristocrat or anti-Indian, because it was both.” This is another example of History telling lies, when learning about Bacon’s Rebellion, I remember learning about the struggle of the farmers. That they were just standing up to the rich and powerful of Jamestown. However, Zinn explains how not only was Bacon’s Rebellion about standing up to the rich and powerful, but also just plain racism.

Furthermore, violence had escalated prior to Bacon’s Rebellion. It was just plain racism, “Violence had escalated on the frontier before the rebellion. Some Doeg Indians took a few hogs to redress a debt, and whited, retrieving the hogs murdered two Indians.” This caused a spree of skirmishes among the Indians and the settlers. While the Indians just wanted to protect themselves and their land, the settlers were racist and wanted to annex the Indians land. This led to a war, “But proposed to exempt those Indians who cooperated.” Out of racism and poverty, “This seemed to anger the tierspeople, who wanted total war but also resented the high taxes assessed to pay for the war.” The Jamestown Settlement was completely racist, and just out of spite. Instead of being peaceful they killed and tried to annex their land.


Pierce Kaliner Blog Post

In Drawing the Color Line I found it interesting how from the very first settlement in Jamestown there was a feeling of racial superiority. White servants were treated differently from the black servants. In order to fight the Indians, “A law passed in 1639 decreed that ‘all persons except Negroes’ were to get arms and ammunition.” Slavery wasn’t technically legalized yet, but it was evident how the white settlers felt a superiority to the slaves. Another example of the superiority is shown in punishments, “The court ruled ‘that the negro women shall be whipt at the whipping post and the said Sweat shall tomorrow in the forenoon do public penance for his offense at James citychurch…”  While the white man barely gets any punishment the black servant is whipped. The power structure is made so that the white ruling class is able to keep its power. 

The way that the slave trade is vividly described is deeply frightening. From capture to the boats to the plantations Zinn is able to show the life of a slave starting from Africa. The trans-Atlantic slave trade is horrifying, and I already knew that. However, the sheer amount of profit from the slave trade was crazy. For example James Madison, “Shortly after the American Revolution that he could make $257 on every Negro in a year, and spend only $12 or $13 on his keep.” That’s a crazy amount of money while adjusting for inflation.  Also, only spending 12 or 13 dollars on keeping a human being is craziness. Meanwhile, James Madison, one of our founding fathers boasts about the terrible conditions in which he holds his slaves. Just a reminder of the horrifying reality of our history. 


Pierce Kaliner Blog Post 8/25

In Bass’ “Concepts of Leadership” I found it very interesting to compare and contrast the styles of leadership from then to now. Leadership styles now are obviously vastly different to the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. For instance, “The Odyssey advises leaders to maintain their social distance.” While maintaining a social distance is obviously a good idea during Covid times it’s more difficult to lead when not seeing people face to face in the modern day. The best leaders interact with their followers thus allowing them to gain more appreciation and approval from their people. This is best demonstrated by modern Presidents of the United States using their bully pulpit in order to gain more approval of the people.

In contrast there are certain parts of history that stay true today when defining successful leaders. Specifically when defining heroic leaders, “The Greeks admired and thought were needed in heroic leaders were (1) justice and judgement (Agamemnon), (2) wisdom and counsel (Nestor), (3) shrewdness and cunning (Odysseus), and (4) valor and activism (Achilles).”  Those are many of the qualities that Americans look for in wartime leaders. This is usually when a President has their highest approval ratings because they display exactly the qualities the Greeks say are necessary for a strong leader.