My grandfather used to tell my mother as she was growing up (in the Depression) that she and her siblings were lucky — they had a Sears catalog for the necessary paperwork in the out-house. He, on the other hand as a child, had to use two corn cobs. First, he would explain, you used the red one, and then the white one–to see if you needed another red one.
I grew up hearing many stories about the Depression. Unlike those narrated last night on the History channel, in Marxist Howard Zinn’s “The People Speak,” I heard stories of extreme poverty and of those who lived through it with humor, devotion and hard work.
Zinn would have us believe there was no hope, no jobs, and the people sat in abject poverty waiting for the government to take care of them, and it failed to do so. But then according to Zinn, those who rebelled for social change — the socialists and anarchists — were the heroes of the day.
As the Hollywood hate club read aloud passages, presumably of those who represented the working people of the time, I listened closely to hear my grandfather’s voice in the narratives. Nothing they said could have been further from what he believed, or lived. Nor did anything resemble my mother-in-law, who was put in an orphanage because her family could no longer feed her.
No one is denying the tragedies and misery of the past. It is regarding how, who, and why they were able to overcome them, in which Zinn rewrites history.
In Zinn’s version of history, the “Cinderella Man” would have taken off his boxing gloves and used his fame to mobilize the masses in revolt against their evil oppressors. Rather than like my grandfather, do whatever it took to feed his family in the face of extreme poverty—and emerge the victor.
The stories left untold, like the immigrants who escaped real oppression and poverty to come to America, spoke volumes about the author’s intent. It was not to give a true account of the American experience, but to shape American history in the minds of American students into a warped, oppressive and evil entity.
It wasn’t because of social revolution, as Zinn would have us believe, that Americans have overcome our darkest hours. It is because we are free to shape our own destinies. We have thrived when the government steps out, not in to our lives.
Had he told my grandfather’s story, it would have been of a simple man raising six children that went barefoot in the summer, but always got new shoes in time for school. We would have heard of a man whose reputation as a reliable, hard worker was the key that opened the doors shut to those who would rather pound their fists and claim injustice.