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Presents:

American Myths - and their realities

Introduction & Links to 10 false myths that shaped your life

By Rey Barry


Wisdom begins with unlearning what we were taught
My father

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie
- deliberate, contrived, and dishonest -
but the myth
-persistent, pervasive, and unrealistic
John F. Kennedy

Every nation sees itself as superior to all other nations. Patriotism is universal. It is built partly on fact but mostly on myths created by its people and government.

Americans believe we are superior to other nations and can tell you why. Britishers think they are superior and can tell you why. Germans are convinced they are and can, with apologies, tell you why. The French believe it more firmly than most, though they are unsure why.

That doesn't stop France from requiring that every nation must print its passport in French. Kiss their arrogant ass or you can't enter their country. (The only other country with that arrogant requirement is the USA.)

The people of Libya, a country three times the size of France and a sponsor of what Americans call international terrorism, believe leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi is the greatest living person, and believe their nation is the world leader in moral values as a freedom fighter.

They believe it so completely that people who study these things, like the CIA, rate Libyans the most patriotic people on earth.

Everyone with a god is convinced it sides with them. On that reliance will muslims and U.S. Marines each lay down their lives for a cause, and parents sacrifice their children.

Patriotism is exaggerations pleasant to believe dunned into our heads. "Be very, very careful what you put into that head, because you will never, ever get it out," warned Thomas Cardinal Wolsey in the 16th century, a wise man we still quote today.

There is no memory gene. Every baby is a clean slate. Patriotism must be drilled into young minds if children are to grow up willing to die for the homeland. (Calling it Fatherland or Motherland makes it easier to die for.)

"We are the best" is in education codes throughout the world. All countries require school texts to promote their kind of government, their economic system, their nation as superior. For the US, the legal code in Texas supplies the typical mantra: schools are to indoctrinate "democracy, patriotism, and the free-enterprise system."

Convincing people they are the greatest and their government worth dying for is easy. Every government is successful. Children believe authority. First interpret history so you look good, then create myths of moral superiority. Your young are now willing to die for you unless someone re-programs them. Which isn't easy. As Mark Twain observed, "You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into."

We are raised on lies to serve our country. Some are incidental; some are deliberate. Government, too, knows the simple rule on which advertising is based: the Big Lie. Base your ad on what the product doesn't have. Proclaim loudly that your weakest point is the strongest. It works. People believe you.

Example? Most everyone on the planet has seen the Energizer Bunny beat his drum claiming his alkaline battery "will keep going and going and going." Longevity is Energizer's whole advertising campaign. Is it true?

No. Independent testing organizations like Consumer's Union report the Energizer has the - shortest - life of the major alkaline batteries. So they advertise it's the longest, and that's perfectly legal. Advertising agencies exist because of their creativity with the Big Lie. J.D. Powers, for example, turned distorting surveys into a science.

The crime for which Socrates was condemned to die by hemlock poisoning was "making the worse appear the better cause." That was then. In today's world that specific activity is a lawyer's stock in trade and the aim of most Political Action Committees (PACs) and lobbyists. We're so used to being told by authority that wrong is right that juries trusted to do the right thing can be persuaded to blind themselves and turn obvious murderers loose. OJ Simpson was the most notable.

Here are some examples of American history bunk our country thrives on.

Your school history book told you the British burned the US capital during the War of 1812. Poor, mistreated us. Neither the book nor the teacher told you we burned Canada's capital the year before and the Brits were settling the score. That's why you just learned that. No one told the teachers either. Our moral superiority to the British evaporates if history isn't doctored to make us look good.

Every nation must alter its history. True history would show bad as well as good, a no-no.

Consider Emma Lazarus's words on America's Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Emma well knew the rest of the story but couldn't tell it:
"And I will build a nation on their toil at minimum wage, and exploit their vulnerabilities, and provide those among them willing to oppress their own with the opportunity for field promotion."

No dream is free. To dream we forsake reality. Dreams come true only for those who wake up.

For the most part those immigrants were people who left home because they had nothing. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. They came from the group that hadn't made it, or lost what they had and chose to start anew in a new land.

In truth our forebears were largely Europe's losers and those Africans whose chiefs captured and sold them.

We glamorize them because some deserve it. Those who were strong did not take losing lying down, for which they deserve respect.

Does that explain why so many Americans find it easier to bond with incompetent politicians and oppose the best and brightest? Democracy allows people to choose leaders they can relate to. The flaws of who we elect mirror our own flaws.

We aren't taught that. Instead, children believe leaders are wise. Few ever reach the first step to true knowledge - unlearning what we were taught.

For example, we, and black people in particular, were taught that Lincoln fought the Civil War to end slavery. Is that true? Absolutely not. Slavery didn't motivate Lincoln, as every Lincoln scholar knows. Among his scores of letters making this clear is the one published by newspaper editor Horace Greeley in which the president says:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that also ..." [1862]

Another example.

Historians writing textbooks love President Woodrow Wilson. They relate to him. He was a college professor and the president of Princeton before he entered politics. Unlike most politicians, he came from the intellectual side of town, my side. They idolize him as America's philosopher-king, as indeed he was.

Historians praise his championing the League of Nations. He undertook a noble and costly fight for a good cause that appealed to historians, so the school textbooks they write tell us about it terms aglow.

But textbook writers fall short of telling us that Wilson, a southerner raised during the racist jim crow era, brought racism -back- into government hiring, and was one of the most racist presidents of all time. Some male historians who mention it say his wife was to blame. Is it not acceptable anymore for a philosopher-king to be racist?

Textbook writers also do not tell us that on the sidewalk outside Wilson's White House was a permanent circle of women gathered around a fire making a spectacle for the press of burning Wilson's speeches. Why? Woodrow Wilson, philosopher-king, was the most powerful voice of his day arguing -against- giving women the vote.

