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Author: Samuel Hussey

Sam Hussey Blog Post 11/16

I found Howard Zinn’s chapter The Unreported Resistance and his analyses on the protests throughout American history to be very compelling and informative. Every movement or political agenda always has two sides to it. As we have discussed, history is written by the victors so the opposing side is often undervalued and unreported. Zinn focuses on the resistance during the 1980s towards the end of the Cold War. At this time, it was clear there would not be a nuclear war like many thought in the 1960s. However, the United States showed no signs in slowing its production of nuclear weapons or decreasing its military budget. Citizens began to catch on to the Government’s unjust spending actions and movements started in the grassroots in churches, meeting halls, and homes. These small movements were all fighting a similar cause and once they realized they were not alone in their cause, action could be taken and they could make a difference. The Nuclear Freeze began to sweep across the nation and gain support by Americans of all classes and political views.

It is important to look at what else is going on in History at the times of these progressive movements. America often moves in cycles, whether that is the boom-bust cycle of the economy or the progressive/conservative cycle of public opinion. When the United States is not in conflict and the people are not as worried about external threats, they are more progressive on domestic issues because they have the time to worry about them. Following the Iranian Hostage Crisis, only twelve percent of Americans believed we were spending too much on the military. However, in 1983, when the possibility of an attack or war became less likely, forty-eight percent said that too much was being spent on arms. I also thought Zinns comparison of the 1980s to the 1960s to be very intriguing. The same people who were protesting for civil rights and dodging the draft in the 1960s were now teachers and sometimes parents to the children of the 1980s who were dodging the new draft and had a newfound sense of political consciousness. It is crazy to see college kids have an impact on history and see that their voice matters because we are all now part of that same demographic and we can impact history for the better.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 11/9

The prolonged War on Drugs has affected so many Americans over the years. Everyone knows someone who has struggled with addiction, and the stigma behind drugs created by the government has made it difficult for many to get effective treatment. When the war on drugs began, the government was aiming to eliminate all drugs because they were viewed as a vice. They thought they could control the population and their desires but that is an unreasonable thing to do for a free society. People also are more inclined to do things that are illegal or risky because of human nature so the drive of breaking the rules encouraged some to use drugs. 

After studying the historical progression of this country, it has become clear that America has a tendency to repeat its prior actions when it shouldn’t. America learned from the Prohibition Era that banning vices like alcohol or drugs is not effective. It creates black markets for the goods that cannot be regulated by governmental organizations like the FDA to make sure the products are safe for consumption. The war on drugs leads to the same black markets being formed, leading to more overdose deaths because the drugs are not regulated by the government. Organized crime is also a large factor in prohibiting drugs or alcohol. Today, gangs in urban areas are usually the ones who control the drug market. Gang violence can arise from territorial issues and lead to premature deaths of those involved.

As we saw in Just Mercy, the justice system in our country has been a large part of the war on drugs. The article also said that about half of the incarcerations in America at any given time are due to drug-related incidents. Possession, distribution, and other charges are heavily criminalized in many states and have put thousands of Americans behind bars due to small drug charges that do nothing to help the problem of addiction that is said to be at the core of the war on drugs. The courts are also not convicting all Americans the same. Minorities like Blacks and Latinos are far more likely to serve time for drug charges than whites. Lawyers like Bryan in Just Mercy are trying to fix the unjust court system and advocate for minorities facing unreasonable sentences for drug charges. America needs to reform its court system and end the war on drugs to keep minorities and youths out of prison and allow them to work to overcome addiction, not use drugs to cope with traumatic events due to the War on Drugs like going to prison or seeing violence.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 11/2

Platoon gives viewers a look at how inhumane and vial war is. A human life is just as valuable as a few bullets or a position in the forest. Lives on both sides are not valued because if it is your life or the enemy. Soldiers are forced to learn this quickly and then killing becomes just another way to get one step closer to surviving. Chris, played by Charlie Sheen, has a hard time adjusting to this harsh reality of war. It is so unlike real life that the soldiers use these horrible acts as a will to live- murdering, raping, stealing, burning villages. 

As we discussed in class, the morale of the soldiers falls more and more every day after fighting such a treacherous war. There is fighting in between the platoon and the soldiers are losing sanity. Sgt. Elias, played by Willem Defoe, says towards the middle of the film that “We’re not gonna win this war. We’ve been kicking ass for so long I figured it’s about time we get ours kicked”. They are all trying to escape from reality by doing drugs, drinking, and other vices that make their lives seem better for a small period of time.

