UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper XLVIApril 28, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
(San Francisco: CityLights Books, 2007).
1: If History Is to Be Creative.
Writing history forZinn is not “a neutral act. By writing I hope to awakena great consciousness of racial injustice, sexual bias,class inequality, and national hubris” (11). “Historycan help our struggles. . . . History can tell how oftengovernments have lied to us” (12). The “basicweakness” of governments is that they depend onpublic support for their legitimacy (13). “[W]e may beseeing the gradual disintegration of this administration,despite its outward confidence” (15). “Change inpublic consciousness starts with low-level discontent”(15). “Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own” (16).
2: The Ultimate Betrayal.
The “seriously wounded”in the Iraq war (17-18). Not only the soldiers, but“[t]he people of the United States have been betrayed”(19). The rebellion of veterans in history (20-21). It isour “civic responsibility” to persuade other Americans“to measure Bush’s grandiose rhetoric about the‘spread of liberty’ against the historical record of American expansion” (22-23). Dalton Trumbo’s
Johnny Got His Gun
3: Seattle: A Flash of the Possible.
Evokes theSeattle general strike of 1919 (25). Seattle 1999protests showed “how fragile” the power of government is in the face of “organized, determinedcitizens” (25). Comparison with earlier movements(26-27). It was “a turning point in the history of movements of recent decades” because “the unionmovement was at the center. The issue of class—richand poor, here and all over the globe—bound everyonetogether” (28).
4: Big Government.
“Big government has been withthe world for at least 500 years” (29; 29-33). “So let’snot hesitate to say: We want the government . . . toorganize a system that gives free medical care toeveryone . . . ‘Big government’ in itself is hardly theissue. The question is: Whom will it serve? Or rather,which class?” (34).
5: The Forbidden Word: Class.
The U.S. politicalestablishment is united in its refusal to entertain theconcept of class interest, preferring the mystification of “the national interest” (35-36). Review of class inAmerican history (37-40). “Pointing to class divisionsin this country has always been dangerous” (41).“Since it imposes silence on these issues, our politicalsystem—bipartisan in its coldness to human rights—cannot be respected. It can only be protested against,challenged, or . . . ‘altered or abolished.’” (42).
6: World War II: The Good War.
Surprisinglyreceptive audience when Zinn spoke against war at aMemorial Day celebration at the Smithsonian [oddlyenough, Zinn doesn’t give the year; unfortunately, thisis true of all the essays in this volume] (43-47).
7: Learning from Hiroshima.
The film “The EnglishPatient” removed antiwar dialogue that was in thenovel (49). “The bombing of Hiroshima remains sacredto the American Establishment” (49). This is due to themyth of American goodness and the presentation of American violence as defensive (50-51). Dropping thebomb was unnecessary (52-53). Gar Alperovitz, in
TheDecision to Use the Atomic Bomb
, concluded that itwas “a diplomatic weapon against the Soviet Union”(53; 53-54). The real motives for war are economicand imperial (54-55).
8: Unsung Heroes.
Zinn defends himself from thecharge of debunking needed heroes by citingalternative heroes: William Penn, John Woolman, JohnRoss, Osceola, Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, EmmaGoldman, Helen Keller, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Joe DiMaggio, Toscanini, Fiorella LaGuardia, Sacco andVanzetti, Philip Berrigan, Kathy Kelly, Cindy Sheehan,“[a]nd so many more” (61; 57-61).
9: Tennis on the
Political elections inAmerica are like tennis games on the
(63).“Hidden by the contest of the candidates are realissues of race, class, war, and peace, which the publicis not supposed to think about” (63). What the Hayes- Tilden election of 1876, so often referred to in the 2000election imbroglio, really accomplished (63-65). BothDemocrats and Republicans support corporate power,the interests of the rich, the growth of prisons, andmilitarism (66).
10: Killing People to “Send a Message.”
Zinnlikens the U.S. Government to Timothy McVeigh, in that“both believe in killing people to ‘send a message’ (67;67-71).
11: The Double Horror of 9/11.
Belligerentresponse to 9/11 reflects “the old way of thinking”;“We need new ways of thinking” (73-75).
Rails against the bombing of Afghanistan and the killing of civilians, made possiblebecause “we are kept ignorant of what the ‘war onterror’ means in human terms” (79; 77-90).
13: Pacifism and War.
While not a pacifist in thesense of rejecting all use of violence, Zinn is a pacifistin opposing war
on the grounds that it is, “by itsnature, unfocused, indiscriminate, and, especially inour time when the technology is so murderous,inevitably involves the deaths of large numbers of people and the suffering of even more” (91).“Pacifism, which I define as a rejection of war, rests ona very powerful logic. In war, the means—indiscriminate killing—are immediate and certain; theends, however desirable, are distant and uncertain”(92). Alternatives to war: international police work,negotiations (92-94). We should address the two mainproblems: widespread misery in an age of vast wealth,and U.S. hegemony (94-95).
14: The Boston Massacre.
Boston Massacre, 1770(97-98). Columbus’s “Taino Massacre” (98). ThePequot Massacre [which Zinn misdates at 1636; it tookplace on May 26, 1637] (98-99). American Indianmassacres (99). Massacres of African Americans (100-01). Massacres of workers (100-01). The Ludlow