Just Released: January 27, 2010, Howard Zinn, world-renowned historian, teacher, activist, author and playwright, passed away Wednesday of a heart attack while swimming in California, according to his daughter and the AP. He was 87 years old.
Zinn had a kind, friendly personality, was generous with his time, and spoke easily with others. He was also relentlessly unafraid to stand up for what he believed in, and speak the truth – even if doing so could cause him distress in his personal and professional life.
Over the course of his career, Zinn established himself as arguably the most influential historian in the United States. He led Americans to view their past through a more complex and often darker lens, and helped bring attention to social justice and human rights issues around the world, from Boston to Baghdad.
Although he wrote a number of books, it is his seminal text, “A People’s History of the United States”, for which he will most likely be remembered. (from the nydailynews) He was a highly respected American historian and Professor of Political Science at Boston University from 1964 to 1988.
I wrote a piece about Howard Zinn in July 2009 on this blog. Today I felt the need to include this update of his (and our) loss. Following is my original writing from last year.
“Patriotism, in my view, does not mean unquestioning acceptance of whatever the government does. To go along with whatever your government does is not a characteristic of democracy. I remember in my own early education we were taught that it was a sign of a totalitarian state, of a dictatorship, when people did not question what their government did. If you live in a democratic state, it means you have the right to criticize your government’s policies.” Howard Zinn – “A Young People’s History of the United States” – vol.1
Evidently many people subscribe to the message above as it has been attributed to many fathers. While this quotation is widely misattributed to Thomas Jefferson, it is apparent that he did not author the saying. In any case, I like this quotation on patriotism, and not only because of the message implied if you omit the first three and the last three letters of the word. My research of the topic on the internet uncovered the following relevant facts.
“We see this one fairly frequently. We are not sure where it originated, although some speculate that Howard Zinn introduced it as recently as 2002 (see http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/a/146858.htm).
. . .
I also located the following relating to the source of this quotation:
Below is the quote from the actual interview with Howard Zinn. Published: Jul 03 2002Dissent In Pursuit Of Equality, Life, Liberty And Happiness
An Interview With Historian Howard Zinn
TomPaine.com: Dissent these days seems to be a dirty word. The Bush administration has, at least since September 11th, usually termed any criticism of its policies “unpatriotic.”
Howard Zinn: While some people think that dissent is unpatriotic, I would argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we’re exercising that right to dissent, it’s a patriotic act.
Sharon Basco is executive producer of TomPaine.com.
Howard Zinn is an historian and author of A People’s History of the United States. Sharon Basco interviewed him for TomPaine.com.
daniel w. jacobs
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