[Howard Zinn raw #1]

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Howard Zinn conducts a Q&A session with high school students in Manhattan, Kansas. He speaks on wars throughout history, the prospects of socialism, the US military machine, the state of contemporary left politics, and the importance of critically examining history and the present.

0:04 Two students introduce Howard Zinn to the stage in a high school auditorium.

0:33 Zinn introduces himself to the students.

2:27 A student named Erin asks Zinn if he believes we could have avoided wars throughout history.

2:46 Zinn responds, “There are some wars that are harder to talk about than others.” He says that World War II is difficult to discuss. Lots of audio missing. He¬†talks about dissent towards the Mexican War from Henry Thoreau and American soldiers, recalls the massive casualties and sense of dilussionment following World War I. He says that WWII gave war a “good name” because “we were fighting against fascism.”

8:37 Zinn discusses the carnage of the Korean War; how the Vietnam War showed Americans that the nation’s leaders couldn’t be trusted. Describes it as a vicious war, discusses it napalm and cluster bombs.

14:45 A student named Gina asks Zinn how he selects his facts and what statement he is making as a historian. Zinn responds that his starting point is looking at a particular period in history and noting which viewpoints have been left out. He explains how his search for an Arawak perspective in the story of Christopher Columbus led to his discovery of the writings of Bartolome de las Casas. “When you change your mindset about whose point of view you’re interested in, then everything begins to look different.”

21:05 A student named Sally asks Zinn what he thinks about military recruitment in schools. Zinn replies ironically, “and what better career for a young person to have than dying or killing?” He condemns the indocrination of young people by military recruitment programs.

23:38 A student named Ranjin asks Zinn how he thinks the legacy of the Soviet Union affects the possibility of the development of a new socialist revolution. Zinn says that the Soviet Union was socialist in name only. “Now that the Soviet Union has collapsed, I think it clears the way for seeing socialism in a fresh light.” Praises Eugene Debs, Upton Sinclair, notes the importance of creating a kinder society, regardless of its label.

27:51 A student asks for Zinn’s thoughts on the fragmentation of the left and the conflict between identity politics and more traditional class politics. Zinn says he doesn’t think focusing on gender inequality and racial inequality divides people, or at least it shouldn’t. “I think we needn’t neglect issues of racial or sexual justice while finding a common ground among all these groups in the matter of the distribution of wealth in this country.” Says he believes wealth distribution is needed to properly deal with racial, sexual, environmental justice.

31:20 A student asks Zinn how important he thinks it is for a president to be honest with the American people and whether a dangerous precedent might be set if Bill Clinton doesn’t get impeached. Zinn says presidents have been lying for a long time and the impeachment decision won’t change that. “If circumstances are such that lying will be politically useful for a president, the president will lie.”

33:32 Another student asks a question. No audio.

35:00 Audio returns with Zinn discussing the New Deal and the Federal Arts Project. He discusses the need for a society with guaranteed employment, housing, and healthcare, funded with a progressive tax system.

39:24 A student asks Zinn if anybody influenced him to write A People’s History of The United States. Zinn says he was influenced by his working class upbringing, his work at a shipyard, his experiences in the Air Force, his involvement in the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements.

41:55 A student asks Zinn about the defense budget. Zinn discusses how the “defense budget” funds offensive action rather than defense. He dismisses the preoccupation with American exceptionalism and American military supremacy. “They’re happy in Sweden. They don’t have a big military machine. You know, be more modest, play a more modest role in the world. You’ll live better.”

44:23 A student named Anna asks Zinn if he thinks there are any politicians or leaders who still deserve our respect. Zinn talks about Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, the Civil Rights movement, Henry Thoreau, the abolitionists, Frederick Douglass, Ron Kovic.

47:20 Zinn says he wants people who read his books to reconsider their worldview and act on their beliefs.

49:11 A student named Jason asks if reducing the United States military presence would open the door for more war. Zinn replies that the United States’ military machine hasn’t actually detered much war and has helped more dictators than it has hurt.

52:25 A student asks Zinn why he feels that ordinary people are worthy of historical focus. Zinn says that many so-called ordinary people are in fact extraordinary, but just haven’t been considered so by the powers that be. “The future of the country depends on ordinary people organizing themselves, becoming active, and creating a new kind of society.”

54:41 A student named Tanya asks Zinn about his critical stance towards contemporary politicians. He discusses how looking critically at history is important to understanding contemporary society.

57:24 Zinn signs books and talks to students in the house of the auditorium. He also signs a pair of rollerskates.

 

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