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Painting The Stars

Painting The Stars
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That doesn’t stop me having a tremendous need for, shall I say the word — for religion — so I go outside at night to paint the stars, and I always dream a painting like that, with a group of lively figures of the pals." ~Vincent Van Gogh

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JANUARY 28, 2010 3:14AM

R.I.P. Social Activist Howard Zinn

Rate: 29 Flag

The voice of author and activist Howard Zinn is stilled now but his words will live on in his books and videos of interviews and discussions and documentaries.  Born to Jewish immigrants who came to the states just before WWI.  Both parents were factory workers with little education and possessed no books as they raised their children.  Twenty-five cents plus a coupon to the New York Post for each of the 20 volumes of Charles Dickens' collected works was his first introduction to literature.

Zinn joined the Army Air Force during WWII and participated in one of the first military uses of napalm, which took place in Royan France. Bombings which killed not only German soldiers but French civilians as well which he learned nine years later when he visited Royan to examine documents and interview residents. He described how the bombing was ordered at the war's end by decision-makers most probably motivated by the desire for career advancement rather than for legitimate military objectives, in his books The Politics of History and the Zinn Reader.

After the war he went to college on the GI Bill getting a BA and New York University then earning his Masters and Ph.D at Columbia University in history with a minor in political science. He taught at numerous universities, including Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.

He is survived by his daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn who said of her father that he lived a very full and exciting life and that there were many social issues that were very important to him. Above all, she said, her father believed that there is no just war.

He was active in the Civil Rights movement and in anti-war efforts and wrote one of his earliest books, Vietnam, calling for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Zinn's diplomatic visit to Hanoi with Rev.Daniel Berrigan, during the Tet Offensive in January 1968, resulted in the return of three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the U.S. bombing of that nation had begun.

He has written several books opposing the Iraq war arguing that "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable."

Believing that the point of view expressed in traditional history books was limited, he wrote a history textbook, A People's History of the United States, providing the perspectives of Native Americans against European and U.S. conquest and expansion, slaves against slavery, unionists and other workers against capitalists, women against patriarchy, and African-Americans for civil rights.

This month, January of 2010, a documentary movie, The People Speak, will be released on DVD inspired by ordinary people who fought back against oppressive conditions over the course of the history of the United States.

Howard Zinn's works are numerous and tell our history from a view not often heard from.  His is a voice that will be missed.

 

 
 
 
 

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Zinn had a tremendous influence on my political journey. I too never heard him speak; thank you for this.
I will miss him. I so admired his spirit, kindness and honesty. Also, what a tremendous scholar and historian. We've lost an authentic voice, a conscious and beautiful soul.
I can't honestly say I would be where I am today if I hadn't picked up a book by Howard Zinn when I was in high school. I read "Passionate Declarations" before I ever knew of or came in contact with the work he will be most remembered for (A People's History of the United States). His essay on justifications for war along with his essay on human nature and violence are highly memorable. And, in this book, he also looked at our representative democracy and our justice system.

His body of work should inspire future generations to engage in social movements, movements similar to the ones he shined a light on whenever he had the chance to do so.
I'm so glad I saw him when he was on with Bill Moyers. I need to read more of his work.
Can you imagane what the world would be like if everyone in America read a Zinn book, or listened to him speak? Always a champoin of those whose voices needed to he heard, but were always left out of traditional history. He profoundly changed my life and my attitudes about history, activism, and democracy. This man was a modern day saint. I love him and will miss him dearly. It really tells alot about his character that in his late 80s he was still fighting, still writing, still active for causes he supported and teachings he believed in. He could have retired, but he was out there FOR US! He was so selfless. If he changed your life like he changed mine, then for God's sake tell someone, buy someone one of his books, buy someone his documentaries. Spread the word!
We just discovered Zinn, ordering a couple books for the family to read at holiday time. We had seen Matt Damon talk about Howard Zinn and People Speak. Inspired to stretch our minds, we were not disappointed. The world lost another important teacher today.
I'm thinking I need to join a peace organization. I want to DO something. I came late to Howard Zinn, but he's definitely become a very important part of who I am and how I think. Thanks for the Moyers videos -- I'm sitting here at my desk at work crying. Not one person here in my office has ever heard of Howard Zinn. (They have now, though.)
I can't say that Zinn was a seminal influence on me as I developed nearly identical viewpoints and perspectives on America and its history long before I ever encountered his work. That said, I was awfully glad for his diligence in trying to reach as many folks as possible to pull them over the propaganda hurdle and open their eyes to the perspectives around them.

Rated.
I like to youtube vids while I blog and 'Hallelujah', kd langs, rufus wainwright's or jeff buckley's version, was playing. Seems right.

Howard Zinn was an American Hero. His 'People's History..' is inspirational and thought provoking and should be required reading for Americans.

