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Will Constitution Day be ruined by Matt Damon and Marxism?

12:00 PM, Sep 16, 2011 • By TONY WOODLIEF
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Zinn’s appeal is that he provided a narrative in place of dull U.S. history and civics textbooks. People crave stories, and Zinn gave them a compelling one: “We the People” want freedom and full bellies, but nefarious old white guys have thwarted us at every turn.

Marxists write dreadful fiction, however, and their non-fiction isn’t much better, and whether you place Zinn on one end of that spectrum or the other, you’re hard-pressed to find a mentally well-adjusted citizen who read all of A People’s History without skipping pages. We get it, Howard, we get it. Rioters burn down some rich guy’s house, the Capitalist Oppressors Cabal holds a confab, and soon there’s another war.

The real history of the American Founding, however, is a gripping narrative, and Constitution Day is a great time to share it with students. Defying history, men staked their reputations, property, and lives on the conviction that liberty is worth dying for. They took on a world empire, and they won.

The Founders weren’t one-dimensional capitalist oppressors, but they certainly weren’t infallible either, as their tolerance of slavery attests. But this country eventually ended slavery, and extended liberty to all citizens, and it did so by upholding the principles in the Constitution -- contrary to Zinn’s thesis.

Zinn portrayed the Founding as a freedom-destroying event, but in reality it sowed the seeds of liberty and prosperity for property owners and day laborers and women and slaves alike. This is not something students who fall prey to the Zinn Education Project will learn. Indeed, Zinn’s Marxist worldview has already taken root; a Harris Interactive survey conducted for the Bill of Rights Institute found last year, for example, that one in five Americans believes Marx’s famous dictum, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” is actually in the Bill of Rights.

People like a David versus Goliath story, and the American Founding is one, but Zinn has spun it backwards. The Founders struggled to protect us from the twin Goliaths of powerful government and mob rule. Zinn admired these evils, and resented the Founders for labeling them as such.

So who are the real Davids, if not demagogues and the nanny state? The Founding Americans who defeated a king, of course -- but also you, and me, and our children. Constitution Day is an excellent time to be reminded of that.

Tony Woodlief is president of the Bill of Rights Institute.

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