Saturday, December 12, 2009

If you get a chance to see it I suggest you view Bill Moyers "Pushing a People's Agenda" which included in the second half a discussion with Howard Zinn, a leftist professor of history at Boston University with whom I have been acquainted and who influenced me immeasurably in the late 1960's. They rebroadcast this discussion on PBS OR you can Google it and see it online.

Moreover, on the History Channel Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. (I think) there will a program entitled "The People Speak" and will include selections from Zinn's collection of voices of poets and writers from the American past performed by actors including Marissa Tomei, Matt Damon and many others. From the trailers I have viewed it appears it is extraordinarily inspirational as it reflects Zinn's view that social change is made from the bottom up by average people doing extraordinary things.

I wrote the following on the Moyers blog about this segment:

I am 61 and have known Howard Zinn nearly all of my adult life although he has not known me except in present day via email. I was a student at Boston Univ. in the late 60's and had the occasion to be involved in student protests and to have been fortunate to hear lectures of Prof. Zinn at that time protesting the Vietnam War.

I adored him and still do. I have read much of his "People's History" and his views of our government surely shed new light on some egregious, nefarious and destructive-to-human-life our government, in our name, has perpetrated. He opened up a world of thought to me which remained unknown certainly within the structure of a public school system which never told the flip side of the story. History nearly always is written by the victors and at that time the US, in my naive and innocent mind, was victorious (and good ... nay exceptional) in everything it did. So many told me that fact.

After hitting the steps of Boston Univ. in the late 60's, hearing Howard Zinn, Murray Levin, Edgar Bottome and others I swiftly did a cerebral about face concerning US history. Still, during the many years I have had to think about events, age brings a jaded cynicism as to just how much progressives can change a quagmire and how much can I do to affect that change within my lifetime. I began to question who is correct in their world view the left or the right. Perhaps, is it really somewhere in between.

I would love to have asked Prof. Zinn more questions. Does he really believe the basic nature of man is non violent? Does he really think no matter how non violent a society we could be there would not be another nation state somewhere at some time who would want to attack us? Negotiations with such a state would be fruitless and that if we did not strike first another country would.

Obama said that the United States has underwritten, like an insurance policy, the security of the world. Professor Zinn surely does not believe that. I suspect he believes quite the opposite. I would have liked Bill Moyers to have put some tougher questions to Professor Zinn the kind of questions we, who call ourselves progressives, have to answer when confronting the opposition every time we express an opinion.

Mr. Moyers came close when he talked about Palin as a populist and Prof. Zinn said yes she had some elements of that but she was militaristic. I wanted Moyers to follow up on that. I would like to know from Professor Zinn how threatening the populist tea bag movement, who loves Sarah Palin, is to the other populists or progressives of my ilk who would lock horns in mortal combat with Palin's populism if it came to that extreme.

How much civil disobedience is possible and how much will be tolerated? What if during the protests we meet up with various gun loving, god fearing, gay loathing populists who do not like our message and who would be stronger them or us?

There is a split, as I see it, in this country. Both the left AND the right hate what Washington is about and yet the left and the right hate each other possibly even more than they hate the nature of Washington DC itself.