What made it difficult in this war was distinguishing between civilians and the Vietcong. In WWII, it was easy to tell who you were fighting against and who was simply living there. In Vietnam, the platoon would stumble upon a village that would look innocent but would start ambushing the platoon and attacking back. So, the soldiers can never be too sure when approaching a village in the jungle because they never know who is hiding there. 

In Chris’s final monologue, he begins by saying “We didn’t fight an enemy, we fought ourselves and the enemy was within us.” The mutiny and violence within the platoon were detrimental to their success in the war. They didn’t want to be there, they were in terrible, unfamiliar conditions, and they weren’t fighting for a common cause that could be used to unite the group. The final battle scene was telling of this when the Vietcong moved all together as a unit and the US troops were abandoning their posts and doing whatever they could to stay alive, not to benefit the war effort. The general at the post called in an airstrike because he knew it was the only way he would make it out alive even though many of his troops would die from the airstrike. In this war, no human life was as valuable as your own and that is why the war was a failure.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 10/26

Langston Hughes’ collection of poems are great primary sources to look at when discussing the civil rights movement and the turbulent decades of the mid-twentieth century. Hughes wrote about the inequalities blacks would face in all aspects of life and touches on many important themes that the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement focused on. In Dreams, he stresses the importance of holding onto your dreams and not letting them die out. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also supported this message and famously emphasized it in his speech at the March on Washington. Hughes’ poems are always in the first person and take different perspectives that all African Americans could relate to. He writes as a student, a soldier, and many others. He creates a persona that embodies the feelings of being black at this time. 

I enjoyed looking at this literature from a certain time in history to see how Hughes’ poems were in direct response to certain events. His poem Will V-Day be ME-Day Too? Is discussing the common consensus of black soldiers returning home after fighting in  WWII. Many people believe that the Civil Rights Movement officially started after the war because people began to demand freedom and equality after fighting for their country abroad. These poems were all very topical when written and were intended to spark conversation within the audience about the state in which African Americans were treated in America. Hughes’ powerful messages had a direct impact on the movement and encouraged more people to speak up and realize they were not alone in this fight. I was trying to think about what forms of media/literature will be looked at in the future as the primary sources from the current BLM movement. The book The Hate U Give is one of my personal favorites and I bet it will be looked at as a great source from this time. Although it isn’t exactly a true story, it is modeled after many similar stories from this time about police brutality in America. 

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 10/18

Howard Zinn’s chapter on World War II offered many counterarguments to the version of the war learning in standard textbooks. As Zinn points out, WWII is widely considered to be the most supported war in American History. The United States was standing up for democracy and fighting against oppression and overpowering regimes. The Nazis had invaded its neighbors, persecuted its people who were not part of the “Aryan Race” and done whatever is best for the economic needs of the German Reich. The difference between the United States’ strategy and the Germans was that the US kept its real motives away from the public eye. The Nazis were explicit in their anti-semitism and quest for global superiority. The United States was more subtle in their imperial conquests, claiming that they were promoting global democracy and just lending a hand to less developed countries. However, their true goals were to expand their sphere of influence across the world so they had as many trading partners as they wanted and very few enemies. The United States valued its economic assets above its social stances at this time because they kept sending oil to Italy even when Italy invaded Ethiopia. They also adopted appeasement stances in the thirties with Hitler’s regime to prevent a war that was already inevitable because they knew the war would be costly. The United States was focused on gaining trading partners abroad at all costs. If anything threatened their interests, they did what they could to tear it down. 

After the war, the main concern on the homefront became communism. The United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two largest world powers after the Yalta conference, and both believed their governments were superior. The US government became obsessed with cracking down on spies and disloyalty following the war because they were nervous about communism spreading into their country. World War II fed right into the cold war because of the Truman Doctrine and the two world powers that emerged after the war. 

