Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010
Watching Bill Moyers’ show Friday night I learned that Howard Zinn passed away last week. Zinn was an American author and intellectual who labored in even more obscurity than his friend and neighbor Noam Chomski, if that’s possible. This is not just because his ideas were controversial, outside the homogenized mainstream emitted by America’s corporate-owned media, but because his ideas couldn’t be conveyed in the twenty second clips served up to distracted vidiots.
Zinn grew up in Brooklyn, and served as a bombardier in the Army Air Force in World War II. After the war, he went to college on the G I Bill, and spent the next thirty-two years as a history professor. He was involved in the civil rights and anti war movements as an activist and author. In 1968 Zinn traveled to Viet Nam with Daniel Berrigan, bringing home with them three captured U.S. airmen. While there, he had to shelter in a basement while American B-52’s dropped bombs on Hanoi. He considered this fair treatment for somebody who spent WW II dropping bombs on Europeans.
Dissatisfied with available history texts, he wrote his own, “The People’s History of the United States,” published in 1980, and still selling 100,000 copies a year. I call this book the ‘Losers History of the U S,” as it tells history from the underside; the point of view of the Indians, slaves,immigrants, women, workers, and their centuries long struggle against oppression and inequity. No silver dollars and chopping down cherry trees here, this book tells the whole bloody story of how we became the country we are today, and how we might progress as a people, if we dare.
Moyers ended his tribute with a clip from Zinn’s last appearance on his show,(see it here http://willienelsonpri.com/peace/5240/the-people-speak-howard-zinn-on-moyers-journal.html)where he promoted a film project from his book, shown on The History Channel last month and due to be released on DVD in the coming weeks. He left off with this quote:
“Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”