On Howard Zinn

Cyrus Bina, Distinguished Research Professor
University of Minnesota

We have lost a towering figure of remarkable quality during the age of intellectual decline and moral timidity in Americana. This is the time of destructive creation in (and by) Wall Street, which has now been piggybacked on Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction,” an apt description of bread-and-butter and winner-take-all modus operandi of business throughout America and elsewhere. This is an era that our government has invaded the two major Muslim countries based upon a little more than out-of thin-air reasoning, and decidedly created a two-front war that has not only dilapidated us to the core morally but, if history is of any consolation, will haunt us not unlike the ghost of Hamlet’s father all the way to the end of the twenty-first century. We have entered into the era of transnationalization of capital and capitalism, which is synonymous with the end of the Pax Americana and American hegemony and which had sunk us since the 1980s in the ocean of hegemony-smashing globalization; yet our sanguine government acts like a newly minted hegemon of the yesteryears, and then when hardly any nation (particularly those which were the subject of past US coups) does give a hoot, it mindlessly plan to dominate, even invade, it by extra-judicial and colonial means. The excruciating lessons of Vietnam War, civil rights, Watergate, labor strife, rampant racism and racial segregation, immigration and immigrant bashing, racial and political profiling, blanket surveillance of citizenry, government secrecy, not to mention, tempering with tenure and academic rights appear to have lost on those who sit at positions of power in this country. It is in midst of these unlearned lessons and unheeded mistakes that Howard Zinn’s loss is felt so glaringly today. Howard Zinn wore a couple of dozen hats in dealing with all these crucial matters in his long life and colorful career, which placed him among a handful of most daring and effective public intellectuals in the twentieth century. He was a renaissance man, in his thought and in his deeds. He will be remembered as an illuminating towering candle in the altar of humanity that burnt fully to the very last droplet, before it faded away. The world is dimmer now and I miss him already.

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