Howard Zinn in Olympia Today
Howard Zinn was scheduled to speak in Olympia today. Instead the community will hold a memorial service for him. Not nearly as rewarding as hearing him speak but still important. Important because it remembers Howard Zinn's legacy of economic justice and activism, a reminder that we can act as individuals to create real change.
I've been reading Uncommon Sense: From the Writings of Howard Zinn the past few weeks. The collection is a treasure of thoughts and ideas, a reminder of Zinn's wide-ranging and clear understanding of American history, a history I learned only as an adult.
Two quotes particularly resonate with me and will be my lasting memory of Howard Zinn:
I can understand pessimism, but I don't believe in it. It's not simply a matter of faith, but of historical evidence. Not overwhelming evidence, just enough to give hope, because for hope we done need certainty, only possibility.
The word "optimism" ...makes me a little uneasy, because it suggests a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. But I use it anyway, not because I am totally confident that the world will get better, but because I am certain that only such confidence can prevent people from giving up the game before all the cards have been played.... To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world. (emphasis in original)
from Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian (1993)
Zinn's death is a double loss for the Olympia activist community. Not only do we not have the opportunity to hear him in person, he was a member of the national board of GI Voice, an organization of activist veterans who operate Coffee Strong outside the main gate of the Army base formerly known as Fort Lewis. His schedule included a visit to Coffee Strong.