In memoriam, Howard Zinn, 1922-2010
I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn tonight of the death of Howard Zinn; my thoughts are with his family and his students.
He was one of those academics who made a lasting impression on me. His prose, in his famous People’s History of the United States, was incisive and his flair for exposing hypocrisy in modern American political rhetoric was unsurpassed.
Bush-era jingoism enraged the socialist academic and, in his interviews, he never failed to cut through the revisionist invocations of American history, of that great country’s ‘freedoms’.
Zinn argued instead for a redemptive politics of activism that could never be uniquely American, that would be shared by peoples and activists all over the world.
It is in this context that his opposition to the Vietnam War, and subsequent US military invasions can be set.
For me, he stands in the first rank of American heroes, like Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, Jack London and Upton Sinclair, all of whom he himself looked up to.
Noam Chomsky once paid Zinn tribute in the following terms: “When action has been called for, one could always be confident that he would be on the front lines, an example and trustworthy guide.”
My last thought is that Zinn’s actions and words can be a lesson to us to be like him, to never give up fighting for our ideals. “Small actions, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world.”