Remembering Howard Zinn

We all lost a tireless friend today

What can I possibly say about the historian/activist that helped reignite my passion for history when I read “A People’s History of the United States” during my senior year of high school? Thank you for helping me love history and writing about it in such a fun, powerful and rewarding way.

I’d originally fallen in love with history when I learned about America’s war of independence in the 5th grade, but eventually, powerful forces like cynicism and punk rock helped me rethink everything, including the official versions of history I’d previously been taught. Howard Zinn’s shocking and unafraid portrayal of American history couldn’t have had any greater impact on me or my eventual decision to study history more thoughtfully and in-depth from there forward.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I had to see Zinn speak in Berkeley, Newport Beach and Santa Cruz. I also got to see a couple performances of his remarkable play “Marx in Soho.”

I’d like to close with Zinn’s own words from his essay, “We Need New Ways,” which he wrote immediately following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.


“The images on television horrified and sickened me. Then our political leaders came on television, and I was horrified and sickened again.

They spoke of retaliation, of vengeance, of punishment. I thought: they have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history of the 20th century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counter-terrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity.

Will we now bomb Afghanistan, and inevitably kill innocent people, because it is in the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate? Will we then be committing terrorism in order to ‘send a message’ to terrorists? Yes, it is an old way of thinking, and we need new ways.

A $300 billion military budget has not given us security. Military bases all over the world, our warships on every ocean, have not given us security. Land mines, a 'missile defense,’ will not give us security.

We need to imagine that the awful scenes of death and suffering we are witnessing have been going on in other parts of the world for a long time, and only now can we begin to know what people have gone through, often as a result of our policies.

We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times.”