Howard Zinn: 1922-2010

After reading Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Bruce Springsteen sat down, wrote, and recorded “Nebraska,” perhaps his best social and political work. Zinn once said he decided to write A People’s History after listening to Woody Guthrie’s lyrics about Colorado’s Ludlow Massacre. Guthrie goosed Bob Dylan towards political consciousness who in turn moved Springsteen to consider writing stories “from below” — stories against the grain of the “great men” theory of history.

It’s a nice group, a kind of four horsemen of social justice in a way, who has lost another one it’s members.

I learned of Zinn’s death late last night while checking the news between connecting flights from Denver to Billings. I sat in the plane’s darkness looking out the window at the lights below — cities and towns — but from this height, not people in cars driving kids but abstract patterns, lights, moving slowly below or not at all.

For me, this distance-created abstraction is a Zinn moment. It recalls his commentary on modern warfare, which he oft repeated and goes this way in one of his talks:

And six miles up, you don’t see any people. You don’t hear screams. You don’t see blood. You don’t– you know– see limbs being torn from people. You just see a target. And you’re aiming for that target and you’ve done this again and again. You’ve dropped bombs on targets where you never saw human beings– this is the nature of modern warfare. And this is why huge numbers of people can be killed– and– they don’t register as human beings to you. Kill at a distance…

You can hear this moment in this piece around the 2:30ish mark:

Guthrie’s Ludlow Massacre Lyrics

It was early springtime when the strike was on,
They drove us miners out of doors,
Out from the houses that the Company owned,
We moved into tents up at old Ludlow.

I was worried bad about my children,
Soldiers guarding the railroad bridge,
Every once in a while a bullet would fly,
Kick up gravel under my feet.”…..(click link to continue in another window)

Some other remembrances from around the web:

Daniel Ellsberg remembers Howard Zinn “I just learned that my friend Howard Zinn died today. Earlier this morning, I was being interviewed by the Boston Phoenix, in connection with the release in Boston in February of a documentary in which he is featured prominently. The interviewer asked me who my own heroes were, and I had no hesitation in answering, first, ‘Howard Zinn.'”…..(click link to continue)

Wajahat Ali: Zinn Speaks “An Interview with Howard Zinn on the State of the Empire (click link to continue)

Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer 2002, for The Fellowship of the Ring Platinum Series Extended Edition DVD, Part One, from Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell on McSweeney’s

Zinn’s Site: Welcome to “Howard Zinn, 1922-2010″…..(click link to continue)


Photo of Howard Zinn linked from