John Rasplicka is a junior in my Advanced Placement United States History class. One of our required readings is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. The point of view reflected in this piece is that of Mr. Rasplicka.
I recently watched Good Will Hunting at the request of my teacher, Mr. Carson; in that movie there is one particular line that he said to watch for: “Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, that book will f*ckin’ knock you on your a**.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but as I read the book for Mr. Carson’s course the last few months, it has. I have grown up in a very conservative, Republican home, family, and community all my life. Howard Zinn is, to say the least, a liberal. I found that out not only through reading A People’s History, but also through recently reading Zinn’s response to the question “What’s the Future of the American Dream?”
In his response to what the future of the American dream is, Zinn asserts that if America did not spend so much on its military, and instead invested its money in to its people, it would be respected rather than feared around the world. Zinn first criticizes America’s military power, stating that this power is used to extend its power across the globe; furthermore, Zinn calls for use of American money not for defense but for its people in terms of provision for fundamental necessities for every American. Zinn’s purpose is to challenge a widely held view (that military power is paramount) and introduce his view (that every American should be provided necessities such as food, health care, decent housing, and jobs. Given the fact that Zinn himself is a leftist and therefore holds leftist views, he aims to address those with much more conservative views and challenge their beliefs.
My conservative views and beliefs were, without a doubt, challenged. Though I have wrestled with why our military is so large, one of the largest areas of spending for our government, the idea of free healthcare, free food, housing, and jobs… for everyone? It could just be my upbringing, but the idea of free healthcare, food, housing, and jobs for everyone, even if some are taxed more than others? Simply preposterous, at least to the seventeen year old, upper class white male from Houston.
I am not close-minded to view points other than my own, but I am logical. I wonder why someone should receive something if they do not get taxed (read: pay) for it, why the “handout mentality,” in which the government will help pay for or provide whatever your heart desires abounds in our society. To me, Zinn’s response to the future of the American dream seems like a utopia that forever dwells just out of reach, a unicorn: the one thing that, no matter how hard is sought after, cannot be attained. I honestly do not think that the disparity of wealth in the “United” States provides for a society in which everyone will help their neighbor.