Last week, I asked whether or not the concept of the “Greatest Generation” has done more harm than good, making us reluctant to point out that otherwise admirable cohort’s failings.
I now present my promised “Worst” of the “Greatest” roundup.
As always, your mileage may vary. I invite your nominations and dissents (and any ideas for future lists) in the comments.
3. HOWARD ZINN
In other words, what Zinn offers us is not a corrective, but a distortion. It is as if someone said to you “Would you like to see Versailles?” and then took you on a tour of a broken shed on the outskirts of the palace grounds. “You see, pretty shabby, isn’t it?”
Howard Zinn has wrecked more Thanksgiving dinners than salmonella.
For decades, freshmen have made their first trips back home from college and regaled their fuming families with “the truth” about America’s treatment of the Indians. Heck, even the fictional Sopranos had to deal with this stuff:
Tony’s kid informs him that they don’t celebrate [Columbus Day] at school, because Columbus was a practitioner of genocide against the Indian natives in the new land. When Tony asks him where he got that from, he tells him it was from their school textbook , Zinn’s People’s History.
Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is required reading at colleges across America and has sold millions of copies, mostly to impressionable teens who go on to become insufferable adults: those smug “progressives” who end up as public employees, politicians, journalists and other media mavens, non-profit employees, “artists,” movie stars, and, of course, teachers.
When your adolescent nephew (or perenially unemployed middle-aged brother-in-law) declares with an audible sniff that every war in history was “really about greed” (including the Civil War and World War II), blame Howard Zinn.
“9/11 was an inside job”? Not all Zinn’s fault, but he helped.
If it makes your blood boil; is partially encased in sarcastic “scare quotes”; is intentionally hyperbolic and nitpicking, and therefore said mostly to annoy (and make the speaker feel unjustifiably superior); if it contradicts common knowledge, human nature, the laws of physics, and your own personal experience; if it sounds a lot like something Oliver Stone would make a movie about, or already has — then chances are, it’s an historical tidbit that’s been helpfully predigested by someone influenced by Zinn, whether they know it or not.