Patriot’s vs People’s is an analytical review of two books about American history that most would assume are politically opposed – Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen’s A Patriot’s Guide to the History of the United States and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It started as an idea after I bought Zinn’s book and was given Schweikart and Allen’s by an uncle who so rightly explained his gift as a way for me to read “the other side of the story.” I decided to read them side by side, chapter by chapter, in order to compare and contrast the two works to each other. It didn’t go so well. This is Part IV, here are Part I, Part II and Part III.
So Long and Thanks for All the Fishy Facts
This post has been a long time coming. The first three posts of Patriot’s vs. People’s can be found here. I’m sorry to all my readers* to have to cut it off like this.
After reading fighting my way through Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought, I decided that I would never again waste time reading a book that wasn’t enjoyable or beneficial to me. That is why I have put down A Patriot’s History of the United States forever.
The first problem with Patriot’s is that it’s not well written. I know that alone is no reason to give up on a book. I don’t expect Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen – or any historian for that matter – to write like Shakespeare. But poor writing is merely the tip of the iceberg and I won’t focus on it more here. Pick up Patriot’s in the store and find out for yourself.
The other problem(s) depend on which type of person you are. You either know American history or you do not. I’m choosing these two extremes because Patriot’s is a waste of time for both of them, and therefore a waste of time for anyone in between. Let’s start from the viewpoint of someone who does not know American history. This is the only type of reader for whom Patriot’s can be of any value, but certain restrictions apply.
If you know nothing of American history and do not intend to read any American history books besides Patriot’s, you will not feel like you have wasted your time. Because the information in Patriot’s is factual. Patriot’s has a conservative bend to it, but the authors admit that (or at least they admit to being anti-liberal and they start the book with a transcript of a congratulatory interview with Rush Limbaugh). But that’s where the fun stops. Learn from anywhere but Patriot’s and you’re going to be disappointed, dear reader, because Patriot’s chooses its facts wisely.
And that’s where the problems start for readers who know any American history. The amount of holes in Patriot’s depends on how much you know about American history. The more you know, the sooner you will realize you are wasting your time. This is why I recommend Patriot’s only for those who both know nothing of American history and do not intend to learn any more from any other sources. Because the more you learn, the more you will realize you wasted your time reading Patriot’s.
The other problem you will have (and I sure did), no matter what type of reader you are, is personal. A Patriot’s History of the United States is insulting. When you think about it, it’s infuriating that Schweikart and Allen would write Patriot’s the way they did because their style assumes that you are an idiot. Why else would they pick and choose facts to support their biased opinion, lie and say it’s “an honest evaluation of the history of the United States,” and then not expect anyone to call their bluff? Because they are either shitty historians or they think you’re dumb.
I have nothing else to say about this. If I came off as irritated, it’s because I am. I’m upset that I wasted my time, but I’m slowing learning to move on. I will finish People’s, because even though it was as admittedly biased as Patriot’s, it was at least full of facts I don’t already know (and the writing is better – less condescending). But I doubt I’ll go back to it soon. I’m off American history for a while.
Up next: Under the Dome by Stephen King
*This post is especially dedicated to one Anonymous commenter, who was kind enough to not only read my other posts, but encourage me to keep writing. I just can’t do it, my friend. I’m too jaded. If you end up reading Patriot’s, feel free to let me know how it went – if you think it’s worth it.