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The Best Way to Honor Howard Zinn By Ralph Nader

World  (tags: Howard Zinn, tribute, war, historian, human rights, history, veteran, peace, autobiography, Chomsky, world, usa, ethics, world war II, human rights, death, society, memory, ralph nader )

- 3422 days ago -
For sixty years, this Army veteran spoke out against all wars, from Vietnam to Iraq, and others, from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to Indonesian, African and Chinese assaults. Howard Zinn did not choose his injustices. No matter where they came fr


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Brigitte T (69)
Monday February 8, 2010, 1:27 am
Published on Saturday, February 6, 2010 by
The Best Way to Honor Howard Zinn

by Ralph Nader

There are several memorial services and events being planned for Howard Zinn whom The New York Times called a "historian, shipyard worker, civil rights activist and World War II bombardier, when he passed away at age 87 late last month."

His legion of friends, students, admirers and colleagues will be out in force reminding the country about his impact as a civic leader, motivational teacher, author of the ever more popular book A People's History of the United States, and all around fine, compassionate, and level-headed human being.

Judging by similar gatherings for remembering other progressive activists and writers, the encomiums for Professor Zinn, who taught at Spelman College in the late fifties and early sixties (two of his students were Marian Wright Edelman and Alice Walker) and at Boston University until 1988, will be heartfelt, wide-ranging and inspiringly anecdotal.

Receptions will follow and those in attendance will return to their homes, hoping that what Howard Zinn spoke and wrote and how he acted will serve as an example for those who follow his public philosophy of being and doing.

Mr. Zinn's legacy, however, needs more than sweet memories that carry forward the spirit of people. His impact needs more than the adult and youth book version (now in a television miniseries via the History Channel) to continue inspiring what the Times described as "a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history."

How about drawing on the large, national constituency whose lives he has informed honestly and helped improve to support the establishment of the Howard Zinn Institute for Advancing Peace and Justice? Thought and action in a seamless flow toward returning the definition of "freedom" back to the words of Marcus Cicero as "participation in power."

When Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, died in a plane crash in 2002, his children started "Wellstone Action!" with contributions from all over the country, to train citizen organizers to help empower underrepresented communities to engage in civic life. As a result, Senator Wellstone's progressive work to deepen our democracy continues in action year after year.

The life of Howard Zinn did not follow the usual pathways. His experience as a manual laborer and organizer in New York City gave depth to his college and graduate years. He entered New York University at the age of twenty-seven and completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University in his thirties.

Consider the origins of his views on war summarized in his own words:
War is by definition the indiscriminate killing of huge numbers of people for ends that are uncertain. Think about means and ends, and apply it to war. The means are horrible, certainly. The ends, uncertain. That alone should make you hesitate....We are smart in so many ways. Surely we should be able to understand that between war and passivity, there are a thousand possibilities.

Back in World War II, Mr. Zinn was a bombardier in planes that dropped napalm including during a raid over a town in France called Royan. After the war, his sensitivities horrified, Zinn returned to Royan on the ground and interviewed survivors, which included French civilians.

For sixty years, this Army veteran spoke out against all wars, from Vietnam to Iraq, and others, from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to Indonesian, African and Chinese assaults.

Howard Zinn did not choose his injustices. No matter where they came from, he was in opposition. In a poignant tribute of "thank yous" to his regular columnist, Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive Magazine, wrote "Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a Jew who dared to criticize Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, early on."

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, a long-time friend of Zinn, commented on his "amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," noting his "powerful role in helping...the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement."

His two friends from Hollywood, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, took Zinn's history of the downtrodden, the workers, farmers, women, slaves and other minorities, into popular culture, culminating in a television version of the book, The People Speak.

Perhaps, Boston Globe columnist James Carroll touched most personally on Zinn's magnetic persona to so many people. "He had a genius," Carroll wrote, "for the practical meaning of love. That is what drew legions of the young to him and what made the wide circle of his friends so constantly amazed and grateful."

Zinn explained himself in his autobiography, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train. His two greatest disappointments in the past two years were the loss of his wife Roslyn and the performance of Barack Obama. In his last article on the Obama White House, he wrote, "I've been searching hard for a highlight."

Roslyn and Howard Zinn left two children, Myla and Jeff, and five grandchildren. Together with his publisher, Dan Simon of 7 Stories Press, his editor, Matthew Rothschild, his interviewer, Amy Goodman, his associate, Anthony Arnove, and his innumerable writers and fighters for justice, for the principle that the truth is revolutionary, why not a well-funded and staffed Institute, organizing from the neighborhoods on up, as he urged so often, with horizons for all seasons, as befits his vision?

Although the desire to remember is now intense, it is the willpower that implements the thought.

Jean Monnet, the great postwar French civic leader, put the legacy course on track when he asserted that "without people, nothing is possible, but without institutions, nothing is enduring."

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Simon Wood (207)
Monday February 8, 2010, 2:22 am
Good on you for sharing this article with us, Brigitte! : )

Michele DiGiorgi (320)
Monday February 8, 2010, 4:31 am
Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story with us Brigitte! What a beautiful soul Mr.Zinn was, I salute him for his bravery and working so hard for what he believed in. Bless his soul...

Peace to all,

Abdessalam D (145)
Monday February 8, 2010, 5:13 am
Thank you Brigitte. That historian was a great ,honest and brave man. All his students,colleagues,readers and lovers will remember him always for that.

