(Many thanks to Ed Saavedra for posting this video on Facebook.)
Howard Zinn—political science professor, lauded (and controversial) author, social historian, playwright, and activist, died today at the age of 87.
Dr. Zinn, a Brooklyn-born World War II vet, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants and an educational product of the GI-Bill, represented what is best about America: The transformative force of immigrant parents who raise American kids able and eager to serve the democratic ideals and opportunities of their new nation; respect for our vets and support for policies which ensure that education should be available to them and to all; and the primacy of free speech in a true democracy.
America's virtues empowered Zinn to chronicle our worst vices: A colonial consciousness that made slavery feasible and widespread and continues to dominate foreign policy; a reliance on warfare as a hideously destructive economic system; and a distribution of wealth that makes for useless wealth and numbing poverty. Zinn stood up for civil rights for people of color, women and dissidents, questioned the necessity and humanity of war, and had a goddamn rap sheet to prove it.
Read some Zinn. You may not always agree with him, but unless you're made of stone or entirely indoctrinated by FOX News, you won't remain unchanged.
It's a tough time we're living through; the gap between the rich and poor grows, the long wars we're entrenched in make the kinds of human tragedies Zinn railed against a matter of routine, and the American working class from which Zinn emerged and so often championed has been hornswoggled into a kind of populist delirium that makes not for progress, but for lynchings. There's so very much more work to do, but I think Zinn believed we shall overcome. Let's not let him down.
A couple of great quotes from the man:
There is the past and its continuing horrors: violence, war, prejudices against those who are different, outrageous monopolization of the good earth's wealth by a few, political power in the hands of liars and murderers, the building of prisons instead of schools, the poisoning of the press and the entire culture by money. It is easy to become discouraged observing this, especially since this is what the press and television insist that we look at, and nothing more.
But there is also the bubbling of change under the surface of obedience: the growing revulsion against endless wars, the insistence of women all over the world that they will no longer tolerate abuse and subordination... There is civil disobedience against the military machine, protest against police brutality directed especially at people of color.
--A People's History of the United States, 1999 edition
If those in charge of our society — politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television — can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves. Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology (1991)
You can purchase the full-length documentary on Dr. Zinn from which this clip was taken here. You can buy his groundbreaking book A People's History of the United States here.