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Howard Zinn

(1922 - 2010)


American Historian and Author

Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.
Democracy is not just a counting up of votes – it is a counting up of actions. Without those on the bottom acting out there desires for justice – as the government acts out its needs, and those with power and privilege act out theirs – the scales of democracy will be off. That is why civil disobedience is not just to be tolerated – if we are to have a truly democratic society it is a necessity.
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
Everyone is biased, whether they know it or not, in possessing fundamental goals, purposes, and ends. If we understand that, we can be properly skeptical of all historians (and journalists and anyone who reports on the world) and check to see if their biases cause them to emphasize certain things in history and omit or give slight consideration to others.
Here in the United States, we are brought up to believe that our nation is different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral; that we expand into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy. But if you know some history you know that's not true.
History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.
Human beings do not naturally support violence and terror. They do so only when they believe their lives or country are at stake.
If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, nor as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one's country, one's fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.
If Thomas Jefferson were in Washington yesterday walking down the street, he would have been arrested. He was too young, and he had long hair! And if Jefferson had been carrying the Declaration of Independence with him yesterday, he would have been indicted for conspiring to overthrow the government, along with his co-conspirators George Washington and John Adams and Tom Paine and a lot of others.
If those in charge of our society — politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television — can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.