Kathleen Norris' Dakota

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Kathleen Norris' Dakota

Kathleen Norris uses small town society to illustrate a much larger phenomenon that occurs in America: The obstruction of truth in the name of progress and patriotism. Norris makes an example of a small Dakota town, the old families ingrained in local society who act as somewhat of a censorship committee, silently fixing the past's blunders and bad dreams so not to discourage themselves or the younger generation:

A good story is one that isn't demanding, that proceeds from A to B, and above all doesn't remind us of the bad times, the cardboard patches we used to wear in our shoes, the failed farms, the way people you love just up and die. It tells us instead that hard work and perseverance can overcome all obstacles; it tells lie after lie, and the happy ending is the happiest lie of all. (85)

Norris mentions the "progress model" and "linear narrative" used in the telling of history. People in Dakota don't want to hear about the countless generations before them who also failed at farming, the once thriving town that are now abandoned completely. They don't want to hear about anybody who failed, or anything bad that happened at all unless things turned out OK in the end. People have a need to hear fixed history to give them a false sense of hope. Even though many of them know it's false, they're willing to accept the fable as truth before facing a painful past.

The larger repercussions of this form of history, is that it misses out on the larger purpose of history. The most important part of history to be told truthfully is the bad part. Imagine our history glazing over Hitler as a crazy guy who acted alone, and forced everybody in Germany to go along with his plan. We need to hear the story that regular people were pulled into his mentality, that random Joe's were converted into Jew-hating murderers.

Unfortunately, American history does have a habit of covering up its history for the sake of offering its younger generations a progress model. In a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen shows how the progress model mode of history telling has covered up many important events in American history to the point that children in public education are graduating high school with extremely warped views of history.
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