Interview with US historian Howard Zinn

Howard ZinnInterview by Judith Orr, June 2007, with United States historian Howard Zinn:

Howard Zinn on Making History

Pathbreaking historian and political activist Howard Zinn talks to Judith Orr about his life, war, class politics and taking sides.

Can I take you back to your memories of childhood in Brooklyn?

This was the 1930s during the depression.

My father and mother were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. My father was from the Austro-Hungarian empire, my mother from Siberia.

They came to the US and worked in factories, met one another and got married.

By the 1930s when I was growing up we were living in one tenement after another, barely able to pay the rent and therefore having to move from one place to another.

My father worked as a waiter and my mother had to care for four boys.

Our lives were mostly in the street, because home was not a pleasant place to be.

Very often we lived in what were called cold-water flats where there was no hot water; you had to create your own heat; it was very much like Third World countries today.

So I grew up with a consciousness of poverty and working class neighbourhoods.

See also here.

Howard Zinn on TV: A Review, here.

Documents on CIA crimes in the Cold War: here.

Studs Terkel interview: here.

3 thoughts on “Interview with US historian Howard Zinn

  1. Put Away the Flags

    The Progressive
    Sunday, July 1, 2007

    On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

    Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

    These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

    National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours — huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction — what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

    Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

    That self-deception started early.

    When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession.”

    When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

    On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our “Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence.” After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: “We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country.”

    It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to

    We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, “to civilize and Christianize” the Filipino people.

    As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: “The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness.”

    We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

    Yet they are victims, too, of our government’s lies.

    How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for “liberty,” for “democracy”?

    One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

    We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

    We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

    Howard Zinn, a World War II bombardier, is the author of the best-selling “A People’s History of the United States” (Perennial Classics, 2003, latest edition). This piece was distributed by the Progressive Media Project.

    ©2007 The Progressive Magazine


  2. Pingback: National Guard massacred striking miners in the USA in 1914 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Fourth of July USA, from Jefferson to Trump | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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