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The Influence of Howard Zinn on the Loss of Patriotism, and the Antidote to Zinn, Dinesh D'Souza's America

Why would General Washington not want to destroy tribes  fighting with the British army against the rag-tag troops fighting in the war to save the new nation? Did our desire during the Second World War to destroy the German troops fighting for Hitler’s Third Reich mean our intent was genocide? Of course not. But one wonders whether Bigelow would make that same accusation against the U.S. in WWII. That is a rhetorical question, to which we know the answer. For Zinn, the American war against the Nazis is also to be condemned. Bigelow, referring to Washington, writes that the general’s orders “are the orders of a war criminal.”

So to the Zinn group, it’s not just Harry Truman for dropping the atomic bomb on Japan or George W.Bush and Dick Cheney for leading us to war in Iraq who are war criminals, but our first commander-in-chief and all our leaders ad infinitum. I could go on…

Bigelow ends his article quoting the words of Frederick Douglass' famous speech “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro,” which indeed is depicted in D’Souza’s movie. But what D’Souza does is provide the context for Douglas’ speech, noting that he changed his view after meeting Lincoln, and worked to urge American blacks to work within and support the Republican Party, and to help realize the promise of America as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Zinn does not quote from the later portions of  Douglass’ speech, in which he tells his audience: “Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery.”

So even then, while condemning the inconsistences of the American republic in sanctioning slavery while standing for freedom, Douglass told his audience that the 4th of July was still “the first great fact in your nation's history -- the very ringbolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.” Nor does Zinn have Danny Glover, who recited the speech in the TV special, add Douglass’ lines in which he said that “pride and patriotism…prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance,” and that the principles of the Declaration of Independence “are saving principles” to which all black Americans should stand, and should be “true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.”

Douglass was not, as the Zinn project writer argues, telling Americans “to abandon the empty ‘shout of liberty and equality’…and to put away the fireworks and flags.” He was, indeed, urging Americans to live up to the principles of its birth as a nation, and give blacks the same freedoms due them as free Americans.

Today’s New York Times has an article by Lynn Vavreck reporting on a study that shows that “patriotism in America is on the decline.” Past generations, she writes, retain their faith in and love for America. It is younger generations for whom patriotism means much less. They begin their adulthood, she writes, “with much lower levels of fondness for the symbols of America,” such as the American flag. Ms. Vavreck believes that having less faith in our symbols means that the new generation, living in multicultural America, is simply developing a new patriotism, based on egalitarian principles. Where does Ms. Vavreck get that interpretation from?

I guess that we know this. After all, Ms. Vavreck, who seems to be of this new generation herself, is the product of an age when her peers were educated by Howard Zinn and his followers, who have come to believe that patriotism is passé, and that the start of wisdom is to view America as itself an evil nation, no different than our enemies, be it today or during the Second World War.

There is no better antidote than to take those you know to see Dinesh D’Souza’s America this 4th of July weekend. Someday they may thank you for it.