A People’s History of American Empire
Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, Paul Buhle
I once wrote that if I could go back in time and punch any historical figure in the face it would probably be that pucker-faced asshat Andrew Jackson. When a friend inquired why, I cited the Trail of Tears for my main reason. Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States has been filling people in on the uglier and lesser-known actions of the U.S. government for almost 30 years—from the usually-ignored perspective of the conquered. It provides example after example of how the government acts in the interest of a select few rather than for the good of the general population. Zinn provides some pretty unsavory details about the behavior of our beloved forefathers. Consider his account of Teddy Roosevelt’s attitude toward Hawaii: “When the United States did not annex Hawaii in 1893…Roosevelt called this hesitancy “˜a crime against white civilization.'” Asshole. Empire is a graphic novel that packages many of the lessons dealing with American imperialism contained in History plus anecdotes from Zinn’s own life. The graphics and photos of historical figures help you visualize the ones you want to punch.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Sad fact of the week: there are still human beings on this planet that actually believe some dude in the sky who has a huge beard favors one clump of humanity over another. More than an interesting read, Guns, Germs, and Steel provides loads of cold, hard evidence that this is clearly not the case. Using a number of approaches and disciplines, Diamond shows us something we already know: that there is no group of humans that is innately superior to others. Instead, he says, populations in certain regions (namely Western Europe) had certain environmental advantages, such as the abundance of easily domesticated animals and resistance to disease, where others did not. This sparked the development of various technologies that ultimately led to brutal impositions on other populations. Diamond’s writing can get a little dry when explaining things like genetics (especially in Chapter 7, “How to Make an Almond”), but overall it’s an essential read.
From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii
There’s no way I would write a column about the white man’s blind hunger for empire, especially for a publication based in Hawaii, without mentioning a work that deals with what happened, and continues to happen, here in the isles. Trask is a professor at University of Hawaii as well as a tireless activist; Native Daughter is a collection of impassioned essays. Part one deals with sovereignty on the international level, part two explores the meaning of sovereignty for Hawaiians, part three explores the idea of post-colonial sovereignty, and the final section boldly confronts University of Hawaii, which Trask believes is fundamentally racist against Hawaiians. This is one of those works that will make your blood boil regardless of the color of your skin. MTW