America Through the Funhouse MirrornHoward Zinn: A People’s History ofnthe United States; Harper & Row;nNew York.nLa^vrence Lader: Power on the Left;nW. W. Norton & Co.; New York.nby Alan J. LevinenXloward Zinn and Lawrence Ladernhave written two books which attemptnto recast American history into a formnthat will extract murmurs of delectationnfrom the extreme American left.nZinn’s book is a history of the UnitednStates which ignores most of the political,nsocial and economic history of thisncountry in favor of a worm’s-eye viewnemphasizing the “left” and the “oppressed.”nLader’s tome treats the historynof American radical movements sincen1946. Neither writer displays much regardnfor truth or clarity of thought.nZinn’s view of American history, implicitnalso in Lader’s work, reflects annobsession with domination, oppressionnand rebellion. The achievements of thenAmerican people hold little interest fornhim. Expansion across a thinly populated,nunfamiliar continent and the creationnof the most prosperous, highlynorganized democratic industrial societynin the world are both meaningless tonhim, if not a source of shame. The onlynthing about the American people or anyngroups of Americans that excites Zinnnis their real or alleged oppressiveness;npractically any inequality in wealth ornwell-being, whatever its cause, constitutesnoppression in his eyes. The resultnis a book that omits most of the majornthemes of American history in favor ofnmassacres, riots, labor violence, slavenrevolts and wild exaggerations of thenimportance of “radical” movements andn”conservative” conspiracies. At everynpoint the evidence is squeezed to exag-nDr. Levine is a frequent contributor tones.nChronicles of Culturengerate inequities in American societynand to show that merely legal and politicalnefforts never bring reforms ornrelief for the oppressed. In Zinn’s view,nAmerican society has always been controllednby a tiny, wealthy minority; thenprevailing system has always been fundamentallyncorrupt and depraved. Thenwell-being of the middle class is basednon mere crumbs from the tables of thenwealthy. While conservatives are by def-nthan the Indians. To Zinn, civilizationnis a poor second-best to barbarism. Yetnthis view is uneasily combined withnclaims that the white upper class wasnresponsible for all possible ills, and henprofesses to believe that even in colonialntimes there was a lost chance for poornwhites, blacks and Amerinds to combinenagainst their oppressors. Actually, it isnwell-known that it was the advancingnfringe of farmers, ranchers and prospec-n”Professor Zinn’s chapter on Vietnam —bringing to life once again the fire-freenzones, .secret bombings, massacres and cover-ups—should be required reading for annew generation of students now facing conscription . . . open-minded readers willnprofit from Professor Zinn’s account, and historians may well view it as a step towardna coherent new version of American historj’.”n—New York Times Book Ret’iewn”Zinn has written a brilliant and moving history of the American people … it willn.. . make an excellent college text for basic history courses.”n—Library Journalninition agents of darkness, liberals areneither sinister or dupes; their prized reformsnare schemes by the ruling classnor reluctant concessions to threats ornforces really represented by the furthernleft.nTo be fair, Zinn admits that he isnonly interested in showing things fromnthe viewpoint of the “victims” of history.nWhile he admits that his “victims”nhave sometimes been hard on one another,nsome of the real conflicts ofnAmerican history are whitewashed, andnin the process Zinn reaches new realmsnof incoherence. For example, relationsnbetween whites and Indians are treatednin a strange manner. Zinn indulges in anfashionable sentimentalizing and erroneousnhomogenizing of the Indians’ manyndifferent cultures. He emphasizes thensuperior “beautiful human relationships”nfostered by their allegednavoidance of such horrors as early toiletntraining and male dominance, andnby their common ownership of land. Hisnattitude toward the European settlersnis nihilistic and antiwhite, practicallyndenying that they were more advancednnntors that was most hostile to the Indians.nThe Eastern upper classes, or parts ofnthem, often favored more humane policies.n(Similar conflicts of opinion developednon practically every settlementnfrontier in the world, from Siberia tonNew Zealand.) Zinn cannot even managento be consistent in saying how manynIndians there were; on different pagesnhe supplies different figures for the presettlementnpopulation. Ironically, hisnloathing for modern civilization sometimesnleads him to denigrate Indians.nThe Cherokees, one of the few peoplesnto successfully adopt European culture,nare shown as doing this under direnthreat from the outside; in fact, they didnthis quite freely.nErrors, bizarre assertions and explodedntheories appear throughout. TomnPaine becomes a fuddy-duddy conservative.nCharles Beard’s discredited view ofnthe Constitution as the product of a conservativenconspiracy is disinterred. So isna famous misquotation of John Adams,nin which Adams claimed that one-thirdnof Americans supported the Revolution.n(Actually, Adams was talking aboutn