American History 101
I was born in the US, and have lived here a great majority of my life. I was raised with the same stories most Americans are raised hearing; the old familiar tales of how the “greatest country on earth” came to be. I was taught to be patriotic, to be loyal. I was taught to love the flag and the Star Spangled Banner, and Davey Crocket and Abraham Lincoln. We threw off the weight of the tyranny of King George III and fashioned an incredible and majestic nation the likes of which the world has never known.
This would be great and all, if it wasn’t precipitated on a complete, boldfaced lie.
History, as We’d Like to Believe it
You see, pretty much everything we’re taught about American history is false. Complete and utter hogwash. Squanto helped the Pilgrims, it’s true. It’s also true that he did so because he came back to where his village was, and everyone he knew was dead and gone. In their place, in his village were the invaders. He still helped them out. Just before the famous settlements at Jamestown and others, a plague brought by the Europeans wiped out most of the population of Natives all along the coast. What had been a thickly populated area of Natives, with a society and people no more primitive than the Europeans who came, was reduced to a shadow of its former self in record time thanks to the greatest genocide ever known to humankind.
Christopher Columbus raped, pillaged, and end enslaved the natives he met. From the very beginning this country was not founded on an idea of freedom, but one of racism, slavery and theft. Within a few years of the settling of what is now the US, slaves from the West coast of Africa would arrive, beginning the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It would not end for hundreds of years.
Slaves, packed into the bottom of the ships, dying as they lay chained in their own filth, not even able to move. The stifling hot cabin making them pass out. Millions died in the infamous “Middle Passage.” If they tried to refuse the gruel they were given to keep them alive, preferring death over their horrible conditions, the slave traders would force them to eat with this:
It’s called a Speculum Oris, or “mouth opener”. It was forced violently into the slave’s mouth to pry his mouth open; which would then give the opportunity for the slave trader to pour the gruel down the slave’s throat. It only cost the slave a few teeth to do this, to deny him the right to die.
These slaves built the material wealth of the US. The founders of the US owned slaves whose ancestors had been brought over from Africa, from their homes and their villages and their families. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —” himself owned hundreds of slaves. Obviously he either didn’t consider slaves people, or he didn’t believe the words he wrote.
That’s not all. Immigrant workers, sharecroppers, oppressed and poor people of all nationalities built the country. All while the high minded plutocrats convinced the poor men and boys to die for their country. From the Trail of Tears, to the Transcontinental railroad, America has been built on the backs of the oppressed, while those in power reap all the rewards.
Why Historical Revisionism?
The question is then, why this cult of America? Why do we speak of “Un-Americanism” as if there was some high cosmic ideal that we all were assigned to live under at our birth? Why are we shackled to the unending propaganda that somehow, the US is better, more moral, more just than any other country, when by any stretch of the imagination it’s not?
To keep you enslaved. You are enslaved. You most likely don’t own your own business. Even if you do, the bank probably owns it on paper. You work your whole life to make a living. Most people don’t think that they’ll ever get filthy rich, but they’d like a nice lifestyle. They want a decent place to live, enough food to eat, entertainment. They want to send their children to school, to college. They want to pursue their dreams. Most can’t. Most are left living vicariously through TV; seeing their favorite celebrity wear the clothes they’ll never see, let alone buy. Their idols making more money than 100 lifetimes of normal work. They go to work every day, putting in time, selling the only commodity they have. Their life.
They have the freedom to choose what job to have! You may say. They don’t have much choice though, nor can they choose how much they’re going to make. To even own a home, they must put themselves in 30 years of debt. A car for transportation is also expensive, even if you’re buying used. Food prices through the roof. After all they pay for, maybe there’s some left over for a small amount of entertainment in your small amount of free time.
Day after day after day. Eat work sleep eat work sleep. You buy and you buy but you can’t fill the empty void inside you. You’re not living. You’re going through the motions of a robot. You’re nothing more than a commodity who makes the rich richer.
Then, the 4th of July comes. Red, white and blue are everywhere. Bunting hung on porches, flags flown from the eaves, the smell of gunpowder fills the air as we blow things up in celebration of our great country. We celebrate all the good that America is. The next day you go back to your soul crushing job. You make money for the rich capitalists, and barely make it through. Forget saving enough for your kids to get a good education, they’ll have to accumulate years worth of debt to achieve anything. Maybe they can join the military, they’ll be lauded as heroes as they try not to die for imperialist causes. Maybe if they make it out alive, they can go to college, still barely making it, to get a soul crushing job that won’t even pay for their kid’s education. Rinse, repeat, cash your little check.
Never though, do we teach our kids the truth of the horrible genocidal history of their country. We wouldn’t want them to question the country they were born into. We wouldn’t want them to think critically about their country. We wouldn’t want to progress beyond the politics of the 18th century. No, we stubbornly assert that we are the best in the world. Our cities crumble. We have trains systems from 50 plus years ago as the rest of the world moves forward. We talk about freedom while millions of our citizens are incarcerated in the horrible hell hole called the US prison system. The prison building companies get rich, the war profiteers get rich, the Wall St. gamblers get rich. The working mother struggling to feed her family falls into depression. The country moves on, continuing the centuries of exploitation and wage slavery. Those who work the hardest can barely survive, while the rich live off their trust funds. They go to Harvard and Yale, where they get set up for a life of luxury. Don’t worry, you can make it too. Just think of people like Bill Gates, he was a college dropout. OK, so his father is a rich attorney who sent him to the most prestigious school in the Seattle area, then to Harvard. Don’t worry about the fact that he had his daddy’s money to live on while he was busy stealing other’s ideas to make Microsoft. I’m sure if you “work hard enough” you can make it too.
The Way Out of Poverty
So why are so many Americans enslaved? Unable to break through the bullshit story of our past? Unable to see through the decades of propaganda? We are shackled to our propaganda, unable to think, unable to move. We believe vehemently that we are merely a step away from financial freedom. As our homes are taken, as we fail to pay our bills and they pile up, we keep telling ourselves that one day, we’ll catch a break, that all will be OK. To paraphrase the great John Steinbeck, we are convinced that we are temporarily displaced millionaires, not the oppressed proletariat. They have a hold on our minds, our labor and our very being. We are naught but cogs in the wheels of their machinery, making the money flow on the oil of the worker’s blood, sweat and tears.
It needn’t be this way. We shouldn’t have to live in a bleak world, looking to the future, not with hope, but with dread. We should be the masters of our ship, the guardians of our souls. We should realize that the very bounty of the earth is ours for the plucking. That we can live in harmony and peace. It will not be easy. It will not come through pleading and praying and begging. It will come by asserting the rights of all humanity. The right to food, the right to clothing, the right to an education and to health care. We deny the right of capitalists to hoard unlimited amounts of wealth to the detriment of the rest of society. We reject the capitalist idea of property rights, that one person or company can monopolize a portion of the means of production necessary for everyone’s livelihood. We assert that we can build a better world through the unity, strength and work of the proletariat. We assert that all humanity is one brotherhood. We the proletariat, have no country. We are internationalists, who want the best for everyone, not just a few.
The only way forward is educating the working class. Tell them of the real history of the US. Tell them of the real nature of the material conditions. Talk to them about their problems. Help each other as much as you can. The only way that the world is going to change, is through a revolution of the mind, first and foremost. The material conditions for revolution are already here, we just need to show them to the world. The only way things are going to change, is by the forcible overthrow of all social conditions, and the end of the United States of America as we know it. Be brave. Be happy. A better future awaits.
“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”