Sunday, June 25, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Howard Zinn (1924 – 2010)


American historian, political scientist, playwright and social activist.
Howard Zinn
At the great Washington March of 1963, the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis, speaking to the same enormous crowd that heard Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream," was prepared to ask the right question: "Which side is the federal government on?" That sentence was eliminated from his speech by organizers of the March to avoid offending the Kennedy Administration. But Lewis and his fellow SNCC workers had experienced, again and again, the strange passivity of the national government in the face of Southern violence, strange, considering how often this same government had been willing to intervene outside the country, often with overwhelming force.
John Lewis and SNCC had reason to be angry. John had been beaten bloody by a white mob in Montgomery as a Freedom Rider in the spring of 1961. The federal government had trusted the notoriously racist Alabama police to protect the Riders, but done nothing itself except to have FBI agents take notes. Instead of insisting that blacks and whites had a right to ride the buses together, the Kennedy Administration called for a "cooling-off period," a moratorium on Freedom Rides.
Zinn quotes
Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.
Zinn
One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression. Patriotism becomes the order of the day, and those who question the war are seen as traitors, to be silenced and imprisoned.




Zinn Howard quotes
Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.
Zinn Howard
Not only did waging war against Hitler fail to save the Jews, it may be that the war itself brought on the Final Solution of genocide. This is not to remove the responsibility from Hitler and the Nazis, but there is much evidence that Germany's anti-Semitic actions, cruel as they were, would not have turned to mass murder were it not for the psychic distortions of war, acting on already distorted minds. Hitler's early aim was forced emigration, not extermination, but the frenzy of it created an atmosphere in which the policy turned to genocide.
Howard Zinn quotes
David Ray Griffin has done admirable and painstaking research in reviewing the mysteries surrounding the 9/11 attacks. It is the most persuasive argument I have seen for further investigation [into] that historic and troubling event.
Howard Zinn
The white population could not possibly be unaffected by those events some whites more stubborn in their defense of segregation, but others beginning to think in different ways. And the black population was transformed, having risen up in mass action for the first time, feeling its power, knowing now that if the old order could be shaken it could be toppled.
Zinn Howard quotes
I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.
Zinn
Why should we accept that the "talent" of someone who writes jingles for an advertising agency advertising dog food and gets $100,000 a year is superior to the talent of an auto mechanic who makes $40,000 a year? Who is to say that Bill Gates works harder than the dishwasher in the restaurant he frequents, or that the CEO of a hospital who makes $400,000 a year works harder than the nurse or the orderly in that hospital who makes $30,000 a year? The president of Boston University makes $300,000 a year. Does he work harder than the man who cleans the offices of the university? Talent and hard work are qualitative factors which cannot be measured quantitatively.
Zinn Howard
We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times.
Howard Zinn
There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.




Howard Zinn quotes
If those in charge of our society politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.
Howard Zinn
The First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights in the United States Constitution were being violated in Albany again and again freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the equal protection of the laws I could count at least 30 such violations. Yet the president, sworn to uphold the Constitution, and all the agencies of the United States government at his disposal, were nowhere to be seen.
Zinn quotes
The term "just war" contains an internal contradiction. War is inherently unjust, and the great challenge of our time is how to deal with evil, tyranny, and oppression without killing huge numbers of people.
Zinn Howard
While some multimillionaires started in poverty, most did not. A study of the origins of 303 textile, railroad and steel executives of the 1870s showed that 90 percent came from middle- or upper-class families. The Horatio Alger stories of "rags to riches" were true for a few men, but mostly a myth, and a useful myth for control.
Zinn Howard quotes
Americans have been taught that their nation is civilized and humane. But, too often, U.S. actions have been uncivilized and inhumane.
Howard Zinn
It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status.
Howard Zinn quotes
I would encourage people to look around them in their community and find an organization that is doing something that they believe in, even if that organization has only five people, or ten people, or twenty people, or a hundred people. And to look at history and understand that when change takes place it takes place as a result of large, large numbers of people doing little things unbeknownst to one another. And that history is very important for people to not get discouraged. Because if you look at history you see the way the labor movement was able to achieve things when it stuck to its guns, when it organized, when it resisted. Black people were able to change their condition when they fought back and when they organized. Same thing with the movement against the war in Vietnam, and the women's movement. History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.
Howard Zinn
One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and the unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.
Zinn Howard
To put it briefly: the evidence is quite overwhelming on this matter. The Japanese had sent an envoy (Ambassador Sato) to Moscow (still officially a neutral) to work out a negotiated surrender. An instruction from Foreign Minister Togo came in a telegram (intercepted by American intelligence, which had broken the Japanese code early in the war), saying: "Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace... It is His Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war." The Japanese had one condition for surrender which the U.S. refused to meet recognizing the sanctity of the Emperor. It seemed the U.S. was determined to drop the bomb before the Japanese could surrender for a variety of reasons, none of them humanitarian. After the war, the official report of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, based on hundreds of interviews with Japanese decision-makers right after the war, concluded that the war would have ended in a few months by a Japanese surrender "even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."


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