Though the world is with less light today, his works and his life of activism will live forever.
Thank you for this. I love this man.
His People's History should be required reading for every American.
Thanks New Buddha, very righteous indeed.

Redstocking, this is the first I have heard him speak as well. I wish I could have heard him in person.

Zen: His was a truly great voice for our times. I guess now we must pick up where he has left off.

Kevin: did you see the video where he talks about Matt Damon, whose family were neighbors, reading his book and then questioning his teacher about why these things were not mentioned in their school books? Loved that!

Jeanette: My reading list just grew enormously too. :)

Banterrific: spreading the word as we speak. :)

Sheila, we did lose a great teacher, thankfully though we can spread his teachings.

skeletnwmn: I know exactly how you feel. How is it that so many do NOT know who this man was? How is it it took ME so long to find him?
Kevin: pretty much the same here in that my viewpoints and perspectives were the same before I learned of Howard Zinn and maybe that's why he excited me so much.

I agree Baso, he truly was a great American.

Anne, Lady Dove and Lorilei, thank you. Yes, A People's History should be required reading!
No one knew who Zinn was but they do now.

This happens so often if one is not in a University. Zinn was very well known by the sixties generation and long after that. But though he was not marginalized or demonized the way Chomsky was, he was not in any mainstream either. I loved the man. Thanks for this tribute.
I haven't watched the vids yet but plan to enjoy them when I finish other work I'm doing now. But I had to say thanks for the post. I love Howard Zinn, and have used his A PEOPLE'S HISTORY ever so slyly to accompany the textbooks I've used to teach social studies to fifth graders. Imagine their surprise when I read the words of Christopher Columbus to them from Zinn's book--the ones about the native peoples CC found in the New World: "They would make fine servants...With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."
wendyo: More will know who he was now, but more importantly I hope they will hear his words and act on them.

Lainey: You go, girl! :))
Great post. Congrats on the EP.
OMG! I didn't even know I got that! :)) Thanks, Cappie!
PS You're right. Though they take a half hour altogether, the videos are well worth your time. What a great man.
A man of remarkable influence. Excellent post.
Thanks Jimmymac, we need more of his type of influence!
We've lost one that might have had a chance convincing us to live
rather than die.

We are bereft.
Connie, I truly hope his message will take on a new life and grow, not wither and be forgotten.
You were too cool in my book; now, you're aces too. Thank you so much for such a beautiful tribute to a giant American patriot and prophet. Zinn will always be a strong voice of truth, rationalism, intellectualism and humanity. The little coverage his death is getting from the media is astonishing; that many people don't even know him is sooooooo sad.

Thank you again, rated.
Aww, Thoth! I'm blushing now! He was such a great man it is sad to realize how few people knew of him.
I'm fascinated that many on the right considered Mr. Zinn to be anti-American just because he fought for changes that they didn't agree with. That's what being American is all about, I think.
Completely agree Roger. People get so wrapped up in the flag that they forget to think for themselves. Mr Zinn said: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." But the right would not want you to realize that.
Rated. Thank you for sharing this.
Tregibs, we need more people like this and even more people to listen. Thanks for reading.
We have lost a great one, indeed. Thanks for such a beautiful tribute.
ONE of my heroes. I recommend his Peoples History to friends often; it's the best!
Thanks xenonlit. We did but hopefully his influence will not die with him.

Ralph: It is definitely on my reading list. :)
Great post and it's probably time to re-read The People's History.
I remember him speaking in New York City and in Washington, DC and many anti-Vietnam War Rallies. I saw the "People Speak" on the History Channel and have the DVD. I have read "A People's History of the United States" and I am reading "Voices of the People" now. I also saw a one person play that he wrote, "Marx in SOHO" about Karl Marx. He has written two other plays. I want to read more of his work. He was a great man. I will miss him. Follow his example. "Don't Mourn, Organize!" If there is no group to join, organize your own. What ever the issue, they are all linked. Organize and take power. That is the best way to remember and honor him and his life. That is what he wants us to do. A luta continua!.
Thanks Trainer. That is the message I want to get out. That while he is gone, his works don't have to come to an end.
I attended an informal talk he gave a few years ago at the Park Slope YMCA in Brooklyn. Quietly inspiring.
Leon, that would have been great! You were a lucky man that day. :)
Beautiful! I LOVE what you wrote for you bio... and with regard to Van Gough... my fave painter. And i am a bit of a painter. But I did want to tell you just one thing... When I was living in Chicago about a dozen years ago, there was aVietnam Veteran who was a pan flute player. He always played Starry Starry Night on that pan flute. So dear. Somehow I just always knew Vincent would approve. Blessings, peace and joy! Patty. p.s. I am new here... just joined a few days ago.
Welcome to OS Patty! I do love Vincent Van Gogh so I appreciate your comments.