Sunday, January 31, 2010

Death of Twentieth Century Icon

"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"

So begins a wonderful eulogy by Bob Herbert in the New York Times, with the title A Radical Treasure, for Howard Zinn, whose death was ignored by the news media, that same media that spent much time eulogizing the reclusive J.D. Salinger, a one novel writer, whose Catcher in the Rye was a teen-age favorite in the sixties. He then became a recluse and his novel is rarely read now; it was outdated by the seventies. Howard Zinn, on the other hand was a bomber pilot in WWII, which experience influenced him, as it did Kurt Vonnegut, who also died receently, to be a life-long anti-war activist. He was a also a civil rights activist and always worked to advance the rights of the working class. His activism caused him to be labeled as a "commie" and a "radical". He was a professor at Boston College in Political Science from 1964 to 1988 and wrote twenty books over his lifetime. In the eighties he wrote and published the book that I found to be most interesting and enlightening: "The People's History of the United States". I have read this huge book not all at once, but by dropping into it and reading about a specific period in our history that I was then interested in. The history books I was provided in the forties were a celebration of the country as always noble and its historical figures as heroic.. Even now there is much elevation in the history being taught to students of certain periods and personalities over the actual truth of the matter. Bob Herbert wrote about a specific president whose photo is on our currency in the following paragraph"

"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".

A comment on the Herbert article: by Juanita from Meriden, CT follows:

"That he was considered radical says more about this society than it does about him". It surely does. We have a blind spot. Whenever a movement for social justice for the lower classes rises, we always seem to look for "Commies under the bed". We don't notice the radical rightwing takeover of our country by the corporate rich until their overreaching greed nearly brings down our whole financial system."

There are radicals of all stripes now trying to influence, in fact, take over our society and the really radical right wing of the Supreme Court just ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals in influencing elections..

If you haven't been exposed to Howard Zinn's history you should check it out at the library. You will be surprised at how we have been mislead about our history. This book does not make assertions that can't be proven; there are footnotes that can be used to find his sources, and the truth.

1 comment:

Will (Astra Navigo) said...

Zinn was truly a great man. I didn't always agree with him, but his reasoning was always sound.

He will be missed.