Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP Howard Zinn

Frankly I haven't read much by Zinn outside of a few articles and book excerpts, but he is certainly a luminary of the American left. He taught thousands of Americans our history from the perspective of the working classes and oppressed elements of our society. I hope to be one of them soon (once I finish my simultaneous projects of Marx's Capital and Dante's Divine Comedy and the next 10 books in my queue, ha).

Normally I wouldn't post about a person who I know little about, but I read a moving eulogy to Zinn by the leftist sports writer Dave Zirin on The Nation's website here that I think people will enjoy. To the end, Zinn promoted independent organizing to move our country in a more progressive direction regardless of who currently holds the reins of power. Here's Zinn on the Age of Obama:
At our event in Madison, Wisconsin, Howard issued a challenge to the audience. He said, "Our job as citizens is to honestly assess what Obama is doing. Not measured just against Bush, because against Bush, everybody looks good. But look honestly at what Obama's doing and act as engaged and vigorous citizens."
Finally, here's a Zinn quote from the article on what he sees as the need to revive the concept of democratic socialism in our country, of which, as he would know more than almost anyone, we have a beautiful tradition:
"Let's talk about socialism. … I think it's very important to bring back the idea of socialism into the national discussion to where it was at the turn of the [last] century before the Soviet Union gave it a bad name. Socialism had a good name in this country. Socialism had Eugene Debs. It had Clarence Darrow. It had Mother Jones. It had Emma Goldman. It had several million people reading socialist newspapers around the country… Socialism basically said, hey, let's have a kinder, gentler society. Let's share things. Let's have an economic system that produces things not because they're profitable for some corporation, but produces things that people need. People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism."
PS. Dave Zirin writes some great stuff on the intersection of sports and politics. If you are a left sports fan like myself, look for his stuff in The Nation and The Progressive among other publications.

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