Shelly R. Fredman interviewed Zinn for Tikkun, the progressive Jewish magazine. An excerpt:
[Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael] Lerner also claims that the parts of our cultural heritage that embody elements of hope are dismissed as naïve, with little to teach us. You must have had your own bouts with critics who see your vision as naïve. How do you address them?Hey, one of wmtc's faithful readers was at that conference in Austin! (Hi Dean!)
HZ: It's true that any talk of hope is dismissed as naive, but that's because we tend to look at the surface of things at any given time. And the surface almost always looks grim. The charge of naïvete also comes from a loss of historical perspective. History shows that what is considered naïve in one decade becomes reality in another.
How much hope was there for black people in the South in the fifties? At the start of the Vietnam War, anyone who thought the monster war machine could be stopped seemed naive. When I was in South Africa in 1982, and apartheid was fully entrenched, it seemed naive to think that it would be dissolved and even more naive to think that Mandela would become president. But in all those cases, anyone looking under the surface would have seen currents of potential change bubbling and growing.
Has the Left responded adequately to the kind of fascism we see coming from Bush's people? Street protests seem to be ineffective; it’s sometimes disheartening.
HZ: The responses are never adequate, until they build and build and something changes. People very often think that there must be some magical tactic, beyond the traditional ones — protests, demonstrations, vigils, civil disobedience — but there is no magical panacea, only persistence in continuing and escalating the usual tactics of protest and resistance. The end of the Vietnam War did not come because the Left suddenly did something new and dramatic, but because all of the actions built up over time.
If you listen to the media, you get no sense of what's happening. I speak to groups of people in different parts of the country. I was in Austin, Texas recently and a thousand people showed up. I believe people are basically decent, they just lack information.
If you're interested in sampling Howard Zinn, but are intimidated by A People's History of the United States, I heartily recommend his brief and inspiring memoir, You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train. I wrote about it here, and quoted from it prodigiously in the days prior to that post.
[While searching for that old post, I noticed this one, written after receiving a fundraising solicitation from the Democrats immediately following the election. I was angry.]
Anyway, read Fredman's interview with Zinn at Tikkun or AlterNet. Thanks to Redsock for sending it to me.