Howard Zinn (1922-2010)

Many of us are thankful tonight for the full, radical life of historian/activist Howard Zinn who passed away today from a heart attack. Check out the well-done obits from the AP and the Boston Globe. If there is anything recognizably good or hopeful in u.s. american history, Zinn pointed to it.

Thank you, St. Howard!

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  • Kyle R. Cupp

    May he rest in peace with the poor, the oppressed, and the destitute, whose stories he passionately told. And may their stories and his be told, retold, and remembered.

  • Thom

    He influenced my life in profound ways. +

  • Navy Vet

    Howard Zinn may have been a wonderful man, and may he rest in peace.

    He does however hold the title for the single most stupid thing I have ever heard a person utter. On a talk radio show, the host asked Zinn if he thought that the world would be better off if the US had never existed, and Zinn answered yes. I can only shake my head at a statement like that.

    I do question what he has done that would have rational people canonize him, even mockingly.

  • Michael J. Iafrate

    Thank you for sharing, Navy Vet.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    well, he does have a point. Genocide of the Native Americans, enslaving black people, starting war after war, coming up with the McMansion…to be fair, Apple is from the US 😉 , Steve Jobs is a Zen Buddhist though, not a “mainstream” American.

    I found Zinn’s People’s History to be an eye-opening book. “Kings and queens” oriented history, or battle-by-battle, shouldn’t be all there is.

  • Rodak

    Empires, in general, use up the space ideally reserved for the foundation of the Kingdom of God. Empires place idols in temples. America is an empire.

  • Dan

    “well, he does have a point. Genocide of the Native Americans, enslaving black people, starting war after war, coming up with the McMansion…”

    Sadly, the above atrocities are not limited to the US and continue today in one form or another (N. Korea, Congo, Guinea, Somalia, Burma,…).

    Often when I read in the Old Testament about a gross failing of an individual or a nation (particularly Israel), I can’t help but wonder if we have made any progress over the past thousands of years.

    History and modern events, often expose that the whole lot of us are capable of committing some horrific wrongs.

    Praise be to God when the lonely voices in the wilderness speak up.

  • Navy Vet

    Mr. Naus,

    Thank you for your ideas on the accomplishments of the us. Perhaps I can ask another question or two.

    Genocide implies a consistent policy of trying to eliminate another people en masse. The US is certainly not blameless, but disease killed more native Americans than any soldier, and the tribes had been fighting each other long before 1492. The US Army was for the most part, one more combatant. The groups of people who adapt well to the prevailing culture will always do better than those who try to remain rooted in the past. History is full of cultures that did not do well, from the Carthaginians and Sumerians to the Kurds and Basque.

    America (and especially England) blazed a trail for abolition. Maybe you remember the unpleasantness of 1861-1865? Granted we have had issues that still stir up, but you also might try to count the number of non-Black countries that have elected Black leaders. I will also point out that the slave trade was not a US invention or monopoly.

    Perhaps the most ahistoric comment is that the US has started “war after war.” We have certainly been sucked into previously raging conflicts and been burned, but which war, outside of the Spanish-American War, did you have in mind that the US started?

    I agree that the McMansion is a clear sign of the coming seven seals, ten horns, four horsemen, etc.

    I also agree that Zinn’s view of history from the ground up, instead of Kings, Queens, and battles, is an excellent way to learn history. I simply prefer to read from a point of balance that I found lacking in A People’s History. I have a long list of books that I would recommend to anyone who would like to learn more about the reaction of common people to historic events.

  • Rodak

    Navy Vet–
    Do any of your “long list of books” speak of things such “the Trail of Tears?” []
    Today, we refer to such campaigns as “ethnic cleansing”–a thing that is only done by very evil peoples.
    I think that the United States was a bit more than “just one of the combatants” in the long-running, and very asymmetrical, “Indian Wars.”

  • Dan

    From Charles Pellegrino’s “The Last Train From Hiroshima”, which tells about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”

    “Dr. Nagai did not believe it was merely coincidence that the [St. Francis] hospital and Urakami Cathedral [both near ground zero in Nagasaki] overlooked the place where Saint Paul Miki—the samurai who became a Jesuit—was crucified with twenty-five of his followers in 1597. Dr. Nagai wondered if what might seem to most people as a mere accident of history—the convergence of hypocenter and crucifixion—was a reminder to all humanity that though everything about man except man’s way of thinking had changed, if his way of thinking did not change, then indeed all of this [use of atomic weapons] was prologue to the way the world ends.”

  • Navy Vet


    Thank you for your post and question.

    I certainly would never turn a blind eye to the suffering of any group of people, but had it been the policy of Jackson and the Democrats to kill the Five Civilized Tribes, the Trail of Tears would have been the Trail of Blood. The BIA throughout it’s troubled past certainly attracted more than a fair share of the incompetent and malicious.

    If anything the history of native american relations with the government is a glorious example of what can happen when a callous bureaucracy is empowered to make life and death decisions. Those in the US who want to continue to expand the power of bureaucrats over their lives need look no further than VA hospitals and the Indian Health Service to understand the logical ends of unfettered governmental authority.

  • Agim Zabeli

    Mr. Vet:

    Hear, hear. Nicely argued.

  • Rodak

    Well, N.V.–
    If you total the number of Native Americans who died along the Trail of Tears, you could make a case that it should have been named the Trail of Blood. That said, you have rather deftly sashayed away from a discussion of U.S. imperialist misconduct to cite the intrinsic horrors of bureacratic governance . You dance beautifully, my dear.

  • David Wheeler-Reed

    Native American Rights Fund