Bunny and I were looking for old books at a bookstore today when the bookstore lady told us that Howard Zinn had just died. Although I know he was getting kind of old my heart stopped for a moment as I realized what I’d just heard.
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Professor Zinn in Boston. He was funny, gentle, warm, humble. Near the end of the evening I told him I was thinking of making a tv show with cats that would talk about ethics and do structural analyses of imperialism and stuff like that. I’m sure it sounded like a stupid idea but instead of making a weird face he just thought about it for a moment and then gave me some encouragement. Maybe he was just being polite but it didn’t matter to me, Howard Zinn is one of my heroes and there he was encouraging me to go do it! Wow! A little later Bunny and I started making The Pinky Show. It’s certainly not epic like A People’s History of the United States, but it’s what we can do.
I have often wondered how people find their paths. For example, as a young man studying to become a historian, I’m sure Howard Zinn wasn’t the only person with access to a secret stash of radical history books at the NYU library. Actually, I’d be willing to bet that he studied from mostly the same texts that his classmates were also studying. But somehow he managed to cultivate a perspective of history that was fairly downside-up compared to those of his peers. How did that happen? I want to know because I’d like to see maybe a million or ten million Howard Zinns coming up in this next generation.
I’m going to miss Professor Zinn. But I’m also grateful that he made so many extraordinary books for us to read and study.ooo x,