Sheryl G (359)
Monday February 8, 2010, 8:17 am
Having grown up near Boston, MA, most of us were aware of Professor Zinn. He did more in his lifetime than many could do in multiply lifetimes. His was a life well lived, and he certainly left the world a little better for his having been in it.

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday February 8, 2010, 11:42 am
Howard Zinn has the possibility of becoming even greater and more influential after his death, than in life.

As was stated above, more and more and more people are reading his books and becoming familiar with his work.
In reading his books and articles, more and more people are becoming aware of the TRUTH of our History. A "PEOPLE'S" History, indeed!

The *TRUTH* is the *GREATEST WEAPON WE HAVE* against the emotional, vague, Fear-and-Hate-based blatherings of the Far Right, that want to make this country over into a Fascist, "Religiously"-theocratic, autocracy or perhaps one should say, Kleptocracy.

We can counter lies with TRUTH, hate-and-fear-emotion with REASON, vague cliche's with SOLID FACTS.
Howard Zinn has just made it MUCH EASIER to do so!
Howard Zinn emphasized the History of those who generally don't make the official pages of History {and that our generations didn't get in schools!}: the Histories of minority groups, the down-trodden, the poor, the neglected; workers, slaves, ethnic groups, immigrants, women, radicals, and so many others. {I haven't tried to mention them all!}

If there is that March on Washington for our Rights as Citizens that people are talking about on the Internet, possibly to take place on July 4th, 2010:

If this March takes place, I propose it be called the

The GLORIOUS idea of this, is:
The Right Wing nutcases, will naturally attack this March and put it down!
{to distinguish it from activities the Right-wingers and teabaggers are planning also on July 4th, 2010}!

In ATTACKING the March, the Right Wing will be FORCED to say HOWARD ZINN'S NAME over and over again!
Some people will get CURIOUS, "Who's this 'Howard Zinn' they're calling a pinko commie traitor?"
Who knows, his works might even win over a few confused people from the "other side"! As the Buddha would say, "They're not Evil, they're just Ignorant!"
There is no possible way the Right Wing can hurt Howard Zinn, no matter how hard they may try. They'd have to prove him WRONG; and they CAN'T. His scholarship is too impeccable. They'd be FOOLS to try; and it will REBOUND AGAINST THEM.


Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday February 8, 2010, 11:59 am
I haven't followed the Right Wing recently; I imagine they've already spewed a bunch of nonsense over Howard Zinn's death.
I think what they'd REALLY like, is to IGNORE Howard Zinn and his books!

I think it would be terrific, to throw Howard Zinn and his FACTUAL History, as opposed to Right-wing MYTHOLOGY AND LIES, in their faces all the time! so that they CAN'T ignore him!

As I said above, THEY CAN'T HURT HIM.
And the MORE the Public gets to know the name of Howard Zinn, the MORE people will start learning and knowing the TRUTH.
As opposed to the racism, sexism, chauvinism, and all the other Right-wing mythologies based on FALSE READINGS OF HISTORY AND OF REALITY.

So, if we fiendishly-cleverly lure the Right-wing into frequently ATTACKING Howard Zinn......

[See George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant"....]

BMutiny TheCorporationsAreEvil {and didn't Howard Zinn know it!}

greenplanet e (155)
Monday February 8, 2010, 5:46 pm
"all around fine, compassionate, and level-headed human being."

"his philosophy of being and doing"

Howard Zinn is an example of a truly good and thoughtful human being. I wish he was still here, but he leaves a fine legacy and role model.

Tim Redfern (581)
Monday February 8, 2010, 7:53 pm
Howard Zinn did not choose his injustices. No matter where they came from, he was in opposition. In a poignant tribute of "thank yous" to his regular columnist, Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive Magazine, wrote "Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a Jew who dared to criticize Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, early on."
This would be only one of the thousands of things
we need to thank the late and greatly lamented
Professor Dr. Zinn for.

BMutiny, my dear friend, you know as well as I do,
there will NEVER be any "ignoring his books".
Professor Dr. Zinn has already entered that rare pantheon of
individuals who will continue to inspire hundreds of thousands,
if not millions, of people long after his passing.

One slighlty eerie thing to mention:
I recently joined the "Progressive Book Club",
and the first book I purchased was
"A People's History of the United States".
I put the book in a desk drawer while I finished reading
"On The Road" by Jack Kerouack.
When I was ready to read "People's History",
I took it out of the desk drawer, and as I did, the cover tore.
Maybe three hours later, I learned that Professor Dr. Zinn had died.
Tell me that's not weird.

Thanks, Brigitte, for the post,
and thanks to Ralph Nader for a moving tribute.


Past Member (0)
Tuesday February 9, 2010, 4:04 am
Nader and Zinn are the best nonconformists who mean well for everyone and they don't get into biases. Why can't other progressives be like them? It's tough to be a nonconformist without facing the consequences but some of us don't give up just like Howard Zinn and Ralph Nader. Great article.
r4 firmware

Elderberry T (201)
Tuesday February 9, 2010, 5:56 pm
Tx Brigitte...what a wonderful courageous person, he will be missed.

Elisa M (93)
Tuesday February 9, 2010, 6:36 pm

Thank you for the article Brigitte : )

Good Bye (43)
Monday March 22, 2010, 11:47 pm
I read Howard Zinn's first book the week it came out. It was the first history book I ever read that confirmed what my mother and father had told me about the Big Lies in American History. I have been forever grateful to this incredible teacher for having the courage to speak the truth.
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