Zinn gives us two reasons:
One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.Zinn isn't talking about the history we learn in school - a history subservient to our political leaders - he's talking about history which is honest about the reasons we've gone to war in the past, honest about the ethnic cleansing of American Indians driven from their land, honest about what he calls 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.Our leaders have also convinced many of us that we are morally superior to the world. Those of us who do ask questions or challenge them are labeled unpatriotic or un-American, but what is the idea of our moral superiority based on?
Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than 40 countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison -- more than two million.Why is it important to be honest with ourselves, ask questions, and challenge leadership? Because...
A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.