Views in brief

February 11, 2010

Zinn's voice will continue to inspire

I AM deeply saddened by Howard Zinn's death. It was in reading his famous book, A People's History of the United States, that I was first introduced to radical history and politics years ago.

I joined the International Socialist Organization not long after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, having read about Zinn's involvement in the antiwar movement of the 1970s and his active participation in the Black freedom movement of the 1960s.

That it has been social movements and resistance on the part of the oppressed and exploited that has fundamentally changed American history in the interests of all workers I learned from Zinn before ever reading The Communist Manifesto.

Zinn dedicated his Voices of A People's History of the United States, an anthology coedited with Anthony Arnove, to "the rebels of the coming generation." As the radical left grows over the coming years in this country, we will continue to look to Zinn, who painstakingly sought to capture and make accessible a largely hidden radical tradition and expose the grand hoax of genuine democracy in this country.

The rebels and revolutionaries of the coming generation, myself included, will stand on his shoulders in continually exposing the American ruling class for their shameless hypocrisy at home and utter barbarism overseas in the interests of empire; for their sickening greed at the expense of the rest of us; and for their despicable ideologues who maintain that there exists no alternative to scandalous profiteering, bonuses for a few and foreclosures for many, mass incarceration and apartheid schools for poor Black youth, handouts to the rich, welfare for bankers, "liberation" at gunpoint and torture.

The coming generation of rebels and revolutionaries has much on its plate to tackle; but we stand on solid ground thanks in no small part to the brilliant voice of Howard Zinn.
Greg Love, from the Internet

Howard Zinn's historic legacy

AMID THE sadness so many feel at news of Howard Zinn's death, and within the scores of tributes that have already and most deservedly begun to pour forth, it should likewise be recognized that, all his life, Zinn wedded his erudition and scholarship to his activism--to being in the street as well as in the reading room.

From his working-class Jewish background, his labor agitations on the docks of Brooklyn, the brutally honest self-examination of his role as a fighter bomber in the Second World War, his struggle to be educated in the America of Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy, Zinn forged the tools necessary for his life-long project of wedding erudition to direct involvement in the great moral and political battles of his times. Because of his success in doing so, Howard Zinn is the American embodiment of the Gramscian intellectual, the organic intellectual par excellence.

There are scores of progressive and left scholars and teachers who do fine, necessary and outstanding work in the classroom through their research and publications. Zinn was certainly one of them, but what distinguishes Zinn from most others is that he never privileged the seminar lounge over "the streets" as a site of activity and resistance.

The last time I saw Howard Zinn was two years ago at an antiwar rally on the Boston Common, where he spoke and then marched, joining his [aged] body and voice to all those demanding an immediate cessation to this American imperial war without end necessitated by a near totally militarized U.S. economy and society.

Similar protest is now being organized to take place in Washington in March. It is indeed sad to think that Zinn will not be there. It is equally sad to contemplate how few will be the intellectuals ready now to occupy the void left by Zinn.

Professor Zinn taught by example to whom ever truly paid heed. It is not enough to research and write about struggles for justice and peace. To do only that smarts of "colonization" of others' struggles; a way to amass cultural and institutional "capital on the backs of the oppressed."

Zinn's life shows, instead, that it is equally and irrefutably important to--as the very homely adage states--"put your money where your mouth is."

A People's History of the United States not only turns conventional "consensus" historiography on its head as Marx did to Hegel, it serves as a model for intellectual engagement as it simultaneously inspires its readers to act upon their knowledge, to keep the head always attached to the trunk. Zinn's memory will be honored precisely by all those who continue to do so; may their numbers swell.

Howard Zinn: ¡Presente!
Wallace "Wally" Sillanpoa, from the Internet

Who's in charge of our schools?

IN RESPONSE to "Duncan's twisted vision for our schools": Bravo for Danny Lucia's vision. His sharp, informed irony is just right. All my friends still teaching in Chicago (and some of us who've been displaced) will appreciate it. Thank you!

When Rod Paige compared teachers' unions to terrorists, we all said, "He's twisted! But what do you expect? He's a Bush appointee."

Duncan's amazingly frank statement gives us another measure of the new guy who put him in charge of the nation's schools. Or in charge of dismantling them.
Tina Beacock, Chicago

I am not a womb for rent

I'VE BEEN engrossed in the pro-choice issue, more so recently than in the past, and I am glad I am paying more attention! I get ever so mad at people who say that abortion should only be in the case of rape, incest or if carrying a child to term would hurt the mother. What is the difference of aborting that fetus vs. aborting any other fetus?

And are you going to go through all the adoption hooplah when the child is born? And are you going to pay for all the things that that child deserves after it is born? And are you going to push a 10-lb object through your vagina for seven hours? And are you going to not judge a single mother? And are you going to pay for the medical bills for the child if it has a terminal disease? And are you going to force me to have a child I do not want?

It's about choice and safety for the woman. It's about power over a woman's body, not about the unborn.

Just think--if the government can force you to have a child, it can force you to have an abortion. I am not a womb for rent.
Jacquelyn Patterson, from the Internet

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