Canelli has already finished the book (I’m sure of it), but I’m still chugging along. Chapter 9 (“Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom”), 10 (“The Other Civil War”), and 11 (“Robber Barons and Rebels”) were long and required a lot of work to stay motivated for. I’m now starting in on chapter 16 (“A People’s War?”). Canelli’s arranged a lot of electrons discussing these chapters, and I feel like I’m at a bit of a loss on what I can say about or contribute to the convo other than “We live in a shitty country and everything we’ve been taught in school was a lie.”
Which is probably why I spent more time watching The Man in the High Castle season 2 than reading A People’s History while doing jury duty last Tuesday. First of all, the writing in season 2 is incredible. What was it I said about season 1? Yeah, throw that all out the window. The new show runners have taken all the little turds of writers guano left over from the season 1 finale and constructed this gloriously retina-searing inferno. There are real stakes now. All the characters I hated last season I love this season. Fuck, even nazi pretty-boy Joe sheds that ridiculous “Brooklyn street urchin with a heart of gold” schtick in his great origin story reveal midway through the season.*
But another reason I preferred watching The Man in the High Castle rather than reading my copy of A People’s History: the blatant cinematic fascism makes me feel better about my country than its true history. It feels better to watch white guys in American Nazi regalia goose-step their way through blood-thirsty internal politics, talking about killing off all the “useless eaters,” than it does to slowly step through this country’s history, chapter by chapter, decade by decade, and see all the chances we had to turn the corner and move to a more equal society only to have white male business interests relentlessly slam the door shut in our faces every single time. The realization that what is happening today is only a natural progression from what happened yesterday and a hundred years ago. Trump is still exactly who he was on the campaign trail, and this country is still exactly what it was 50/100/200 years ago. The latter is a hard truth to keep facing, page after page in A People’s History.
* The reveal is so emotionally inept that it’s probably the funniest thing in the entire show. There is no way the writers and director didn’t tell Luke Kleintank to play the scene as over-the-top as possible.