In Memory of Howard Zinn

Written by Nell Greenberg

Topics: Profiles

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The progressive movement suffered a huge loss today. Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian, political activist and writer died of a heart attack today in Santa Monica, Calif.

In honor of Dr. Zinn, I thought I would share a bit of his writing that I have kept on hand to continually remind me about the true role of citizens. I keep this on my desktop to ward off the politics of compromise and inspire me to always speak for what is right not just what is winnable.

This comes from an article he wrote during the Bush Era about the timetable for ending the Iraq war, but I have found it fitting on many occasions. And particularly just before President Obama delivers the State of the Union it is something worth holding close.

We are not politicians, we are citizens. Let the politicians advocate half-way measures if they choose, but only after they have felt the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is winnable in a shameful timorous Congress. Timetables for withdrawal are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed things up, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical. If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite — provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence — they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home. If Congress thinks it must compromise, let it. But we should not encourage that. We should speak our minds fully, boldly and say what is right, whatever they decide to do..

I would add this: To me it is tantamount to the abolitionists accepting a two-year timeline for ending slavery, while giving more money to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act .

There is an understandable predisposition for reasonable people to compromise, but there are compromises which are real,and others with are surrenders. See the new movie THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY. The Irish rebels were offered a compromise, which gave them the Irish Free State, something palpable, a ledge to stand on from which to fight for more, which they have done. There is nothing palpable in this “compromise”, only a promise whose fulfilment is in the hands of George Bush, and meanwhile funds the ongoing slaughter in Iraq.

-Howard Zinn

5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Annie says:

    Thanks for this, Nell

  2. Scott says:

    ” Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience…” -Zinn

  3. al walker says:

    Howard Zinn was a closet communist. His delusional ideas were based on the same nice sounding lies and rhetoric that gave the russians Joseph stalin.
    America is not a left wing country full of poor uneducated ignorant serfs even though idealoge hate mongers like zinn try to pretend America has a huge majority of poor underpriveledged people that suffer daily.
    The proof he was delusional about the condition of the American people was the daily influx of poor and uneducated from every country who are dieing every day just to get in here to this terrible and unfair country!
    Zinn and his ilk of progressive thinkers must be purged from America so we no longer have to fight them to give every american the freedom and ability to earn a living which is the envy of every country in the world!

  4. Stanley says:

    Al, stay classy man. The body’s not even in the ground yet. I managed to say nice things about Nixon when he passed.

  5. The body’s not even in the ground yet

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