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Removing America’s Blinders

This full article can be seen at http://www.alternet.org/story/34984/.It is rather lengthy and centers around the idea that if Americans truly knew the history of their country and their culture, they would be much less likely to be deceived by their leaders. Much of the first segment discusses the history of America’s leaders lying about the reasons our country has gone to war, and the last section discusses our erroneous belief in our moral superiority. However, I find the following excerpt, the middle of his essay, a much more intriguing set of points worthy of much discussion.

By Howard Zinn, The Progressive

Posted on April 24, 2006, Printed on April 24, 2006

A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.

We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was “We The People” who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.

Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn’t talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, “Father of the Constitution,” said, 30 years before Marx was born, that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like “national interest,” “national security,” and “national defense” as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that — not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor — is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there — the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be “checks and balances” — do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

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