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Some Vignettes for Thanksgiving

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What many Americans might find perplexing is that I have this affliction that is a result of knowledge. History, politics and government, social science, and more all in some way influence the way that I think about life. Psychologically, I don't just go through the motions and engage in rituals or traditions just because that's what other people do. I have opinions (which I believe many people do too). They are damn hard to suppress.

That said, this holiday I'm thankful for all the things that most people are thankful for. But, what I am not thankful for is a society that celebrates this holiday without regard for the history that is this holiday's foundation. And, since it was this year that the people's historian Howard Zinn died, I find it fitting to honor him by posting some excerpts from an NPR interview he did on November 27, 2003. In the interview, which was conducted by Tavis Smiley, he discussed major omissions in American history:

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SMILEY: Let me talk about the American past and some of those omissions that you've talked about and written about specifically. Our time is limited. Lets first talk about the omissions relative to Native Americans. Can you first give us a snapshot of how the indigenous peoples of this part of the world have been portrayed historically?

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Prof. ZINN: Well, first of all, the treatment of our history with the Indians, with the indigenous population, is a very, weak, inadequate treatment. I remember going to school and, you know, I would learn about the Indians who came to Thanksgiving dinner gratefully, and I would learn about Custer's last stand, you know, I would learn about Sitting Bull. There are a few moments in Indian history we learn about.

What we didn't learn about was the fact that the American colonists who came here from the beginning were invading Indian soil and driving the Indians out of their land and committing massacres in order to persuade the Indians that they had better move. And the history of the United States is a history of hundreds of little wars fought against the Indians, annihilating them, pushing them farther and farther and farther into a smaller and smaller piece of the country, and finally, in the late 19th century, sort of taking the Indians that were left and squeezing them onto reservations and controlling them. I mean, this is the history that is not told in most American textbooks.

The story that's not told is the deceptions that were played on the Indians, the treaties that were made with them and treaties then broken by the American government. It's important to know that because if you know that, then you will become aware that the American government can lie, it can deceive people, it can do it not only in relation to Native Americans, it can do it in relation to all of us.

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Zinn was a man of conscience who understood the importance of history. He understood that the official story that American children learn in school (especially in relation to Thanksgiving) is quite often subjective, not objective. It celebrates what happened with Native Americans around Thanksgiving. As right wing author Laura Ingraham and other conservatives might say, it allows one to get away with not "blaming America."

Nobody really wants to "blame America" or make America guilty. Those like Zinn and myself just want people to not whitewash history or fabricate a reality that is divorced from this nation's real past. In order to do that, though, an American can't rely on an American education, unfortunately. An American citizen has to independently seek out information in a library or get lost in a Google Search browsing writings about what really happened (hopefully looking at materials with some sources or citations that don't just come from Human Events or Glenn Beck's "Arguing with Idiots").

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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