A People's History of the United States Metaphors and Similes
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Written by Timothy Sexton
A 20-Year Cycle of Rebellion
The bulk of memorable uses of metaphor and simile in the book are the result of the author’s construction, but his judicious eye for quoting what the famous have said or written before him. Which is fitting since this metaphorical language is part and parcel of the history of the people of this country. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, plants the idea that democracy is destined to suffer without dissent and rebellion:
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
Of course, it is worth noting that while while patriots of the American Revolution were spilling blood fighting tyranny, Jefferson was safely ensconced in the Virginia legislature and the Continental Congress.
When Republican Presidents are Shepherds
A Republican President is under siege from the press and the legal system for violating election laws, trying to use the judicial system as his person law firm to go after his enemies, lying about his involvement and knowledge of crimes and obstructing justice. Meanwhile, what was the legislative branch doing in their capacity to investigate mounting claims and evidence of wrongdoing?
“Congress at this time behaved much as it had done in the early years of the Vietnam war, like a flock of sheep.”
The “at this time” refers to 1973, by the way.
The Women's Movement
The equal rights movement for women began in Seneca Falls with the first Women’s Rights Convention which climaxed with the signing of A Declaration of Principles which borrowed the language Jefferson has used in that much more famous Declaration a century earlier. The most powerful element in that Declaration just so happens to be endowed with metaphor:
“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”
Why a "People's" History?
The author proceeds to write his “people’s history” of the country as a kind of direct response to an engendered, privileged, Eurocentric view of history best exemplified through a metaphor written in another history book by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger:
“History is the memory of states.”
By which Kissinger meant that the history of the world is really the history of an ever-changing series of European tyrants and monarchs and the history African, Asia and the Americas before Columbus be damned.
A Metaphor is a Lie
To a certain extent, a metaphor is a lie. What someone means when they say clouds are cotton candy in the sky is clear enough, but it is still a lie. Most of the time the lie is clear, but doesn’t matter. On other occasions the lie is not so clear and can matter substantially. Such is the case with the race by Europeans to explore the “New World.” It all started with a metaphor written by Christopher Columbus. That was also an outrageous lie that served its purpose a millionfold:
“Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful…the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold.… There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals.”
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