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Zinn Is Dead—Long Live ‘Zinn’

Posted on Jan 28, 2010

By Fred Branfman

(Page 3)

I also did not foresee that as the horrors of the Bush years wore on, and the disappointment of Obama Year 1 would kick in, that I would find myself increasingly embracing what they have taught and what they have embodied; that they would be serving even more as a lodestone to me in these years than they did in my youth.

Howard’s death is thus a shock transcending the normal death of a friend or even loved one. Yes, the personal memories come tumbling out: watching a theatrical presentation in a cave north of Hanoi as Nixon got elected in November 1972, marveling at the morale of the Vietnamese compared to the despair we felt at the prospect of four more years of killing; spending the night in adjoining jail cells during the Redress demonstration, being so buoyed in the morning by his cheerfulness, smiles, wry but never cynical humor; marching together in a small march in Lexington, Mass., and then hearing him speak, out of the deepest possible knowledge and feeling, about how the ideals of the American Revolution, as contrasted with its reality, required opposing the Vietnam today; our e-mails, phone conversations and visits over these 40 years—with Howard always gracious, always committed, always kind, always interested and always interesting.

But this feeling of devastation at his loss far transcends even these personal memories.

There is, you see, no “Zinn” or “Chomsky” among we baby-boomers, let alone the generations that follows us.

One of our beacons of integrity has now flickered out. Our world has suddenly become a little darker, a little colder, a little more bitter and a little more insane.


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It is bad enough when a loved and admirable person dies and one realizes they can never be replaced, that there will never be another one remotely like them. It is worse when that person’s death leaves a hole in the entire moral universe, that a spiritual vacuum has been created that can never be filled. The pain is more intense, the feeling of irreplaceable loss even stronger.

My only consolation at this moment is knowing that though Howard Zinn the man has died, “Zinn” has not. I know that many of us will continue to be sustained in the difficult years to come by the answers we will receive when we find ourselves asking:

—What would Howard think, how would he see it?

—What would Howard say?

—How would Howard feel?

And, most important:

—What would Howard do?

Zinn has died. Long live “Zinn.”

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JDmysticDJ's avatar

By JDmysticDJ, February 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm Link to this comment

In passing, let me say that in a just, fair minded educational system, Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” would be available for study in every High School History Curriculum.

Let’s hope that someone, of equal genius, will step up to replace him.

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By oleeb, February 2, 2010 at 8:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I knew Howard very well too and most of this is really good, but typical of your age group it ends up being all about you.  Your flourish at the end of no one being their to take Howard’s place or Chomsky’s when he goes is balderdash.  They are there and Howard would say they are their too.  We just don’t know them yet.  No wonder you made the error of thinking Howard naive.

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By Gordy, January 31, 2010 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

Fred, the ‘Zinn’ you speak of is timeless and
attainable by all.  It’s not a quality you inherit
passively from your parents.  So long as there are
any kind of sentient beings in the universe, truth
and integrity - unaltered by history - will await
their discovery and service. 

Zinn set sail for a true north in the universe, and
would want you to do the same, rather than feel that
a light has gone out.  He received his light from
something that cannot be extinguished; it was not
‘his’ so did not ‘go out’. 

Still, though I say all that in earnest - I do know
how you feel.

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By samosamo, January 31, 2010 at 8:54 am Link to this comment

By drbhelthi, January 31 at 10:53 am

Why did you just start the nazi connection with poopy sr. when
great grandpoopy prescott was the original american nazi

And grandpoopy surely had to be protected to some extent by
ol butterball j.edgar since he never spent time for his crimes of
collaborating with the enemy.

I would not be surprised of a linage based in germany for the
whole sorry lot of the bushwackers.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, January 31, 2010 at 6:53 am Link to this comment

In my experience, the choice for the US “presidency” in 2008 simply decided which “political party” would proceed with the Illuminazi-Neocon plan implemented by GHWBSr, while he directed the CIA in the 1960s. How a man with the background of Mr. Zinn could overlook the machine that has installed alleged “US presidents” since 1980, especially 2000 & 2004, and actually support a foreigner who does not provide a genuine birth certificate, evades my comprehension.

We should apply the wisdom of the derivative Mongolians who crossed the Aleutian chain 30,000 years ago, genuine owners of the alleged “american” continents: “what you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say”.  We discern that not only Mr. Hussein Obama is a shill for the highest bidder, but also several “US presidents” who preceded him.

It was a sad day in the history of the USofA when Allen Dulles hired NAZI SS General Gehlin to transform the OSS into the CIA, placing NAZI SS officers into key positions.  The list of CIA atrocities recently published by Congressman Dr. Ron Paul delineates the world-wide destruction accelerated by GHWBushSr, during his furtive reign in the CIA. The trillion dollars in “black hole” monies, in essence stolen from the US Treasury by the CIA without congressional approval, with assistance of Federal Reserve moguls, began the “snow-balling” deficit that now plagues the western world. Examplia gratia, 400 million passed out by CIA operatives in Summer 2009 to iranian locals while organizing the CIA uprising against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran.

