You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train – A Personal History of Our Times (Howard Zinn) [2002]

neutralSpelman College, Atlanta. Sparkas på sommarlovet.

While we were an embattled minority, it was thrilling to imagine that the beautiful humanity of so many of the people we encountered in the movement (forgetting its dogmatists, its bureaucrats, the power-seekers, the humorless ones) represented the future. It seemed there could be some day a world of just such people, the kind you could work with, share everything with, have fun with, trust with your life.

Later, back in the States, we read that Overly was speaking around the country, telling of maltreatment and torture in prison. I was surprised, because on that plane to Vientiane there had been no reason for him to lie to me about his experience.

[Dan & Phil Berrigan, home-made napalm!] Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children… We could not, so help us God, do otherwise. For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children…

epic lärare – sökt av polisen, debatt + undervisar

The judge told the jury, ”This is a case about arson and theft.” He did not want the jury to hear about why these people had burned draft records. He did not want to hear about the war in Vietnam. He wanted the jury to treat the defendants as ordinary criminals who for some mysterious purpose had decided to destroy government documents.

How wise Dickens was to make readers feel poverty and cruelty through the fate of children who had not reached the age here the righteous and comfortable classes could accuse them of being responsible for their own misery.

”my Communist years”

The Soviet Union was this romantic blur, far away. What was close at hand, visible, was that communists were the leaders in organizing working people all over the country. They were the most daring, risking arrest and beatings to organize auto workers in Detroit, steel workers in Pittsburgh, textile workers in North Carolina, fur and leather workers in New York, longshoremen on the West Coast. They were the first to speak up, more than that, to demonstrate, to chain themselves to factory gates and White House fences, when blacks were lynched in the South, when the “Scottsboro Boys” were being railroaded to prison in Alabama.

My image of “a communist” was not a Soviet bureaucrat, but my friend Leon’s father, a cabdriver who came home from work bruised and bloody one day, beaten up by his employer’s goons (yes, that word was soon part of my vocabulary) for trying to organize his fellow cabdrivers into a union.

Everyone knew that the communists were the first anti-fascists, protesting against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia and Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. And, most impressive of all, it was the communists, thousands of them, who volunteered to fight in Spain, in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, to join volunteers from all over the world to defend Madrid and the Spanish people against the Fascist army of Francisco Franco, which was given arms and airplanes by Germany and Italy.

Furthermore, some of the best people in the country were connected with the communist movement in some way; there were heroes and heroines one could admire. There was Paul Robeson, the fabulous singer-actor-athlete, whose magnificent voice could fill Madison Square Garden, crying out against racial injustice, against fascism. And literary figures (weren’t Theodore Dreiser and W.E.B. Dubois communists?), and talented, socially conscious Hollywood actors and writers and directors (yes, “The Hollywood Ten,” hauled before a Congressional Committee, defended by Humphrey Bogart and so many others).

At the age of twenty-seven, with a second child on the way, I began college as a freshman at New York University, under the G.I. Bill of Rights. That gave me four years of free college education and $120 a month, so that with Roz working part-time, with Myla and Jeff in nursery, with me working a night shift after school, we could survive.

Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… The bad things that happen are repetitions of bad things that have always happened – war, racism, maltreatment of women, religious and nationalist fanaticism, starvation. The good things that happen are unexpected.



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