I just heard on NPR that another writer, activist and great thinker died yesterday. Like Brutus, who died in December, Howard Zinn is a thinker/activist I just began paying attention to in recent months. The historian Zinn is most famous for his history text that tells the story of the nation through the lens of the marginalized, A People's History of the United States.
Others will certainly write a better synopsis of his life than I. His friend Daniel Ellsberg shares a great story about him here.
Zinn was concerned about several social issues in our nation, including civil rights. Most recently, I've been thinking quite a bit about war, historic nonviolence movements, and our Nobel Peace Prize-winning war president. Zinn, a former G.I. turned anti-war activist, spent a lot of time saying a word or two about war. So a few weeks ago I found this video of Zinn speaking at Boston University in November about the USA's three holy wars: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II (in which Zinn volunteered to serve as an Air Force bomber). In memory of him, I return to this clip. It's lengthy but good . . .
In one of his speeches about these "holy wars," Zinn says the following:
Just one point I want to make. This is the question that says, "What else would you do?" They say, "[what about] Hitler? You had to do something." I agree. You have to do something about all these things. You have to do something about winning independence if you're oppressed. You have to do something about slavery if there's slavery. You have to do something about fascism. You have to do something about all these things. But, you don't have to do war.
May we begin to think of another way to "do something" about atrocities, oppression and terrorism in this world of ours. Another way is certainly possible with creative imagination. We're smart people, after all. May we live beautifully into that imagination. And may Howard Zinn's words challenge and move us for years to come as his body and spirit find rest in peace.