Greg Grandin’s The end of the Myth: the frontier to the border wall in the mind of /America is the best look at the rise of so-called Trumpism I have read. Still, I think the book overcomplicates what is sadly too simple a reality.
Human nature is fundamentally selfish. Sure, there are people who don’t fall into the trap of selfishness, but most people are fundamentally selfish. The policies of nations, fueled by the rich and powerful, exploit the selfish, weak tendencies of most people to create societies based on division. As is hopefully obvious to most, by far the most common, brutal divisions stoked are race-based divisions. Throughout American history, The powerful have constantly stoke racial divisions, because a united people would reject the failed societies that give much to the few while forcing the rest to struggle.
Several times, I found myself researching something I learned from the book. When a book teaches me about history, historical events, and people in such a way as to get me researching, I become a huge fan.
The honesty with which Grandin presents the racism of Jefferson, Washington, and many of the people many pretend founded America was truly refreshing. The truth with which Grandin discusses the vile Andrew Jackson was nice to see. Grandin even fired accurate punches at Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, two very overrated presidents.
Of special interest may be the discussion of NAFTA. Grandin did a good job concisely explaing the decades of history leading to NAFTA and even included some truth about what it has done to Mexico. That’s something we rarely see in American publishing.
While I enjoyed The end of the Myth, I must admit reading it in the context of a Biden Trump campaign for the presidency was discouraging. Even if Biden wins, those of us who are interested in honestly appraising our past and using its teachings to forge a future that doesn’t have to be lied about for centuries will lose. Biden and the leaders in the Democratic Party believe the nonsense around American exceptionalism and they promote America’s virtue; in fact, the only thing Biden promotes more than America’s virtue is his own virtue. Sadly, neither America nor Biden has a virtuous past. Even worse, many white Americans, maybe even a majority of white Americans, want to keep pretending that what they learned in “history” was real.
If you are interested in more of the truth, The end of the Myth will not disappoint.