Howard Zinn, we will miss you.

January 28, 2010

I just learned that one of the most influential authors that I have ever read has just passed away.  His name is Howard Zinn.

A young Howard. Maybe at Spelman?

When I read material from Howard Zinn I could feel his passion for what he was writing about. He wrote the real history. The History you never find in books in H.S. and rarely find in college. Every chapter would strike a nerve inside of me of mixed emotions. Could be anger, rage, pride, disgust or just about anything “made of sterner stuff”.

The point was that Howard told the stories that no one else told. He resurfaced events in history that had been washed aside by boring antidotes of “great” men of war and conquest. Events that told the real story. Events that gave you a common man’s perspective of events that preceded or followed the so-called “landmark events” you studied about in class. Sure Washington crossed the Delaware. But who was on the boat with him? And why? And why didn’t this fellow that fought in the Revolutionary War get the money he was promised? Or Howard’s telling of Slave Revolts and how they were the most feared and frequent events of a Southerner’s life. Or of the Strike breakers in Colorado that made me swear off a certain beer forever.

I remember Howard telling the story of his reluctance and regret for dropping bombs (yep, Howard was a War hero) over Germany as a young pilot during WWII. And how those events shaped his life, writings, and politics.

Simply put Howard told the truth through a common persons eyes that no one else knew to tell or wanted to tell.

In fact, Howard Zinn is probably the biggest reason I didn’t pursue a career in politics. It just didn’t seem as honorable as it once had in my life after reading a common person’s history of this country. I had no room for a politician’s compromise. Values were reshaped and Nobility replaced by a proud people’s heart and a worker’s sweat.

Good-bye Howard. I will miss you. America will miss you.

Here is something I found, recently published in the Feb 1st edition of the Nation, on Pres. Obama and his report card for year uno. It might be the last thing written by Howard Zinn about our new President.

Howard Zinn


I’ ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama’s rhetoric; I don’t see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.

As far as disappointments, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that’s hardly any different from a Republican–as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there’s no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people–and that’s been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama’s no exception. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.

I thought that in the area of constitutional rights he would be better than he has been. That’s the greatest disappointment, because Obama went to Harvard Law School and is presumably dedicated to constitutional rights. But he becomes president, and he’s not making any significant step away from Bush policies. Sure, he keeps talking about closing Guantánamo, but he still treats the prisoners there as “suspected terrorists.” They have not been tried and have not been found guilty. So when Obama proposes taking people out of Guantánamo and putting them into other prisons, he’s not advancing the cause of constitutional rights very far. And then he’s gone into court arguing for preventive detention, and he’s continued the policy of sending suspects to countries where they very well may be tortured.

I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president–which means, in our time, a dangerous president–unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.

When I read this… just “Pause and Perspective”.

4 Responses to “Howard Zinn, we will miss you.”

  1. Erik said

    I read about this too. crazy. I guess now it’s the great authors’ death phase. Robert Parker, Howard Zinn and Erich Segal. Always in 3’s…

  2. guenivere said

    His contributions will be missed. In addition to the others E mentioned, my heart is still heavy with the passing of Claude Levi-Strauss as well. Both were quite influential to me during the college years.

  3. Erik said

    And we may now add JD Salinger to the list. Probably the biggest literary name of them all. What is happening?!?!?

  4. chappy81 said

    No way! I remember reading one of his books in a college history class. He’s an amazing historian,and will be missed. His perspective is always true to form, and depicts not what people want to hear, but what actually happened.

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