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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

In His Most Literal Sense

The SF Chron has a great article about the historian Howard Zinn, professor emeritus of Boston University. Many people are familiar with Zinn, as they've read or heard about A People's History of the United States. Zinn is also a leading writer for the Progressive magazine, another fine newstand find, if the employees of your nearest chain bookstore haven't buried it behind The National Review or the latest in a succession of Reagan tributes. I love A People's History, and assign it as a required supplemental text in my AP class. What I think I love most about the book is how it stirs such knee-jerk reactions in parochial-thinking people. "Communist," "America-hater," and other labels are thrown at Zinn, all because he happens to analyze history from the perspective of those whom often aren't heard, including the working poor, immigrants, ethnic minorities, women, and recipients of government policies that are not so helpful or even constitutional. As an amateur historian and educator, I fully support the history this intellectual writes, as the job of the historian is to discover and connect with the people, events, and issues of the past. While, as Mark Twain cynically states, that "the ink of history is merely fluid prejudice", Zinn has attempted to tell history from a different perspective, that which challenges the "commonly accepted" versions of the history that we are taught. If Zinn has a prejudice, it is against those who feel that the role of the historian is to promote the state or stricly the positive aspects of this nation's past. Maybe the man is too much of an ideologue, but if he truly is such an evil America-hating communist, then label me one as well, for we must, then, make sense of this quote from his interview:

To be patriotic in the most literal sense
is to not be for the government but for the

Howard Zinn is more of a patriot than most Americans and most of our presidents, including the current one.
I'm not sure whether anyone reads this or not, but if someone does read this and is familiar with Zinn, I'd love to read her or his comments on Howard Zinn.