Every event has a cause and effect, and many historians like to play the blame game and trace back every event to something before it. David Swanson’s Article World War Two Was Not a Just War had many interesting claims about when this chain of wars during the twentieth century truly began. Swanson blamed World War I and the unsuccessful Treaty of Versailles for causing World War II, which is also believed by many historians, but the causes for World War I can be traced back even further. The top powers of the world are always looking out for their economic interests over anything else. This selfish point of view is the ultimate cause of conflict in the world. The United States is just as much to blame for this behavior as any other country, and it is probably the biggest culprit. As I discussed earlier, the US puts its economic interests as its number one priority. Swanson even discusses how Wall Street continued to fund Nazi Germany leading up to WWII even though they were suspected of being despotic and authoritative.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post for 10/12

The Spanish Flu of 1918 was widely unknown to me before today’s reading and video. The Spanish Flu was the world’s most recent large pandemic, claiming upwards of fifty million lives in a few short years. The parallels between the COVID pandemic and the Spanish Flu are clearly discussed by Noah in the video, but the article was originally published in 2010 and mainly focuses on the Spanish Flu. I think it is important to understand the biases of the media outlets distributing the information. We have learned how important it is to know your source because the same fact can be interpreted in different ways to get a different reaction from the reader. The video is from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which is definitely a left-biased source. The point of the video was to show the parallels between the two pandemics and how our current administration has failed to address the same problems from 1918 and properly flatten the curve. Noah uses humor to poke fun at different aspects of the situation, but the stance is clearly left. The Spanish Flu article by History.com was not as politically charged because it was not originally written during the current pandemic and was solely written to inform readers about the Spanish Flu.

The Spanish Flu was much more deadly than I thought prior to reading this article. One staggering way to illustrate the severity of this flu is to look at the average life expectancy in countries in 1918. All over the world and in the US, the average life expectancy plummeted by decades due to the exponential increase in deaths of young people. The world was becoming globalized and interconnected but did not have the modern healthcare treatments to deal with the flu. It amazes me how a pandemic can affect the world so drastically but we still struggle to learn from our mistakes. Americans must educate themselves on the Spanish Flu and see that they practiced social distancing and wore masks over 100 years ago. When state governments failed to properly deal with the pandemic, like in Philadelphia, the consequences were deadly. This is a prime example of why studying history is so important because learning from history can prevent future problems.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 10/5

Today’s readings highlighting different ethnic groups in America left me thinking about the concept of identity. Gloria Anzaldúa’s excepts on being a Chicana in America and having a muddled identity is a true problem people face. In today’s globalized world, the ethnic groups of the past are intertwining and spreading out across the globe. Before the exploration of the new world in the sixteenth century, it was not uncommon to stay within twenty miles of your birthplace your whole life. Today, there have been dozens of ethnic migrations and identity is more ambiguous than ever before. Gloria Anzaldúa writes about being caught in the middle ground of identities, cast away from every individual ethnicity for not being of pure blood. Identity is one of the fundamental traits of being human. Being able to identify yourself with a group and a culture is very important for your sense of self-worth and self-esteem. When your mixed culture is looked down on by society, it can be very challenging. Language is a key component of identity and can be used to instantly discriminate against certain identities. The broken Spanish spoken by Chicanos can be separated from the Latino Spanish.

The chapters from How the Other Half Lives give stark accounts of the terrible lifestyles adopted by immigrants to America. The Italians were forced to work demeaning jobs for little pay and the Chinese ran small shops to try and make ends meet. Both communities were discriminated against for being immigrants and were treated differently by their neighbors. I found it interesting how both ethnic groups turned to addiction to help cope with their struggles of assimilating to a new culture and being ostracized by the people who they thought were accepting of others. The Italians turned to gambling while the Chinese turned to opium, both vices having considerable impacts on the communities. The communities were objectified as vile and degenerate because of the addiction problems and were stuck in a never-ending hole of being culturally inferior. When your identity is decided for you by outsiders, it Is challenging to break that mold. We see this today with urban black communities that are stereotyped as gang members and drug dealers by the outsiders. Because of the external pressure, many youths feel like they have to be like that because that is what they are viewed as. It can create a vicious cycle of poverty, addiction, and an identity crisis that is very difficult to break from.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 9/28

