Talking It Up
Recorded during the 100th anniversary celebration of The Progressive. Zinn wrote a column for the magazine and Zirin is a current columnist. “There’s no sports writer like Dave Zirin,” Zinn declares. And he’s right. A rollicking funny and simultaneously insightful session where Zirin asks the questions and Zinn provides the answers. Zinn calls Obama “a very traditional Democrat.” As always Zinn provides a historical framework. He says, “We need to restore the idea of an egalitarian society. I learned about Socialism from Upton Sinclair. Capitalism has failed. We have to go beyond Capitalism.” Invoking Nuremberg, Zinn takes Obama to task and says Bush and others should “be held responsible for what they did.” He calls John Silber, his old boss at Boston University, “the Idi Amin of higher education.” And he talks about his last great project, the documentary, The People Speak.
Howard Zinn, professor emeritus at Boston University, was perhaps this country’s premier radical historian. He was born in Brooklyn in 1922. His parents, poor immigrants, were constantly moving to stay, as he once told me, “one step ahead of the landlord.” After high school, he went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During World War II, he saw combat duty as an air force bombardier. After the war, he went to Columbia University on the GI Bill. He taught at Spelman, the all-black women’s college in Atlanta. He was an active figure in the civil rights movement and served on the board of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was fired by Spelman for his activism. He was among the first to oppose U.S. aggression in Indochina. His book Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal was an instant classic. A principled opponent of imperialism and militarism, he was an advocate of non-violent civil disobedience. He spoke and marched against the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. His masterwork, A People’s History of the United States, continues to sell in huge numbers. Among his many books are A Power Governments Cannot Suppress and Original Zinn with David Barsamian. Just before his death, he completed his last great project, the documentary The People Speak. Always ready to lend a hand, he believed in and practiced solidarity. Witty, erudite, generous, and loved, Howard Zinn, friend and teacher, passed away on January 27, 2010. His words inspire many the world over, “We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. To live now, as human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
Dave Zirin is sports editor for The Nation magazine and host of Edge of Sports Podcast. He is the author of many books including The John Carlos Story, What’s My Name, Fool?, A People’s History of Sports in the United States, Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down and Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics and the Future of Democracy. His writing earned him Press Action’s Sportswriter of the Year Award.