Historians couch in soft terms, if they even mention it, that Wilson sought campaign contributions and support from the most despicable big money self-interests in the nation. Then he repaid them by sending US Marines to invade more countries south of us than any President before or since. The purpose? Exploitation.

Woodrow Wilson was the father of banana republics, that league of cruel and corrupt nations south of us beholden to United Fruit and other US business interests.

The philosopher-king validated the concept of colonialism-without-responsibility. Wilson's policies destroyed the chance for successful democracies in South and Central America - and the lives of millions - by giving big landowners everything, plus the firepower to keep it.

To stay in the White House, the philosopher-king knowingly allowed himself to be used by evil interests for evil purposes, and knew it. This conflicts with the values we extol, especially the belief intellectuals are morally superior, or at least moral. Are they? Woodrow Wilson wasn't.

Was it so important that Wilson be re-elected? His campaign slogan for re-election was "He kept us out of war," and Americans thanked him for that by voting for him. But once re-elected, he took us into the war, causing the death of 116,500 American boys and the wounding of 204,000.

Would it damage Wilson's credibility as the philosopher-king and the champion of the League of Nations to teach a balanced view of him? Absolutely. It would raise issues about his motives. It would teach us that philosopher-kings use lying, corruption, and opportunism just like other politicians.

And most of all, it would let ordinary people see a side of US morality they're not supposed to see, not if Marines are expected to die for our morality. Government demands unquestioned loyalty. "But Sire ..." is not music to the king. "But Sir ..." is not music to the command.

Everyone in the US learns that President George Washington is called the father of his country, was an important military leader, and thinks he had wooden teeth (which he didn't.) We know he lived at Mount Vernon; we know his wife's name was Martha. We may even know he was a wealthy slave owner. But our history books avoid telling us how the first president earned his living, and why he became widely known in his day. Do you know?

George Washington was the largest distiller and supplier of rye whiskey in the country. A culture awash in hypocrisy like ours doesn't want us to associate the father of our country with booze.

We are taught so many myths. We rely on our cliches as truth. "No two snow flakes are alike." Generations of teachers told you that. In the 21st century at least one self-proclaimed "snow flake scholar" is claiming it's true, despite that only a few thousand flakes have been catalogued out of the yearly trillions that fall.

Ok, pay attention new age flake scholars like Ken Libbrecht of Caltech, because mis-education blinded you to common sense within the grasp of cavemen.

The number of snow flakes is limitless; the number of unique 6-pointed crystal designs is not. No two alike? Quite the opposite. With infinite time to create snow flakes, every snow flake design will be duplicated an infinite number of times. [Long after I wrote this they discovered in 2009 that some snow flakes are triangular. They will likely discover other shapes. But they will never put to pasture the myth that no two snowflakes are alike.]

Here's another favorite. The rotation of the earth controls which way water swirls down the toilet, clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the northern.

Your science teacher told you that, as do most science programs on TV. That's another myth we all believe. What's the truth? The rotation of the earth - the cariolis effect - is too weak to affect small bodies of water. North or South, it can gurgle down to the left or the right. Check it out with the Library of Congress and then test it yourself, as I did.

We think everyone in science is intelligent, possibly the effect of seeing a few high school science stars. Not true. The stupid and the average, no less than the brighter ones, can major in a science. Actually, most workers in scientific fields are average people with specialized training.

So it's no surprise to hear scientists claim, to pick a common example so many are guilty of, that a planet without water cannot sustain life. Of course it can; just not life forms that need water. But it takes intelligence to see beyond your own kind.

Astronomers one after another tell us that the orbs they discover "have no life" when they have seen nothing but a sample of the surface. Life cannot exist underground? Of coure it can. Earth itself has complex life forms like worms living a mile below ground. (We only discovered them in 2010.)

It's science fiction that requires intelligence. Actual science is 95% training - following formulas and repetition. So it's no surprise to find just as much religion and superstition among scientists as in any group.

Most Americans, scientists and engineers included, believe 13 is an unlucky number. Multi-story buildings are built with the 13th floor labeled 14, evidence of the power of stupidity.

Unlucky? Our country began with 13 colonies and had 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 13 stripes on our flag, and 13 letters in "E Pluribus Unum." The most powerful nation on earth was built on the number 13. It's especially absurd for African Americans to have triskaidekaphobia (fear of 13) since the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

Were it not for generations of dimwits passing on superstitions to children, Americans would associate 13 with patriotism and good luck. It would be our national number.

13 letters in a name? Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears. The 13th element in the Periodic Table: Aluminum. The 13th US president: Millard Fillmore who died peacefully at 74 after founding the SPCA.

Myths take many forms. Would Ralph Lauren have his name on our clothes if he hadn't changed it from Ralph Lipschitz? Could John Wayne have become heroic as Marion Morrison? Would Judy Garland make hearts throb as Frances Gumm? Would Jon Stewart make it on Comedy Central if he had remained Jon Liebowitz? Could Florence Nightingale Graham have sold cosmetics without becoming Elizabeth Arden?

Here are ten myths indoctrinated into American minds which are not true. Which do you feel is better, perpetuating myths or telling the truth? You know where I stand.

Choose and enjoy.

"The US separates church and state"
"Justice will triumph"
"We have self-government"
"You cannot be forced to incriminate yourself"
"Americans have free speech"
"Americans have free radio and TV"
"No man is above the law"
"Corporate political contributions aren't bribery"
"The best is yet to come"
"Abner Doubleday originated baseball"

The name Freeware Hall of Fame is Service Marked by Rey Barry (rey at cstone.net)
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