Friday, May 15, 2009

Howard Zinn

This week, Howard Zinn was at The 92nd Street Y to promote his new book "A Young People's History of the United States". The event was part of the People's Voices series which seeks to educate and inspire new generations working for social justice. Zinn was also joined by Avery Brooks, Staceyann Chin, Tim Robbins, and others.

It was an honor to not only listen to but to actually meet Mr. Zinn. His "People's History of the United States" is one of my favorite books, which recounts the story of The United States through the voices of those who are usually ignored or overlooked by more traditional history books. America has (and unfortunately continues to be) a very violent nation and unfortunately, many have difficulty acknowledging this unsavory past. American History, for many students, is often taught as a sterilized story that avoids much of the violence and injustice that built-up the current empire.

Anyone, who labels Howard Zinn "un-American" for his research would be mislabeling a man I believe to be one of the greatest and proudest American citizens. Howard Zinn grew up in the Jewish slums of Brooklyn New York, where his parents worked as factory workers. Later, Zinn would work in the Brooklyn shipyards where he was also a labor organizer. Zinn's opposition to war would result from his service in World War II, where Zinn conducted bombing missions over Europe.

Zinn's understanding of America is of a work in progress, a nation defining and redefining itself through time. President Obama seems to also understand this philosophy, during his campaign, Obama said "The strength of America is that America can change." Zinn's "People's History..." clearly shows this change in action; however, it is unfortunate Mr. Obama himself seems to be backtracking on many of his initial campaign promises of implementing this change and is instead continuing to bolster the same failed policies of the past. Zinn himself recently wrote about his hope for the People to change Mr. Obama's mindset.

Zinn's article is another one of many that does not seek to destroy the President, but to instead remind him (and those who seek social justice) that there are other alternatives to the failed ideas of capitalism and war. As our American history rolls-on, it is up to us to continue putting pressure on those in power. Otherwise, we're merely committing and are accomplices to the same crimes that have plagued America for so long. Fredrick Douglas said it best, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

That said, I've always tried to clearly define what side of history I'm on. Thus, despite my support for Obama, it is --like America-- something I hope and want to improve but often realize I have little to no control over what decisions he and/or "my country" makes. Nevertheless, I'm someone who wants a decent society that is not guided by ignorance. I continue to dream and hope for a better world. A world without injustice, without war, and evolved and enlightened enough to imagine new possibilities.

History will show us who wins.

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In other news, I was published in the new Indy Kids Radical Coloring Book - "Coloring Outside the Lines". So, order a copy today and help make another year of Indy Kids a success! Peace.

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