Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zinn, Chapter 5

You say you want a revolution? Well, the truth is that not everybody did.

1. Not everyone in the colonies was for a revolution.
2. Frankly, a lot of people didn't care. They had enough to worry about.
3. Many people were more annoyed with the Revolution's army than with teh British.
4. Blacks, American Indians, and poor whites were particularly nonplussed. The elite usually recognized this and avoided conscripting them into service, figuring their penchant for dissent would be more trouble than it was worth.
5. On the other hand, enlistment did become a viable option for poor, white "unrespectable" folks who wanted to get ahead. They knew that they could move up in the ranks if their COs died.
6. At other times, the poor fought on behalf of the rich, often against their will. The rich prospered in this way because the proles had a common enemy (the British) that was not them.
7. Even if soldiers didn't believe in the cause, John Shy postulated: "'The mechanism of their political conversion was the militia.'" Zinn added, "What looks like the democratization of the military forces in modern times shows up as something different: a way of forcing large numbers of reluctant people to associate themselves with the national cause, and by the end of the process believe in it."
8. After the war, the disparity between rich and poor continued, as did inflation. Still ramped up with revolution, many poor and middling people revolted against the rich in order to get or afford to get food.
9. The upper class, "finding itself possessed of enormous wealth [in land they confiscated that once belonged to Loyalists], could create the richest ruling class in history, and still have enough for the middle classes to act as a buffer between the rich and the dispossessed."
10. With the British off their backs, the new Americans could now expand westward, pushing off the imperialism of the crown and expanding into their manifest destiny, killing off American Indians that lived in their way.
11. I believe that the Constitution is "the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges, while giving just enough rights and liberties to enough of the people to ensure popular support."
12. Let's repeat the theme so far: "The Constitution, then, illustrates the complexity of the American system: that it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers, to build a broad base of support. The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the blacks, the Indians, the very poor whites. They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law-all made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity."
13. In this chapter, Zinn pretty convincingly deconstructs the myths of American liberty and justice for all. Those with money and power want to keep and increase their money and power, and the only way to do so is on the backs of the poor. The middle class serves as a series of pawns between the groups. That is all for now.

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