In Howard Zinn’s article A People’s History of the United States he states that he believes that in telling history it is important that we accept atrocities as a “deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress” (Zinn 10). Also Zinn believes that history should emphasize new possibilities by being creative and anticipate that future without denying the past. In other words Zinn believes that we should not try and hide the truth even if it is brutal and that we must learn from the past.
One example that Zinn uses throughout his entire article is Christopher Columbus’ trip to the Americas. The story that we learn as children in school portrays Columbus as a hero when in reality he did harsh and brutal things to the native people. Columbus used the Indians as slaves to look for gold that he promised to the king and queen. He took some of then Arawak Indians aboard his ship to show him to the source of gold. While not only using the Indians as slaves, he would use women and children for sex and labor and also he ordered anyone who was 14-years-old or older to collect certain quantities of gold each day and if they did not meet the quota he would chop off their hands and they would bleed to death. After all said and done, the population of the native people dwindled and ceased to procreate. However, this is not the story that we hear in middle school or high school, instead we see Columbus portrayed as a hero and we celebrate his doings each year on Columbus Day.
Zinn thinks that it would be more appropriate and beneficial if the truth would have been told about Columbus and his voyage. He believes that it is important to show that atrocities are a necessary price to pay if we want to make progress. However, by hiding what truly happened we are unable to truly learn history and understand what really happened. Zinn states that it may be beneficial if we could see history from the standpoint of others. Such as what the slaves thought of the Constitution or how the Cubans felt about the Spanish-American War, or World War I as seen by the socialist.
However, seeing history from ‘the other side’ may not always be a bad idea. It is important that as a nation we support what is being done. If we viewed history from the other side, it may seem as though things will never be solved. We would question what is being done and our nation would also be torn between what we are doing and how it’s affecting the other party. If many Americans believed what Columbus did was wrong, we may not even have an American today. I think it is important as a nation to stick together. During this time of war, when everyone has very opposing views, it is still important that we support our soldiers and what they are doing over there. They need our support more than anything and it is important to stick together as a nation.
I enjoyed the reading because I had no idea that is what really happened. It was interesting to learn a whole new side of a story that I was taught all of my life. However, I still believe it is in the best interest to stick to the original story and it is too late to go and try and change what everyone has been taught so far.