Necessary Perspective

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A Necessary Perspective: The New View in A People’s History of the United States When studying American history, one finds it told from one standard perspective; that of the winners, the white men, the upper class, and the heroes. This viewpoint is lacking, often in total accuracy and in ethics. Zinn’s account of US history, however, comes from a somewhat unusual and a very critical perspective. If one is to consider all aspects of events, to understand the significance of people, and even change our attitudes towards practices and towards history itself, the perspective of the loser, the working poor, and the women is vital; this is the viewpoint that Zinn provides in A People’s History. Zinn wrote, “...this book will be skeptical of governments…show more content…
The sole viewpoint of heroes and winners is inadequate when considering history. The perspective of the “winner” or “hero” lends itself to a “price of progress” attitude, which is problematic in that the viewpoint overlooks the price itself. The price of progress that is so often forgotten is, more often than not, human lives and livelihoods, homes, jobs, safety, and families. From A People’s History, “...was it acceptable (or just inescapable?) to the...men and women who died by the hundreds of thousands from accident or sickness, where they worked or where they lived--casualties of progress?...If there are necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves?” (17) The “greater good” attitude discounts the pain and suffering caused in the name of advancement. The celebrated explorer and hero Christopher Columbus exemplifies this. Columbus and his men murdered, tortured, and enslaved the entirety of the Arawak people. Because of his great discovery of the Americas and his favor in the Spanish court, this monstrous genocide is brushed off when looking at the “greater good.”. If one were only to consider his important discovery from the “price of progress” attitude, the pain and suffering of the Arawak people would be totally forgotten and overlooked, losing a very real part of history. To gloss over these nastier events is to lie by omission and present and untruthful…show more content…
To prevent an inaccurate account of history, an additional attitude towards history is needed. Though the “winner’s” view of American history is a standard viewpoint, the perspective of the victims, the “losers” adds a new and essential element to historical events if one is to have the most accurate account of the event. For example, the war in Vietnam, from the mindset of the American, seems a necessary evil to fight communism in Asia. However, when considering the war from the mentality of the Vietnamese people, one sees a brutal and unjust attack that killed soldiers and civilians alike. As quoted in A People’s History, a dispatch from Saigon read, “Many Vietnamese--one estimate is as high as 500--were killed by the strikes. The American convention is that they were Vietcong soldiers. But three out of four patients seeking treatment in a Vietnamese hospital afterward for burns from napalm, or jellied gasoline, were village women” (477). When studying American history from this perspective, one sees not only the good American forces had hoped to do, but also the harm that they caused. The information that comes to light when using this perspective, like the example of the injured Vietnamese civilians, brings forward questions that might have remained unasked; for example, was the attack wounding and killing civilians a necessary evil when fighting communism? Did American forces have the right to decide that sacrifices would be made by Vietnamese people? Was the price of
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