Howard Zinn is a historian, political scientist, social critic, activist and playwright, best known as author of the bestseller A People's History of the United States.
Zinn has been active in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in the United States.
The author of some 20 books, Zinn is currently Professor Emeritus in the Political Science Department at Boston University. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, the artist Roslyn Zinn. The couple have two children, Myla and Jeff, and five grandchildren. Both artist and editor, Roslyn has had a role in editing all of Zinn's books and many of his articles.
Question: Who do you endorse for President [in the 2008 US election]?
Howard Zinn: We have three candidates. We have a definite Republican candidate, [John] McCain. We have two Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
I certainly wouldn’t choose McCain, because McCain is a war hawk. This war in Iraq is one of the most disastrous things the United States has ever done for our people and certainly for the people of Iraq. McCain wanting to continue the war that [George W.] Bush started five years ago, McCain is absolutely repulsive to me.
Between Clinton and Obama, well both of them have promised to end the [Iraq] war, but I must say their proposals for bringing the troops out of Iraq are rather halfhearted and they talk about keeping troops there, or Barack Obama says, “Let’s take troops out of Iraq, send troops to Afghanistan.” Neither of them has shaken what Barack Obama rightly called the mindset that led to the Iraq war. The mindset is a mindset which sees war and military intervention as a solution. Neither of them has shaken that.
I’m not happy, as you can see, with any of the candidates. When I get to the voting booth, I will be forced against my will, because I want somebody else other than those three. I will be forced against my will to make a choice and I will probably choose Obama, because in many ways he represents something really different, a multi-racial person who is supported by a large number of young and enthusiastic people and who may, that is these young and enthusiastic people may, if he is elected, become a force that he has to reckon with and will push him in a better direction than he has shown so far.
Question: How can Americans live up to their potential?
Howard Zinn: I think Americans need to recognize that they cannot depend on our political system to do the right thing. Americans need to recognize that they have to create local institutions, organizations, town halls. They have to create grassroots organizations which all over the country will speak to the national politicians in order to bring about change, both in foreign and domestic policy.
In other words, I think Americans need to realize that they cannot limit their participation as citizens to go into the polls every several years to vote. They must participate every day.
Henry David Thoreau said, “We must vote with our arms, with our legs, with our feet, with our whole bodies.” By that he meant people should be active and involved every day of the year if we are really going to have a democratic society.
Date Recorded: July 5, 2008