Friday, January 29, 2010

Rest in Peace Howard Zinn

The historian Howard Zinn has died. His famous book, A People's History of the United States, is a telling of U.S. history not from the perspective of the powerful (presidents, plutocrats, etc.) but from the perspectives of the downtrodden: the poor, minorities, women, radicals and activists.

One of Zinn's most important lessons is that objectivity in history and journalism is impossible. Everybody writes from a set of values. Those values don't just determine what to cover, but how it is covered. The best we can do is make those values explicit. Zinn's values were different from those of many historians. He was an anti-racist, a pacifist, an advocate for single-payer health care, etc. If there was a good progressive cause that made people a little uncomfortable, he was for it.

You will be missed, but your message lives on: change comes from everyday people working through social movements, not from the power structure.

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