Tuesday, February 02, 2010

FYI: A Radical Treasure - Howard Zinn


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"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable."

~ President John F.Kennedy ~ Assassinated November 22, 1963


----- Forwarded Message ----
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Sent: Mon, February 1, 2010 6:49:23 PM
Subject: A Radical Treasure - Howard Zinn

A Radical Treasure

By BOB HERBERT Published: January 29, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist


I had lunch with Howard Zinn just a few weeks ago, and
I've seldom had more fun while talking about so many
matters that were unreservedly unpleasant: the sorry
state of government and politics in the U.S., the
tragic futility of our escalation in Afghanistan, the
plight of working people in an economy rigged to
benefit the rich and powerful. Skip to next paragraph

Bob Herbert Go to Columnist Page " Related Howard Zinn,
Historian, Is Dead at 87 (January 29, 2010) Readers'

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Mr. Zinn could talk about all of that and more without
losing his sense of humor. He was a historian with a
big, engaging smile that seemed ever-present. His death
this week at the age of 87 was a loss that should have
drawn much more attention from a press corps that
spends an inordinate amount of its time obsessing
idiotically over the likes of Tiger Woods and John

Mr. Zinn was chagrined by the present state of affairs,
but undaunted. "If there is going to be change, real
change," he said, "it will have to work its way from
the bottom up, from the people themselves. That's how
change happens."

We were in a restaurant at the Warwick Hotel in
Manhattan. Also there was Anthony Arnove, who had
worked closely with Mr. Zinn in recent years and had
collaborated on his last major project, "The People
Speak." It's a film in which well-known performers
bring to life the inspirational words of everyday
citizens whose struggles led to some of the most
profound changes in the nation's history. Think of
those who joined in -- and in many cases became leaders
of -- the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the
civil rights movement, the feminist revolution, the gay
rights movement, and so on.

Think of what this country would have been like if
those ordinary people had never bothered to fight and
sometimes die for what they believed in. Mr. Zinn
refers to them as "the people who have given this
country whatever liberty and democracy we have."

Our tendency is to give these true American heroes
short shrift, just as we gave Howard Zinn short shrift.
In the nitwit era that we're living through now, it's
fashionable, for example, to bad-mouth labor unions and
feminists even as workers throughout the land are
treated like so much trash and the culture is so
riddled with sexism that most people don't even notice
it. (There's a restaurant chain called "Hooters," for
crying out loud.)

I always wondered why Howard Zinn was considered a
radical. (He called himself a radical.) He was an
unbelievably decent man who felt obliged to challenge
injustice and unfairness wherever he found it. What was
so radical about believing that workers should get a
fair shake on the job, that corporations have too much
power over our lives and much too much influence with
the government, that wars are so murderously
destructive that alternatives to warfare should be
found, that blacks and other racial and ethnic
minorities should have the same rights as whites, that
the interests of powerful political leaders and
corporate elites are not the same as those of ordinary
people who are struggling from week to week to make
ends meet?

Mr. Zinn was often taken to task for peeling back the
rosy veneer of much of American history to reveal
sordid realities that had remained hidden for too long.
When writing about Andrew Jackson in his most famous
book, "A People's History of the United States,"
published in 1980, Mr. Zinn said:

"If you look through high school textbooks and
elementary school textbooks in American history, you
will find Jackson the frontiersman, soldier, democrat,
man of the people -- not Jackson the slaveholder, land
speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers,
exterminator of Indians."

Radical? Hardly.

Mr. Zinn would protest peacefully for important issues
he believed in -- against racial segregation, for
example, or against the war in Vietnam -- and at times
he was beaten and arrested for doing so. He was a man
of exceptionally strong character who worked hard as a
boy growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression. He
was a bomber pilot in World War II, and his experience
of the unmitigated horror of warfare served as the
foundation for his lifelong quest for peaceful
solutions to conflict.

He had a wonderful family, and he cherished it. He and
his wife, Roslyn, known to all as Roz, were married in
1944 and were inseparable for more than six decades
until her death in 2008. She was an activist, too, and
Howard's editor. "I never showed my work to anyone
except her," he said.

They had two children and five grandchildren.

Mr. Zinn was in Santa Monica this week, resting up
after a grueling year of work and travel, when he
suffered a heart attack and died on Wednesday. He was a
treasure and an inspiration. That he was considered
radical says way more about this society than it does
about him.


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