Howard Zinn’s chapter Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom, and OverSimplified’s video of the American Civil War both offered unique and factual accounts of this time period in American History that I had never heard before. Textbooks teach the information differently based on what part of the country you live in. Textbooks in the southern states often teach kids that the Civil War was only about states’ rights. On the other hand, northern states teach kids that it was a war against slavery. As OverSimplified explained it, it was a combination of both of these factors. The issue that was being debated was slavery, but the southern states overused their power and tried to secede from the Union. Growing up in New England, I remember being taught that Abraham Lincoln was an avid abolitionist. In reality, Lincoln solely wanted to halt the expansion of slavery and had no plans of trying to end slavery when he was running for office. Howard Zinn stresses the fact that Lincoln’s personal beliefs were probably more extreme than what he promoted publically so he could sympathize with the centrists. Close reading is required to read between the lines of Lincoln’s personal letters and journals to see what he truly believed versus what he promoted. I believe he knew he would not get elected if he was a full-fledged abolitionist, so it was a strategic move to take on a more moderate stance to gain the support of a wider demographic.

One thing I noticed when comparing the two sources was how important phrasing can be in creating biases and opinions on objective data. When discussing data on whippings from a plantation, Zinn phrased the objective data in different ways that created implicit biases in the reader’s head. For example, one could state that over half of the slaves were not whipped over a two year period. This creates the illusion that the majority of the slaves were treated well. In reality, a whipping is just one punishment of many a slave could receive, and just because they are not getting whipped doesn’t mean they are treated well. Based on the same data, one could also conclude that “every four or five days, some slave was whipped” (173). This creates the image that whippings were a common affair on the plantation and part of the violent way of life in the south. Despite using the same objective data, the author can create different opinions based on what they think the reader should get out of the information.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 9/21

Today’s Zinn chapter on the gender struggles in the United States and the subsequent poems by two iconic female American poets, Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley, clearly demonstrated how gender inequality is an ongoing issue in our nation since its inception. Howard Zinn begins by talking about the impossible standards that women were held to in the colonial era. The men were always right and whatever they did was wrong. Men wrote literature directed at women to put these sexist beliefs in their heads, like in Advice to a Daughter. Women were taught to be seen but not heard, and always be subservient to their husbands, masters, or fathers. However, this construct, unlike others we studied, cannot be bypassed. Women in the upper class still face sexism like women in the lower class. Their lives are of better quality, but their rights are the same. They are treated as objects and never asked about their own opinion on anything.

It was so rare for women to have published literature because of the public disregard for women’s opinions. The poems of Bradstreet and Wheatley were of utmost importance to the transition to women having more rights and an equal say. When men across the world were able to read the published poems of women and actually hear their ideas for the first time, they saw them as equals and not inferiors for the first time. Their poems provoked conversation and were relatable to the present time. They were widely revered across America and England despite initial backlash about publishing women’s literature, especially black women’s literature in the case of Phillis Wheatley. The work of these great American poets encouraged other women to speak their minds and fight for the rights they deserve. The famous Seneca Falls Convention was the first major step in fighting for women’s suffrage, something that wouldn’t be achieved until 1920. Only a few short years after that in 1933, A woman named Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born. In this new society where Women could finally participate in the government, she worked her way to the top of the judicial system in America and became a Supreme Court Justice. Her career as a Supreme Court Justice was catalyzed by the powerful women before her who fought for gender equality since the first women landed in the colonies. RBG’s lifelong career in politics and law and her work against gender discrimination will truly be remembered for centuries to come.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 9/12

Howard Zinns’ Chapter A Kind of Revolution added to my fascination of my favorite time period in US History by looking at many underrepresented perspectives. The American Revolution is idolized as an inspiring unity of different people fighting one common cause. In reality, the war was for the benefit of  the elite landowning colonists so they could expand their wealth and power. For many colonists in the lower classes, they had no motive for fighting in the war. The elite tried to fabricate incentives for the lower classes to enlist, but coercion was often the most effective way.

After our talk about social classes last class, I was surprised to hear that many people used the war as a way to elevate their social status and “climb the ladder”. This served as the main motivation for many lower class farmers to enlist, because if they were able to advance their rank in the army they could save some money and change their social status. Alexander Hamilton famously chose this path and ended up being one of the most important founding fathers.

