Howard Zinn lecture

I went to a peace lecture and award ceremony on Sunday where Howard Zinn was honored and gave a lecture on history and action. Here are a few pictures and video clips, as well as my lecture notes typed out and expanded a little. It is long, but very much worth reading. This man is brilliant. If you have never read is books, you should. You will be shocked by what you didn’t learn in school!! Enjoy!!

History as a Guide to Action

Dr. Howard Zinn

The administration has committed a war of aggression. They have committed war crimes. After WWII we convicted the Nazis of war crimes and hung them for what they did. I’m not suggesting that we hang them. I was thinking, maybe community service. Bush should spend a year in a homeless shelter so he can see that not everyone lives on a ranch. Dick Cheney, well he should go to the same place so that he can tell Bush what to do.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Hermann Goring - Second in command of the Third Reich, and commander of the Luftwaffe

There is a spectrum between Totalitarianism and Democracy. We are somewhere in between. There are so many ways that we fall short. Especially in Matters of war; there is no democracy. For instance:

There is no check on the president when he goes to war. Historically Congress has always followed the president like sheep.

Constitutionally Congress was given the power to declare war because the President has a predisposition for war.

All wars since WWII have been unconstitutional because the President has declared war, not congress.

The Supreme Court has refused to take cases involving the constitutionality of wars.

The Supreme Court took away our right to free speech during wartime. The 1st Amendment says that there should be no laws abridging the freedom of speech, but the Supreme Court unanimously upheld congresses right to revoke freedom of speech during wartime.

Democracy is something you have to fight for. The Constitution isn’t a list of realities; it is a list of promises that must be demanded by the people to be fulfilled.

The media should be the watchdog of the government, but our media has failed us.

Collin Powell’s list of WMD’s was the largest list of falsehoods ever read before the UN. Did the media ask for proof or facts to support his claims? NO! All the media had was admiration for the administration. The NY Times even went as far as saying that it is “hard to imagine that Iraq doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction.”

We have to depend on ourselves!

Problems with this:

  • US citizens haven’t had a good historical education. The public needs understand history’s truths.
  • We need to learn a history where Mark Twain is a hero, not the war mongering Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Where Woodrow Wilson isn’t a hero, but Helen Keller, who was a radical, anti-war socialist.

If we knew history, we would know the lies that are retold every time we go to war and we would never believe the next administration that tells those same lies.

We need to remember that Polk started the Mexican-American war because he wanted the land that belonged to Mexico. We wanted the natural resources in Cuba so we supported every dictator that violently took charge until the wrong dictator took over, and then we were against dictatorship. We need to remember the murderous occupation of the Philippines whenever they talk about occupation to bring about democracy. We should also remember that God told Wilson to invade the Philippines.

We are susceptible to lies.

We think government is our friend. If they do something wrong, it is just a mistake, not that they don’t really care about us. Our feeling of a “common interest” with the government makes us susceptible.

55 rich white men started this nation. Blacks, women, minorities, etc were not represented. They did not have a common interest with the US people then, and they don’t now.

There are the rich and the poor. In the middle are a bunch of nervous people.

There is always a conflict between rich and poor. The government almost always sides with the wealthy class. The only exceptions are when the working class rebels.

We think we are the greatest.

This leads us to believe that our government does good things. We have a record of violent expansion, both domestic and foreign. What about slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, segregation, oppression of women, etc.

We have to be honest about our history and our country and about what we have done.

When you are critical, you will be called unpatriotic, which often leads us to be quiet. Being unpatriotic can now lead us to losing our rights and being taken away and imprisoned due to the new military commissions act.

To be patriotic is not to support the government. That is totalitarianism. To be patriotic is to question power. That is democracy.

The government is set up by the people. When they become destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government. That is in our constitution. If we have the right to alter or abolish, we certainly have the right to criticize.

Whenever serious injustice occurs, it is up to the people to stand up. The power of money and guns is fragile because it relies on the obedience of the people. The government can’t continue a war when the people and the GI’s rebel against it.

We do have power. Millions of people doing small things at points in history has caused change.

After WWI, the percentage of military to civilian death shifted from almost 10 military to 1 civilian to now almost 90 civilians to every military death. Every was we fight today is a war against children.

It is not just this war or that war, but all war.

What people learn in social movements is how it enhances your life just to be involved. When you work with others to achieve a good end, it makes life worth living.