I picked up my Sunday Times yesterday morning and saw that the magazine section was doing its annual obituary section, “The Lives They Lived.” I expected to find Howard Zinn in there, one of the most towering leftwing intellectuals in America of the last 50 years. But he was nowhere in sight.
There are things that happen in the world that are bad, and you want to do something about them. You have a just cause. But our culture is so war prone that we immediately jump from, “This is a good cause” to “This deserves a war.” You need to be very, very comfortable in making that jump.
We are citizens, and Obama is a politician. You might not like that word. But the fact is he’s a politician. He’s other things, too—he’s a very sensitive and intelligent and thoughtful and promising person. But he’s a politician. If you’re a citizen, you have to know the difference between them and you—the difference between what they have to do and what you have to do. And there are things they don’t have to do, if you make it clear to them they don’t have to do it.
Speech give by Howard Zinn in Madison, Wisconsin, May 2, 2009
Matt Rothschild: For all his fame he’s more humble, or as I told him once, he fakes it better than anyone I know. So, let’s hear it for Howard Zinn.…
Reading Edward Rothstein’s sour commentary on Studs Terkel in the New York Times on November 2, I was surprised that Rothstein, presumably a sophisticated thinker, seems to believe one can separate one’s political views from a historical narrative, even from oral history. “It is, in fact, impossible to separate Mr. Terkel’s political vision from the contours of his oral history,” he wrote.
It seems that Barack Obama and John McCain are arguing over which war to fight. McCain says: Keep the troops in Iraq until we “win.” Obama says: Withdraw some (not all) troops from Iraq and send them to fight and “win” in Afghanistan. As someone who has fought in a war (World War II) and since then has protested against war, I must ask: Have our political leaders gone mad? Have they learned nothing from recent history? Have they not learned that no one “wins” in a war, but that hundreds of thousands of human beings die, most of them civilians, many of them children?
The very people who should know better, having criticized the hold of the media on the national mind, find themselves transfixed by the press, glued to the television set, as the candidates preen and smile and bring forth a shower of clichés with a solemnity appropriate for epic poetry.There’s a man in Florida who has been writing to me for years (ten pages, handwritten) though I’ve never met him. He tells me the kinds of jobs he has held—security guard, repairman, etc. He has worked all kinds of shifts, night and day, to barely keep his family going. His letters to me have always been angry, railing against our capitalist system for its failure to assure “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness” for working people.
Now that Ohio and Texas are over, can we take a deep breath and come to our senses? Election fever has seized the country, as it does every four years. We have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two candidates who have already been chosen for us. Now I’m not saying elections are totally insignificant, and that we should refuse to vote to preserve our moral purity.
I believe two moral judgments can be made about the present "war": The September 11 attack constitutes a crime against humanity and cannot be justified, and the bombing of Afghanistan is also a crime, which cannot be justified. And yet, voices across the political spectrum, including many on the left, have described this as a "just war." One longtime advocate of peace, Richard Falk, wrote in The Nation that this is "the first truly just war since World War II." Robert Kuttner, another consistent supporter of social justice, declared in The American Prospect that only people on the extreme left could believe this is not a just war.