The book A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell, a professor of History and American Studies at Occidental College is maybe inaugurating a new genre in American History. Russell is a maverick historian whose family come from the Trotskyist left and is very interested in libertarianism, however not a libertarian or a socialist but something in between. In a time when political correctness is dominating left-wing activism on campus, these professor tell a tale that is not going to please a lot of liberals. The premise is that renegades made America great. But who are these renegades?
He writes in the book about prostitutes as the pioneer of women’s rights. Now these is not something that contemporary feminists from Gloria Steinem or Lena Dunham are going to agree since they support banning prostitution. But Russell had some strong arguments, prostitutes were among the first American woman’s in achieve economic independence. A lot of the brothels were managed by madams that not only become wealthy but influential in local politics. Prostitution also broke race segregation of the early since most prostitutes didn’t had problems in offer their services to non-white customers and also there were some Asian, Native American and Black prostitutes as well.
There are some interesting things about race relations. He talks about the fascination with black culture and slavery from White Americans as something that goes beyond the puritan ethics of the time. He talk about ethnic groups like Irish, Italian and Jewish and how they became White Americans after being marginalized Europeans. Irish and Italians join the police, the military and became important politicians while Jews were successfully in business and the academia.
But he also has some strong disagreements with mainstream left-wing historians about the Civil Rights leaders because he consider MLK and others were too puritans and on a lot of issues on the side of conservatives. He made a point that is not necessary understood that the radical Black Power movement was crucial for the achievement of Civil Rights since MLK had the leverage to say to the white political class that could choose between non-violent Cristian Afro-Americans or the dangerous black radicalism.
He talks about how the mafia was fundamental for the LGBT movement since a lot of gay bars used to be ruled by the mafia. But also when he talks about the LGBT movement he spoke about how the early leaders of the movement try to present their self as regular Americans and not crazy queers. About how the early LGBT movement there was a desire of acceptation in the society.
There is also a powerful tale about the similarities between the New Deal liberalism, Italian fascism and German Nazism as totalitarian programs. In which popular leaders use centralized government in the name of progress. He talk about the early good relations of these governments and how the World War II wasn’t a fight of ideology but of geographical influence.
By far Russell has write one of the most interesting books on American history of the last years. His book is Michel Foucault meets Howard Zinn. The history of how some times are not virtuous leaders or courageous activists that had made America a better place but the lowlifes that are more interested in their self than the in country whom however by different ways conquest the liberty that today Americans celebrate.