Sunday, February 1, 2009

Howard Zinn's History of the United States

I feel like this year I made all sorts of commitments for the New Year. Some I have been able to keep faithfully, and others it's been a little bit of a struggle. One that has been going pretty well is working through a list of books Brenna and I created. We each selected 12 books we had been meaning to read but had never gotten around to. We actually started our lists a couple months early, which is when I read Northanger Abbey (loved it), Traveling Mercies (liked it a lot), and Searching for God Knows What (surprisingly timely). Right now I'm reading A People's History of the United States and it's been one of the most challenging books I've ever had to read, in terms of content.
This book tells the history of the United States, beginning in 1492, but from the perspective of the different oppressed people groups: Native Americans, African Americans, women, the Vietnamese, the Filipino's, etc. I read a significant portion of the book the eve before President Obama's inauguration and became disheartened with the American political system. It seems no president, no matter how great they are in our memory, really only did that which served the economic interests of the country. What that means is that the people of lower classes, who do not necessarily benefit the economic structure of the country, are pacified so as not to cause too many problems, but not really listened to. I sat in my apartment and shouted out "What's the use! If every president ends up doing the same thing, what's the point?!?" But then I remembered the 'reason for our hope within', and that does not come down to a political candidate. It's a message I've probably heard a million times, but I'm needing to remind myself that my hope CAN NOT be in a political system, whether I voted for the president or not. In the words of that popular hymn: "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and his righteousness."
So, as I continue to read this book about the atrocities that good American men were forced to perform, the low wages that women worked for in the 1960's, and the continued disenfranchisement of those of different races, I have to have hope that one day all things will be made right. I have this image in my head of standing in heaven and being able to see the Vietnam villager standing next to the American soldier and see reconciliation occur before my eyes. And I'll be standing there as well, next to those that I have wronged. And Christ will wipe the tears from both of our eyes, and this class that used to be known as the 'disenfranchised' will no longer exist. I do have that hope.

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