Remembering America’s Lost Conscience – Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010


America’s conscience died long before Howard Zinn passed away in 2010 ~ but his words and thoughts gnaw away at our collective soul and remind us that no Empire can long withstand the loss of its moral bearings:


by Allen L Roland


How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism? ~ Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn died of a heart attack at the age of 87 on January 27, 2010 but his words still reverberate within the catacombs of our national conscience reminding us that we are capable of greater things than dishonesty and lies, illegal wars and occupations, torture and renditions, targeted drone assassinations and predatory capitalism.

We are obviously made of better stuff and Howard Zinn knew that it all started with the truth  ~ “The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.

Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.” ― Howard Zinn, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

Zinn sensed America’s longing for a true change in moral values before the 2008 election and correctly saw Obama as a champion of the status quo and not an advocate for true change ~ “I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction … What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but “who is sitting in” — and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”

Zinn took no great pride in being a member of the so-called ‘ Greatest generation ‘ ~ “The Greatest Generation? They tell me I am a member of the greatest generation. That’s because I saw combat duty as a bombardier in World War 2 . But I refuse to celebrate “the greatest generation” because in so doing we are celebrating courage and sacrifice in the cause of war. And we are miseducating the young to believe that military heroism is the noblest form of heroism, when it should be remembered only as the tragic accompaniment of horrendous policies driven by power and profit. The current infatuation with World War 2 prepares us ~ innocently on the part of some, deliberately on the part of others ~ for more war, more military adventures, more attempts to emulate the military heroes of the past “

How do we achieve justice without war was Zinn’s constant question and quest ~ as seen in this three minute YouTube video from You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train

But Zinn was always an advocate for patriotic dissent even in the face of globalization and an approaching new world order ~ “Today everybody is talking about the fact that we live in one world; because of globalization, we are all part of the same planet. They talk that way, but do they mean it? We should remind them that the words of the Declaration [of Independence] apply not only to people in this country, but also to people all over the world. People everywhere have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When the government becomes destructive of that, then it is patriotic to dissent and to criticize – to do what we always praise and call heroic when we look upon the dissenters and critics in totalitarian countries who dare to speak out.” ― Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War and Other Essays

Zinn was a strong advocate for the voice of the people and his writings continually reminded us of that deep connection ~ “The democratic principle, enunciated in the words of the Declaration of Independence, declared that government was secondary, that the people who established it were primary. Thus, the future of democracy depended on the people, and their growing consciousness of what was the decent way to relate to their fellow human beings all over the world.” ― Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present

Zinn was also a proud practitioner of civil disobedience versus civil obedience and felt that no great change could occur without it ~ “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem … “Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.”

Above all, Howard Zinn was a truth teller and firmly believed that human beings were neither sheep or machines and that the hope of mankind resided in their willingness to exercise their conscience, in the face of perceived injustice, and declare their independence ~ “But human beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice that they dare to declare their independence. In that historical possibility lies hope.” ― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving train: A Personal History of our Times

So the hope for a better America lies in resurrecting our lost conscience or in the words of Howard Zinn ~ “I wonder how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own… There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”


About the Author: Allen L Roland is a Freelance Alternative Press Online columnist. He is also a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his web site at He also guest hosts a Truthtalk, a national radio show that airs monthly. He is available for comments, interviews, speaking engagements and private consultations via email at [email protected].


  1. I have seen many claims that Stalin was Ashkenazi – any definitive answer?

    Note that when Khrushchev and Zhukov (both ethnic Russians) had Beria (Ashkenazi) arrested and executed, the madness of arbitrary mass arrests ended, and the labor camps were mostly emptied.

  2. D.N.
    I do not deserve your praise, Sir.
    In truth I am a nobody, and doubtless will finish my existence unremembered, without so much as a ripple in the pool of human consciousness.
    Yes, I agree that humanity is facing its Waterloo. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue of what to do about it, other than resist, resist completely, wholly, without respite, without pause.
    Long ago, I read about the Hawaiian mystical tradition that embraced the Ana-Ana… they who disrupted, and changed the flow. The current flow is suicidal. To continue with the flow, to be a willing tool, is to buddy up with the suicide jocks and utterly indefensible.

  3. Hogwash! In my opinion “clever” sophistry throughout. I would urge readers to be cautious.

    I’d also urge readers to read this instead (The first one is short, readable and much more joyful, and it addresses part of the hogwash).

