Dream When You’re Feeling Blue
Michael Kazin—coeditor of Dissent magazine, one-time leader of the Harvard chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, and now a professor at Georgetown University—is up to something interesting in his new book, American Dreamers. He intends it as a partial corrective of Howard Zinn’s wildly successful People’s History of the United States, the alternative account that casts our national narrative as an unbroken series of oppressions, injustices, genocides, and oligarchical thievery. Zinn “was stronger on polemical passion than historical insight,” Kazin writes, an activist who “reduced the past to a Manichean fable.”
Zinn’s influential 1980 screed has sold in the millions and, by offering fable rather than fact to explain the nation’s past and present, has contributed to the present-day left’s inability to understand why it does not appeal to Americans the way that conservatism does. Kazin’s ambition to correct Zinn’s fatal flaws and provide his confreres with a more accurate account of American history from a leftist perspective is therefore an honorable one. The ambition, however, is not matched by the results.
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