Farewell Howard Zinn

January 28, 2010 § 2 Comments

Image by Ted Mathot

Howard Zinn–writer, teacher, historian, activist–died Wednesday at the age of 87. (NPR, Boston Globe, NYT, The Nation) Thank you, Zinn, for your tireless love for a sometimes unloving world. Your life was a gift.

In his own words:

“I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.” (The optimism of uncertainty)

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

“Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

Zinn’s last published piece appeared in The Nation on Jan. 13, a brief commentary on Obama’s first year as President.


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