[I just got word that Howard Zinn died and am reposting this — TJM]
The Clash, “Know Your Rights” (click to listen or download)
Tom Robinson Band, “Better Decide Which Side You’re On” (click to listen or download)
A little side trip from the usual.
This evening I was at my local gas station. I’ve had some interactions with the guy behind the counter before. He’s probably in his late 20s, a white guy into “Positive Hip Hop” (we’ve talked about that before). He wears some bling, has what looks like a prison tear tattoo by his eye, I think he said takes some classes at MATC. I’m always glad to see him.
Tonight I walked in and saw — off to the side, behind the counter — Naomi Wolf’s Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries.
I said, ” You are reading Noami Wolf?” and smiled.
He responded “I got Howard Zinn in the car,” smiling also.
We talked a bit about Zinn and the People’s History (purchase from Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative). I told him I taught history.
You’d be amazed at how many peple bring up Zinn when I tell them I am a historian. I can do the “critical reading” thing with Zinn and find things that should be better, but he has done so much good for so many peoples’ understanding of our nations history and present; in turn most of those people have become better citizens because of what they learned. Zinn is good, the People’s History is good.
This would be a better country if more people had Howard Zinn in the car.
We talked some more; he told me about reading the Constitution with his 11 year old daughter who wants to be a Constitutional lawyer. He told me that the price he extracted from his daughter for recreational computer access this Summer was a five page paper on the Federal Reserve.
We talked more about the Constitution. As I was walking out, I quoted “Know your rights.”
He answered “They are under attack.”
With the door closing I said “Always” and he flashed me a hand sign and a smile.
These days it is easy to get discouraged about politics, activism, education and so much else. It happens to me all the time. I wasn’t discouraged on my way home and haven’t been since.
I’m energized. I know that my friend at the gas station is going to keep doing what he is doing and the world is a better place for it. I’m energized to make sure that people like him and me have opportunities to come together to work for that better future. Mostly I’m energized to keep trying make public education live up to all of its promises, for his daughter, my sons and all the rest.
Thomas J. Mertz
One response to “Howard Zinn in the Car”
Zinn’s book is often the first “alternative” history people encounter aside from the more generic history texts they encounter in high school. Actually, many students in West Allis read at least some Zinn. Usually, reading Zinn prompts the useful observation that there is more than one side to history, that facts and the careful selection of facts can be used to support one truth or myth or history. The greater peoblem is that too often students,having opened their eyes just a bit, quickly form a judgement then close them again. It is too rare that they open again to gain perspective and understanding of a third point of view. Too often they are left with only a “gotcha” perspective of American history, and too often their teachers are content to leave it at that.