I raise the question, was J. Edgar assassinated as a “payback” for revealing the letter written to him by GHWBushSr, which broke the cover of GHWBushSr?  Which letter attempted to sidetrack the murder investigation? Or did the NAZI leadership of the CIA simply want to replace J. Edgar with one of their own pimps, since they could not manipulate the strings of J. Edgar?

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By sidneyfalco, January 30, 2010 at 10:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Howard Zinn deserves all the credit in the world. But he should have quit when he
was ahead, way, way ahead. That is to say, before the presidential election
campaign of 2008, when he supported Barack Obama in an unmitigated display of
political naivety that did much to demoralize the left. How in the world a man like
himself could fail to back someone much like himself—Ralph Nader—is beyond
the pale and must tarnish his otherwise illustrious career.

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By NYCartist, January 29, 2010 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

In my own fog, I forgot to say my condolences to Fred Branfman.

To antispin: It’s perfect for NPR to have David Horowitz speak about Howard Zinn.  It shows NPR as NPR is.  I loathe NPR. 

To PSmith: I read your comment.Thoughtful. All I want to say now is that there are good articles/essays popping up.  One is Paul Street’s on Znet, dated Jan.29, “The People’s Historian”.

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By antispin, January 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment

NPR brought in David Horowitz to condemn Zinn less than 24 hours after his passing.  Go to FAIR and register your outrage.

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By NYCartist, January 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment

I appreciate the author’s views and feelings, but poor Howard Zinn: even in death memorial article he’s paired with Noam Chomsky.  Zinn would appreciate the joke.  Zinn was wonderful.  See the article by his editor on The Progressive, Matthew Rothschild,too, which is linked on Zinn’s webpage

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By Che J, January 29, 2010 at 8:15 am Link to this comment

I have a very hard time believing in men like Chomsky, who not only denied
the possibility that Sept 11th was rigged and false, but expressed scorn and
derision toward those who were sober and perceptive enough to consider the
fact, obvious to a child, that the buildings could not have fallen in the manner
they did without being detonated.  By quelling this kind of discussion, the basis of questioning the ensuing events of a decade and perhaps a century was suppressed wholesale.

Howard Zinn was a more humble and patient intellectual whose mind moved
along much more willingly than Chomsky, but still was an old-fashioned man
from an era of special privilege for everyone of his gender and race.  How many
women and Blacks were denied the opportunity to be the ‘conscience of the
people’ so that Zinn could receive that honor?  How many women and Blacks had the kind of insights and courage by the age of 20 that Zinn spent a lifetime piecing together?  Were either Zinn or Chomsky ever in any kind of
fair competition for accomplishment?  How many White men receive this kind of
accolade every year while the world somehow continues to lose bits of its
humanity and dignity in an ever increasing downward spiral.  Both men found
ways to become accepted and loved for whatever truth they brought to the
public.  Could a courageous outspoken Black man
live to even half their age without being murdered?  Could a woman say half
the things they did without losing her reputation to a series of outrageously
trivial and demeaning attacks? 

I say these men were and are ‘safe’ placeholders taking up room for far more
meaningful heros who will make their way to us out of the whole of the human race and not just a fraction of it, and might someday actually spearhead real change and not
just provide the comfortable idea of it.

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By Genny Berthault, January 29, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a very beautiful article.

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By jack, January 29, 2010 at 7:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Search Zinn and “left gatekeeper.”  I’m sorry for him and his family but he was part of the don’t-look-behind-the-curtain team.  Along with Goodman, Chomsky, et al.

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By KISS, January 29, 2010 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

When we saw them mercilessly, pitilessly, amorally, criminally, deceitfully and undemocratically murder millions of innocent civilians”
Gee, just like today, but instead of one war and one country we now have 4 or 5 countries that we are the killing machine, all justified by our leaders.
Alas, no Zinn to help lead the marches, no King to point out the immorality of Amerika. Just the Buffoons we elect to be our fearless leaders.

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By samosamo, January 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm Link to this comment

It’s is just a shame that someone like zinn has died, but won’t
we all, and that bill moyers will give up his pbs journal here
soon; but for long lasting evidence of a sort, and I am sure
neither of these two people, moyers or zinn, would they disapprove of any of Thomas Paine’s writings which very accurately and precisely defines what our and France’s revolutions created and the role of a republic of the people, for the people, by the people representation means versus the aristocracy representation of the oligarchy that controls our facade of a republic.

And damn it, the people still don’t care how subverted and
deconstructed our republic is as they sill live on BS msm crap.

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By Jim Pandaru, January 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Howard Zinn was and will always be the man and conscience of the People. He led by example and taught us why we must speak truth to power. When we decide to take that first crucial step to stand up for what’s right and just, that’s when we’ll discover the inner strength and courage we had tucked away suddenly burst forth. Watch over us Howard. May the memory of what you spoke of and stood for guide us in building a better world.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, January 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Zinn on Moyer’s Journal in three parts last year.

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