Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Got Down with Howard Zinn Last Night

The movie was sitting in my in my instant queue on Netflix for I don't know how long. It was one that I've been meaning to watch for awhile, but never felt in the mood for. You really have to be in the mood for a documentary, you know. You have to have that intellectual, brainiac mode going on in your head. But life's got a way of working out, of things happening at the right time.

And last night was the right time for me to watch, Howard Zinn: You can't be neutral on a moving train.

A huge regret is that I never heard him speak, even though we lived in the same city. A huge disappointment is that I enrolled at Boston University, where he was a professor in history, a year after he died. There are so many amazing professors at BU, and while on the one hand I and my wallet are kind of glad I was able to get through my program in a year, it would have been so great to have spent time in the classroom with some of these great minds.

But I'm getting off point. Last night all that Tea Party/Christian Fundamentalist/Conservative Movement that is roiling the intelligent discourse in this country--dare I say the intellectual backlash caused by people who simply are ignorant--really hit me hard.  Last night it was personal. And last night I did exactly what I hate to do: I fired up Netflix looking for some mind-numbing film just so I could stare and let my mind idle. But you know what? I'm not like that. Every time I fall down, every time I feel life giving me a sucker punch, every time it looks like I'm out for the count, I'll still find a way to get back on track. Minds are not meant for idling. They are meant for peddle to the metal thinking. And Howard Zinn's life and values and intelligence was exactly what I needed and I think, frankly, is what this country continues to need. His values were steeped in traditional American values as I've understood them. That this country was founded on respecting individual rights. That the people, not the government or worse, Big Business, own and rule this country. That patriotism is not leveled at a government, but the country, and again, this country was founded on individual rights and not groups, and that includes the fanatical right who seems to think it espouses so much of traditional rights and values--all in the name of Jesus.

I would have loved, though, to sit with him and pepper him with questions about what continues to be happening in this country. The unbelievable hatred by people who profess to follow Jesus. The ignorance of people who clearly aren't capable of understanding complex issues, or even worse, people who don't have the capacity to simply admit they are in over their heads and then search out the answers.  And I suspect, in a classroom, he would have encouraged that discourse. I'm a Libra, and I play a really good devil's advocate and I would have cherished the time spent with him.

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