When Zinn analyzed the motivations of the founding fathers in the Constitution, it surprised me how much they were really writing for their own benefit and not the benefit of the whole population. In my prior history classes, we have revered this document as a “work of genius put together by wise, humane men who created a legal framework for democracy and equality”(90). However, many of the founding principles were put into place to benefit the wealthy men who were drafting it. They wanted a strong federal government to secure their industries and protect their investments. This system designed in part by self interest for a few wealthy colonists has lead to the growth and development of the most powerful country in the world. So, should we be blaming the founding fathers for putting their needs first when their needs indirectly benefitted the country as a whole? I believe it is not so much that we have to blame them, but simply be cognizant of this fact that our country was designed from its beginnings for the rich to get richer. When ignorant Americans try to argue our country was build by the many for the many, it is important to note the asterisk in this statement. America, regardless of how it turned out over the following centuries, was drafted by the political elite to expand their fortunes and use the lower classes to amass more wealth.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 9/5

After reading the excerpts from Michael W. Twittys’ The Cooking Gene, I felt truly engulfed into the culture that was created in the American south surrounded by the plantation lifestyle. Although these people were viewed as property without alienable rights, their rich culture devised from people all over the world has manifested the south into what it is today. Southern culture cannot be discussed without discussing black culture, and black culture in the south was formed on the plantations that blacks were first brought to America to work on. It was formed in the kitchen, on the fields, in the slave quarters, and in the big house where the house slaves worked. It hails from all over the world, the first true melting pot culture as the people themselves hailed from different parts of the continent. They brought their traditions with them from their homelands and blended it with others to make it their own. As we learned in No More Whistling Walk for me, It was also formed in Europe, when slaves like James Hemings got the chance to learn to cook from the best french slaves in the world and bring it back to the plantations. However, it is not about where and how their culture was formed. The why is the most important part of this equation. having a distinct culture they could call their own gave the slaves hope that they were in fact humans like everyone else and not property. It willed them to keep waking up every day despite the hatred and abuse they would face from their masters who viewed them as cattle. The slaves were given the worst image of themselves. Every day they were constantly told how ugly and useless they were by their masters. The culture they had gave them joy when they were depressed and hope when they felt hopeless.

As our author tells us, so much of the slave culture was passed down orally because of the lack of literacy. The stories were told through songs, riddles, and prayers that were always being recited and sung around the plantation. Twitty, being a direct descendant of slaves, has many oral stories to share with us. Food is the main course, but there are many side dishes to this culture that these people take such pride in. Their culture was truly their own, and it was the one thing that couldn’t be stripped away from them.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 8/29

After reading chapter one of Howard Zinns’ A People’s History of the United States, I am left questioning many aspects of western civilization and the actions of our ancestors that brought our society to where it is today. Zinn exposed the awful truths of colonialism that are often left out of our history textbooks and early discussions of how we got here. However, when you take the time to actually unpack all of the genocide and malicious behavior of the colonizers, it is a lot to take in. While reading this passage, I felt sick to my stomach that my life has been build off of the mass murder of the indigenous people who rightfully called this place home before Columbus ever stepped foot on a boat. Everything I have in my life and everything my ancestors did for me was build off the subjugation of others and the dehumanization of the local people. Was this the only way to advance civilization to its achievements of today? Was there a more humane way to achieve this level of innovation and globalization? I understand that oftentimes you have to destroy to create. But what does that mean for those who get destroyed? Is that simply a part of civilization that gets lost in time, similar to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest? Humans evolve just like any other species, but we are all equal when we are born. However, where we are born can provide massive advantages to your status. Zinn touches on this with the importance of natural resources played with the success of the colonizers. They had iron, which gave them weapons and guns. They also had horses, which allowed them to cover vast distances much more efficiently. They were not elevated beings over the indigenous people in the Americas, they were simply born with privilege.

Privilege continues to be a controversial topic that causes massive societal issues across the world today. In the US, we have seen the negative effects of privilege over the last several months erupt into the black lives matter movement. The basic understanding that you are born with privilege based on the color of your skin is something that many Americans still don’t understand, which causes those who are not privileged to be discriminated against and racially profiled for their lack of privilege. Many people still do not understand the privilege they are born with and did absolutely nothing to deserve. Columbus had the same mindset when he first met the natives. After one of his first encounters with the Arawaks, he wrote  “They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want”. Columbus truly believed that he was a superior being to these people despite being composed of the same DNA and being no different at birth. This inhumane ideology has been passed down from generation to generation and still remains in the minds of many Americans today. After reading this passage, it was evident that many of the same ideologies from 500 years ago can still be found today in our country. We have made a lot of progress, but there is still more to be made.

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