In Memory of Howard Zinn, z”l

I’ve been reading and listening to Howard Zinn’s work since learning of his death last week – and I’m become increasingly saddened at just what we’ve lost in his passing.  Here are just a few pieces that have moved me tremendously:

– Click above to see a clip in which Zinn  shares his thoughts on human nature and aggression.

– My friend Mark Braverman has posted a powerful and important piece by Zinn on the legacy of the Holocaust. An exerpt:

I would never have become a historian if I thought that it would become my professional duty to go into the past and never emerge, to study long-gone events and remember them only for their uniqueness, not connecting them to events going on in my time. If the Holocaust was to have any meaning, I thought, we must transfer our anger to the brutalities of our time. We must atone for our allowing the Jewish Holocaust to happen by refusing to allow similar atrocities to take place now—yes, to use the Day of Atonement not to pray for the dead but to act for the living, to rescue those about to die.

– One of his many columns for The Progressive, this one published four days after 9/11:

We need to imagine that the awful scenes of death and suffering we are now witnessing on our television screens have been going on in other parts of the world for a long time, and only now can we begin to know what people have gone through, often as a result of our policies. We need to understand how some of those people will go beyond quiet anger to acts of terrorism.

We need new ways of thinking. A $300 billion dollar military budget has not given us security. Military bases all over the world, our warships on every ocean, have not given us security. Land mines and a “missile defense shield” will not give us security. We need to rethink our position in the world. We need to stop sending weapons to countries that oppress other people or their own people. We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians of the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times.

Our security can only come by using our national wealth, not for guns, planes, bombs, but for the health and welfare of our people – for free medical care for everyone, education and housing guaranteed decent wages and a clean environment for all. We can not be secure by limiting our liberties, as some of our political leaders are demanding, but only by expanding them.

We should take our example not from our military and political leaders shouting “retaliate” and “war” but from the doctors and nurses and medical students and firemen and policemen who have been saving lives in the midst of mayhem, whose first thoughts are not violence, but healing, not vengeance but compassion.

Zichrono Livracha – may the memory of this righteous man be for a blessing.  And may we continue his work of bearing witness through our words and deeds…

3 thoughts on “In Memory of Howard Zinn, z”l

  1. So glad to see your tribute to Prof. Zinn. He often toiled off the mainstream news grid, but he was and remains a true national treasure. He, along with Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, have worked tirelessly their whole lives in the name of humanity, speaking truth to power. Without their utter compassion for people, combined with their patient plying of logic, reason and peace, they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they have.

  2. I would like to add to these inspiring words – with a prayer for ridding America’s streets of GUNS. The NRA and gun lobbies now have an OPEN CARRY policy. Gun toting individuals walking into stores armed, to prove their disgusting point.

  3. Howard Zinn has had an enormous impact on the way history is now taught in the United States (and indeed, beyond). More than anyone, he has helped us collectively recognize the powerful role of ordinary citizens in the making of history and the need to confront and explore competing narratives. I agree with Kate, he is a national treasure.

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