Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coward Zinn (1922 -2010)


If Howard Zinn had died in March of 2008, he would have gone out on a better note but to call it a "high note" would still require a great deal of self-deception.

For example, Coward Zinn had, by that point, already spent a year demonstrating how democracy and free and fair elections meant zilch to him. He did that by taking part in the shameful "Ralph, Don't Run" campaign of 2004. Like most of the (public) participants in that campaign to target Ralph Nader in an attempt to hector him into not running for president, Coward had supported Nader in 2000.

The 2000 election was decided not by the voters and not even by the electoral college. It was decided by the Supreme Court which refused to allow the votes in Florida to be counted. The results of the 2000 election had nothing to do with Ralph Nader and it's amazing that so many were willing to disgrace themselves with a 2004 campaign targeting Nader but none of them bothered to offer a "Supreme Court: Stay Out Of Our Election" in 2004.

When a 'historian' can't tell you the truth, that's rather sad but the truth is that Ralph Nader didn't steal any votes. Votes belong only to the voters. The people decide how they will vote. Ralph 'stole' no votes from Al Gore or George W. Bush or anyone. People who voted for Ralph in 2000 did so because that is who they wanted to vote for. That decision was disrespected and mocked by Howard Zinn (and others) in 2004 and it was shameful.

Howard Zinn was incapable of learning from his errors. To Elaine and C.I., he agreed (in 2005) that the "Ralph, Don't Run" campaign was "an embarrassment" (his term, Elaine and C.I. were more vocal -- and for the record, Elaine and C.I. supported Al Gore in 2000 yet never felt the need to take part in a "Ralph, Don't Run" in 2004). But then came 2008 and he was embarrassing himself all over again.

After having counseled early in the year against 'election madness,' there was 'independent' (Socialist) Coward Zinn endorsing Barack Obama. It was appalling. It was disgusting. Between being called out all over the net and being confronted by people he knew, Coward realized he needed to walk it back and quickly 'retracted' (pretended to) his endorsement of War Hawk Corporatist Barack Obama and endorsed Ralph Nader (independent presidential candidate).

It was a pretend endorsement and you grasped that if you caught any of his interviews or speeches after the 'endorsement' of Ralph -- speeches and interviews where he raved over Barack and 'forgot' to mention Ralph.

It was a pretend endorsement as he allowed his name to be used to raise money via an inauguration ball for Barack. When we called that out here, Anthony Arnove e-mailed to insist that he and Howard were not attending the ball. He further insisted that they could not remove their name from the list with implications that they had attempted to do so. As C.I. pointed out, Zinn and Arnove knew the organizers very well (Bus Boys & Poets) and could have easily removed their names from the list with one phone call. (Amy Goodman would hawk tickets to this ball for $1,000 as a fundraiser for Democracy Now! -- and you want to still pretend she was ever impartial?)

As personal, peer-to-peer criticism continued to mount throughout 2009, Howard Zinn weakly and meekly began to call out Barack. The manner in which he did only underscored an ugly reality: Howard had his own racism to deal with.

And you should have caught that on Thursday when Pacifica couldn't stop playing clips of interviews with Coward. The take-away of all those interviews? How many times Coward faulted Barack Obama for not living up to MLK.

We're not Barack supporters or boosters here. (This site endorsed Ralph Nader except for Ava and C.I. who endorsed no one for president but voted for either Ralph or Cynthia McKinney, they're not saying who.) So it's really strange that we're the ones who have to defend Barack on this point but we will.

Barack isn't MLK, Barack never claimed to be MLK, Barack is not related by blood or marriage to MLK, Barack Obama is the president of the United States.

MLK never was the president, never wanted to be the president, resisted calls to run for president.

There is no logical reason to compare Barack and MLK or to hold MLK up as a standard for Barack.

When George W. Bush occupied the White House, no one went around bemoaning that Bully Boy wasn't MLK. Nor did they do it with Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon . . .

Why is Barack expected to be MLK? Why is Barack graded with MLK as the standard score?

It's racism.

Barack is bi-racial and MLK was Black. Therefore, in the minds of some, the two men are one and the same. It's racism. (See Ruth on this topic.)

And Pacifica thought they were doing something grand in their 'remember Howard' coverage but all they really demonstrated was how out of touch the White Spelman professor was with people of color.

Some listening to that coverage, or Howard in real time, wrongly may have believed he gave a damn about feminism. Feminism is the longest lasting movement in the US and, in fact, in the world. So for 'movement' historian Zinn, it was important that he feign interest in it. He'd give it lip service but he was never really interested in it and that becomes achingly clear in his writing. Multiple examples can be offered but the best example is to steer you to The Zinn Reader (edited by Arnove) which attempts to offer a 'best of' Zinn by breaking his work down into the 'big categories.' Just glance at the table of contents. You'll see "Racism" and think, "Good." Then you'll move on to "Classicism," and think good. But at some point you'll notice that there's no section on feminism. There can't be. Zinn rarely and barely wrote of it. A significant omission for an overly applauded historian and activist.

"We will all miss our friend who spoke for the people," insisted Dennis Bernstein on Wednesday's Flashpoints (KPFA); however, he didn't speak for women.

"He spoke for everyone!" we can hear someone snarl.

Well, Zinn specifically spoke for certain groups of people but women were never among those groups, now were they?

Pick up Passionate Declarations: Essays On War and Justice and you should be able to immediately notice that justice may or may not (depending on his mood) include African-American women, but it always included African-American men and never included non-African-American women. Which is how the book comes to offer chapter nine ("Representative Government: The Black Experience") but has nothing to say about the centuries of misogyny women have lived under and fought against.

Howard Zinn passed away on Wednesday. He was a historian. Some wrongly attempted to turn him into a god. Many had long criticized Pacifica's non-stop reliance on Zinn (and others) at the expense of hearing from women of all races and males of color. Reflecting his age (and his politics), he had a patronizing view of African-Americans and he had no real respect for women.

He was no hero yet, had he passed away in March of 2008, he still had a legacy of some sort that could be pointed to with a degree of pride. He blew that as well.

As noted at the start, in 2008, he endorsed Corporatist War Hawk Barack Obama. When the outcry and the hypocrisy got to be too much, he gave a faux endorsement of Ralph Nader and then never did a damn thing to help Ralph get votes or attention.

By the time 2009 rolled around, he 'forgot' his 'endorsement' of Barack and was telling Liliana Segura:

Yes -- I endorsed Obama, I wanted him to win. I wanted Bush and Cheney out of there. I wanted change -- and the truth is I didn't have much choice. It was Bush or Obama. I chose Obama. And, in fact, I was hopeful. Not too hopeful, because I know something about American history.

He knew something about American history? In the end, he demonstrated he knew a great deal about fakery and fraud. Some of his writing -- with limitations due to his racism and sexism -- holds up but the man exposed himself and he was no hero, role model or activist to emulate.

The 'independents' like Howard Zinn may never realize how self-defeating it is for them to jump on the popular bandwagon -- the same bandwagon that rolled over them -- but the people will and have already started to do so.
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