Thursday, February 4, 2010
Thank you, Howard
There are a lot of really beautiful and thoughtful tributes to the People's historian. We here at the Spoon just wanted to offer our profound thanks to Howard Zinn for everything he did. He taught us about empathy. He taught us about connecting to others, learning from them, and organizing with them for a more just world. He taught us how important each thing each one of us does is, since we never really know what actions end up causing major policy shifts.
On a personal level, I was fortunate enough to get to know him while in college, and it changed my life. I went from a science kid to a politics kid. I went from being (sort of) interested in biochemistry and physiology to organizing on welfare reform, poverty, Iraq sanctions, and eventually, health care policy and foreign policy. His friendship literally transformed my life, and his words have done the same for thousands, if not millions, of others. While many call him a "radical" or "leftist" historian, I dispute those terms - he simply offered the voices of those history had conveniently left out. As a former WWII bombadier, he learned to detest war, knowing that innocent civilians will always bear the brunt of any conflict. As a former shipyard laborer and professor at Spelman college during the Civil Rights movement, he found poverty and racism unacceptable and things worth fighting against at all times. Howard spoke for the marginalized at all times because he believed all people deserve the opportunity to participate in politics. There is nothing leftist or radical about that. As Bob Herbert said, Howard being veiwed as a radical reflected more about about our society than him.
I am very happy he got to see The People Speak finally make it to TV - he told a few of us his initial thoughts about turning A People's History of the United States into a documentary of sorts about a decade ago. The show got a lot of great reviews, and was seen by many, including scores of people who had never read or heard of Zinn before. Naomi Klein is right...there has been a revival of interest in Howard Zinn the past few years (he never really went out of fashion, but yeah, definitely increased interest lately). He has now left us, but so long as we keep fighting for the things he did, he'll always be close by. After all, he was one of us.
Rest in peace, my friend.