On the off chance that someone out there who isn’t related to me reads this blog, I’m going to go ahead and confess that I am a Liberal, with a Capital L. I occasionally drink lattes, I’m terribly sensitive, I don’t like guns and I enjoy a rousing academic debate now and then. I love books and foreign films, and the piece de resistance? I’m currently learning French and someday I might even go there.
So, non-God fearing liberal that I am (obviously I hate God) I watched Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train last night, and aside from the fact that it totally made me cry (see above: Liberals, terribly sensitive) it also left me confused, because I think Mr. Zinn is often considered an extremist by ‘the establishment’. I sort of knew that before I watched the film. I’ve read A People’s History, and he once did a speaking tour with a stop at the University of Oregon campus which sold out in minutes. The man was like a rock star, and generally if someone is that well received in Eugene, OR, one can safely assume that he might be less well received in say, eastern Oregon. So I thought I was pretty familiar with his approach to history and to politics, and I expected to hear a rather radical point of view that I mostly agreed with.
Instead it was the most rational discussion of politics I’ve heard in years. Mr. Zinn’s premises are profoundly simple: war is fundamentally wrong and people have a right to demand from their government basic rights. Workers have a right to organize and citizens have a right to vote and killing people is wrong. I kept waiting for him to say something crazy—for him to cross a line—but he never did. Which led me to wonder, what happened to us as nation that we’ve branded this man a rebel? It seems to me that he is guilty only of advocating the purest form of democracy.
So here is the thing—I’m not reinventing the wheel here, nor am I saying anything that Mr. Zinn and countless others (Hi Jon Stewart!) haven’t already said, and generally much more poetically. I just need to share how refreshing it was to watch a man speak for an hour and feel nothing but pride and a shared sense that all is not lost. Because no matter how much Mr. Zinn sees wrong in the world (and there is plenty) he seems to also have an unshakable faith that the people have the power to make it right. And I like the idea of a world without victims…only people who haven’t stood up yet.