American history is not what it seems (it goes). Conversation with Bergamini

American history is not what it seems (it goes).  Conversation with Bergamini

Oliviero Bergamini He is a deputy director News 24 and author History of the United States (the third). A book born in 2002, re-edited in 2010 and now updated to the end of 2022, it is an ideal guide for first-timers and those looking for an excellent review of the 500 years that changed. stream of the world.

What has changed in these twenty years? Not only in the United States, but also in American historiography. From 2002 to today, a “school” has taken root that wants to give a different reading of history, and to give more space to the perspective of minorities, to those who remained in the back of power and narrative in these centuries of great riding.

We can start from the covers. The first edition had a picture of some victorious Americans with a Stars and Stripes flag, all white. For the second time, in 2010, there was an Obama victory, and we chose a picture with a strong presence of the African American people. In the last flag there is a fuzzy flag moving in the wind, slightly tattered. The way we look at US history has changed.

For example with project 1619 from The New York Times …

Yes, on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in Virginia, they attempted to revisit the entire history of the United States with a very strong, controversial and controversial thesis, that slavery was the most important factor, more than any other. Others, in shaping the American path. The American Revolution, the great founding myth, has also been reinterpreted. At the end of the eighteenth century, the colonies rebelled against the motherland, thus setting the path for modern liberal bourgeois democracy, and also inspiring France. According to a re-read of “1619,” most of the Founding Fathers did this to prevent Britain from freeing their slaves, a move London assumed to suppress the first forms of rebellion of the American colonists. Or again, it was African Americans, who were not oppressed at all, but rather an active, creative, energetic part, who with their struggles led the success of civil rights being “awarded” by a ruling elite that was mainly white. Racism, but only to defuse deeper social changes.

Was the New Deal, considered a turning point after the Great Depression, re-read?

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It has thus far been seen as a key event for building a more inclusive democracy, with public investment and state intervention to protect the weakest, and has been criticized in two ways. From the environmental point of view, in particular with regard to the great electrification works of the Tennessee Valley, with the emergence of millions of people from the rural Middle Ages through the construction of dams, but also because of the disruption of the ecosystem and the imposition of “external cultural models”. On the social side, by explaining how it works State-guaranteed home-buying mortgages A policy that black families have been barred from pursuing throughout red lining, the red lines on maps identified neighborhoods inhabited by African Americans deemed at risk of bankruptcy and thus excluded from funding by government agencies. In those years, according to the new reading, the massive gap in wealth that clearly existed with slavery and that still exists today was institutionalized.

book comes to mind, American Nations, which chronicles the waves of immigration and communities that make up the United States, it makes sense of how the dynamics of the 1960s and 18th century still have an impact today. If the territory had been colonized by German farmers, Irish ex-convicts or English landowners, today it would have characteristics related to this. legacyEven in the most dynamic and multifaceted country on the planet.

Even today, if you meet an Italian American, even of the fourth or fifth generation, he will make himself known Italian, is not Italian-American or of Italian descent. It’s also nostalgic roots, because sometimes one’s idea of ​​Italy is completely out of touch with reality, and that’s true of all societies. However, in the great change of society, racial dynamics are still fundamental. New York City has Korea, where there are not only Korean restaurants and bars, but also a community-based taxi service: many young Koreans do not use regular taxis, but use a community transportation service that is considered safer, especially for girls. There is a subway line that allows you to travel around the world in one stop: you can go from the ghetto of the Orthodox ghetto to the ghetto of Russians and Koreans … It is true that New York is not America, but in New York there is America, as they say, on steroids.

Will the ethnic and social fragmentation remain?

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Yes, in spite of everything, there are few mixed marriages, and fragmentation has also become political. This is another phenomenon that can be listed in connection with the first edition: radicalization. On the other hand, this country that witnessed a war of secession in which 600,000 people died, equivalent to 6 million today’s population. It was the real Great American War. I don’t think it will happen again, but internal conflicts flared up again and I tried to tell them in the book.

Which comes after the attack on the Capitol building, Trump’s failure to recognize Biden’s victory, and even the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Between that, China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and the years when the United States thought it could be a “responsible player” in the international community. What happened in the meantime? Do they understand that this type of approach has gotten out of hand, and now they find a systemic competitor not just on the doorstep, but inside the house, embedded in their value chains?

definitely. In 2002 we were still in the exhilarating phase of globalization, which has its roots in American history: the idea that what the United States does, what it shows, will be what others will converge on sooner or later, because they consider themselves the best country in the world. the world. the world. Thus open liberal capitalism would have been contagious and brought democracy with it. If we open up to China, it will become rich, and wealth will bring capitalist development and liberal enterprises. Obviously that didn’t happen. It was Trump – and this must be admitted – that, already when he was an entrepreneur, raised the question of “suicidal” agreements with China, which on the one hand honestly grew, and on the other used incorrect techniques, such as the transfer of technology from American companies operating with china.

What is Biden’s bet in the face of the Chinese threat?

Re-establish American productive autonomy, and reduce dependence on Asia. The irony is that rather than weakening Chinese authoritarianism, globalization has strengthened it, because all of the massive technological innovations that were born in America have been used by Beijing to create a complete surveillance state.

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However, even the Beijing government has been unable to manage the runaway technological race, so much so that it has pushed the government to “commission” large digital companies and remove tycoons (see the Jack Ma case). So today, if you are a bright student or a freshman full of ideas, you will still be attracted to the Western system, while the Chinese system has always hidden the danger of expropriation by the Communist Party.

In fact, there are far more Chinese students who go to study in the United States than vice versa. So much so that today there is a revision of visa procedures, because educating people at a very high level who then come home and compete with you is not a great idea. It should also be emphasized that China was not the cradle of technological innovation: it produced things that others had well invented. Many years ago I spoke to an American diplomat who said, “We are calm, sooner or later China will collapse because it will not be able to guarantee an annual growth of 8%, which is the level required to ensure the exchange of welfare.” and political freedom.”

With a little bit of real estate and financial steroids, he was able to make it happen for the time being.

Despite the slowdown in recent years, China continues to grow faster than others. We are facing a colossal, brilliant competition for world domination, a multi-level chess game: technological, financial and military: China has launched 2-3 aircraft carriers, the United States has 12-13 carriers, and from here he still understands the advantage of the Americans. which has great resilience. They’ve been knocked down so many times, in the 1980s it should have been Japan that overtook them, but it didn’t. It will be interesting to meet again after 20 years and see how things turn out. I hope the book helps to understand that everything has historical roots, and to focus on the dynamics that we talked about.

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