October 28, 2008


By guest blogger, Jeff Gallus

We all know the story of Chicken Little and how the moral of the story is to not always believe everything you hear. For many of us, this can be quite difficult because we are taught from a very early age to take information at face value (i.e. – teachers, media, family members, etc.). At the very least, most of us go from grades K-12 without questioning our sources of information. For some of us, we reach a point in our lives where we learn that we have to dig a little deeper to find the truth.

For me, that point came very early in my college career…I remember that day so vividly because it was the day that forced me to strip away my foundation and anything I ever learned about “our” great country…America.

I was sitting at brunch with one of my fellow RAs and one of my friends from Afghanistan. Wanting to know why we received the day off from classes, my friend asked me, “Why do Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus?” Everything that I learned in school rushed through my mind:

  • Columbus sailed the world to prove it was not flat. So he hopped aboard the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria…He DISCOVERED America and everyone was happy.
  • Europeans fled mother land in order to escape religious persecution. They decided to come to America. When reaching a giant rock (Plymouth Rock…kind of like the back in the colonial day version of Ellis Island) they realized that the land was inhabited by “Indians.”
  • Europeans turned into Pilgrims
  • The Indians loved the Pilgrims and they had a nice dinner together…we call this Thanksgiving.
  • John Smith married Pocahontas…Disney made millions.
  • America went through a revolutionary war, signed the Declaration of Independence, and called America our own.
  • Colonial America continued to grow in the name of Manifest Destiny…
  • Native Americans lost their land, still had Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but now lived on reservations sanctioned by the Government.

Then it hit me…

Everything I had learned in school had been a bunch of lies or half truths. I had been spoon fed American propaganda that all of my American brothers and sisters (Africans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans) learned during their education. America, according to several generations of white leadership, was a country built off people looking for a new beginning; people with hopes and dreams.

The fact of the matter is that Columbus, during his “discovery” of America, enslaved the natives and killed them if they could not provide him with what he wanted…which was gold. Europeans followed suit, leaving their country to escape from being oppressed and persecuted. They came to America, killed off the natives, and claimed the land in name of Manifest Destiny. America, the land of opportunity and freedom, was built off of oppression, greed, and bigotry…and according to our teachers…God wanted it this way.

Hmmm…really? So…God’s message is to spread hate and kill others in his/her name? That is nonsense. That would be like if George W. Bush used God as an excuse to invade Iraq (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/1007-03.htm).

I hope you are catching on to my sarcasm because I’m laying it on pretty thick.

In all seriousness…

Our entire history consists of oppressing various groups in order to get ahead. We have been conditioned as Americans to believe that it is our right to live our lives as the oppressors. We are apathetic in our approach to create a society that strives for equality and unity of all races, sexes, and religions. These are the seeds that were sewn by our founding fathers; seeds that have grown and been cultivated to represent “our” country and who we are, as Americans, today.

How are we supposed to educate our children about things like racism and hatred when we refuse to accept the fact that “our” country was built off of those exact values? How do we overcome issues of systematic oppression when we fail to question the “truth” we have been given?

No, the sky is not falling, but we do continue to set our future generations up for failure by providing them with the same apathy and social ignorance that has been instilled in us. Now, more so than ever before, we need to shift directions and take action; not only to educate our youth, but also to pave the way for them.

As the Native American proverb goes, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” It is time to live by the words “our” country’s Natives spoke. Let us retrace our steps and learn from our past so that we may create a new path for our future.