Audio and Video with Howard Zinn
Legendary historian Howard Zinn joins us to talk about war, torture and the teaching of history. Zinn says had Obama heeded the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he wouldn’t be escalating U.S. attacks abroad and increasing the size of the U.S. military budget.
In this interview, Zinn shares detailed memories about growing up in Brooklyn, working as an apprentice shipfitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, helping to organize an apprentice shipfitter association, organizing a winning basketball team, and his first date with his future wife.
In 2008, Howard Zinn have a keynote address at the National Conference for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference. He offers clear examples of how history teachers can help students think outside of the box. This is an excellent film to be shown in parts or in full for staff discussion.…
What is the state of democracy in America?
HOWARD ZINN: We don’t have a lot of democracy in America today. We have these formal institutions. We have representative government and we have a Bill of Rights… Sure, we are more democratic than an absolutist and totalitarian state, but we in the United States are still quite a long way from democracy and certainly a long way from economic democracy.
What do you want to be remembered for?
HOWARD ZINN: If I want to be remembered for anything, it’s for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality, for getting more and more people to think that way. Also, for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns, that the power ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it. At certain points in history, they have used it.
How do you blend anarchism, socialism and communism?
HOWARD ZINN: I think there are elements in all three that are useful.
Who do you endorse for President [in the 2008 U.S. election]?
HOWARD ZINN: Between Clinton and Obama, well both of them have promised to end the [Iraq] war, but I must say their proposals for bringing the troops out of Iraq are rather halfhearted and they talk about keeping troops there, or Barack Obama says, “Let’s take troops out of Iraq, send troops to Afghanistan.” Neither of them has shaken what Barack Obama rightly called the mindset that led to the Iraq war. The mindset is a mindset which sees war and military intervention as a solution. Neither of them has shaken that.
Topic: Race in America
HOWARD ZINN: There are more openings in media and business and the professions for a certain number of Black people. But I speak about 10 or 20 percent. For the vast majority of Black people, their lives are still constricted by poverty and racism. The civil rights movement accomplished a good deal by beginning to remove some of the important social barriers. What it did not remove was the barrier of class, the barrier of economic injustice. Martin Luther King recognized this. That’s why toward the end of his life he began working for economic rights for Black people.
What did you learn from your experience in WW II?
HOWARD ZINN: I didn’t learn much about myself during that time, that is, while I was at war. You don’t learn much while you’re in the military except doing your job.
What should the next U.S. President do to get the military out of Iraq?
HOWARD ZINN: I think the next president should begin, announce the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. I think this will be a very healthy thing for Iraq. The American occupation has not helped a thing. It has not stopped civil war; it has provoked civil war. It has not given the Iraqi people security or democracy; it has given them the opposite. It has ruined their country. And, of course, it has ruined our country, too.