  4. Here’s another great american patriot from the past ~ “I recoil with horror at the ferociousness of man. Will nations never devise a more rational umpire of differences than force? Are there no means of coercing injustice more gratifying to our nature than a waste of the blood of thousands and of the labor of millions of our fellow creatures?” – Thomas Jefferson

  5. Thank you Allen,

    This is a great story about a great american patriot. This is one that I’m saving. He was so right about everything plain and simple. Why oh why is this so rare…

  6. Discriminating awareness needs to always be active when one looks for the truth in others words and actions. Mr. Zinn may not have been perfect, nor was MLK or Gandhi, or anyone I can think of. What then should we do? You who criticize must do it with open heart and sharp mind. You will then find a bit of truth and humanity in even president Obama or Mitt Romney or George Bush or John Kennedy or yourself. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  7. An economy based on war is no economy at all —a society based on war is no society at all. A nuclear air craft carrier brought to Haiti could be an American flag ship of hope for medical, water, and electricity to the many thousands of suffering. Start a USA peace corp—-dental , medical, teaching right at home. The military must be transformed or wound down and America must become a civil society. March against war when you can.

  8. Howard Zinn belongs to an older generation of “progressives” that includes Noam Chomsky and a present generation that includes people like Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. All of these three complained about Israel’s excesses while at the same time actually being, (deep down and under cover) longtime supporters of Zionism, an ideology that comes right out the very same Jewish Marxist European (and authoritarian) traditions that all three shared.

    Marxism is an odd and particularity Jewish philosophy. It borrows part of its theories from those of the earlier (and mainly gentile) European democratic socialists. However Marxism differs fundamentally from its socialist predecessor in that it keeps the socialist part of the theory while jettisoning democratic part. This abandonment of the democratic elements was a result of Marx’s belief that a newly freed proletariat class was incapable of rational decisions because of their class biases and their religious beliefs.This meant that only an enlightened group (?) that was immune to these biases was capable of governing the newly freed masses. Marxism in fact turned out to be a mainly a way to provide the underpinnings for a Jewish controlled oligarchy of the type that was to be exemplified by the leadership of the newly formed USSR in 1917. This mainly Jewish controlled government lasted until the late 1930s when Stalin became increasingly wary of Jews’ ultimate loyalties and started his purges. This distrust by Stalin was only magnified in the late 1940s when he observed the religious like fervor rabid shown by USSR Jews toward the formation of the Israeli ethno-state. (Golda Meir, for instance, was treated with a religious like zeal by Russian Jews when she visited Russia in 1947) Ethno/religious states are, after all, supposed to be the absolute antithesis was what international international communism stands for. This sort of zeal must have Stalin made very nervous indeed and increased hi suspicions about Jews’ ultimate loyalties.

    The careful cover that this trio (Zinn, Chomsky, Goodman) enjoyed among leftists was blown up upon the publication of John Mearsheimer’s and Stephen Walt’s article in the London Review of Books about the control of America’s foreign policy by the Israel Lobby. This article was followed by their book on the same subject. The trio, instead of supporting these acts of courage were noticeably reticent to admit the truth of Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s main thesis. All three sought to continue to steadfastly portray Israel as simply a vassal state of Israel rather than the other way around which was the actual truth. There was also an underlying tone among the three that as gentiles M. and W. simply did not have the right to make such revelations since they were “bad for Jews” and therefore fundamentally antisemitic

    All three betrayed their ultimate loyalties by trying to divert the non Jewish majority away from a contention that everybody, especially our elected officials, knew was the truth. All three, while supposedly supporting M.+W.’s right to voice their opinions were actually trying to discredit or belittle what they actually said. Amy Goodman, for instance, despite some tepid support to the M.+W., did not extend her support by having either Mearsheimer or Walt on her TV or radio programs, a fact that surprises many people. She was shunning the pair just as the mainstream media was. Neither Zinn or Chomsky when out of their way to aid M. and W. either. No invitations to co-host the pair at speaking events or invitations to join in media appearances. Both Z. and C. seemed more than a little wary of being associated with the “heretics.”

    Zinn also wasn’t actually the true pacifist he claimed to be. He was more of a selective pacifist. He was in fact a very enthusiastic supporter of the fight against Germany during WW2 when Hitler was persecuting Jews. In this select-ism he reminds me of left wing icons Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein. O. and E. were more than enthusiastic to lend their efforts to the Manhattan Project to produce an atomic bomb to blow up Germany for its persecution of Jews. They were more than willing at the time to ignore the fact that the use of this bomb would have resulted enormous civilian casualties as well. Both suddenly became faux pacifists only when the USSR became threatened by the existence of of the bomb being in only US hands. Their incredible hypocrisy was later exemplified when both enthusiastically helped Israel (using heavily classified US information) to develop its own bomb in the 1950s. The susposedly right wing Edward Teller, by the way, also helped socialist Israel later on (again using classified information) to develop it own hydrogen bomb.)

  9. The traditional martial arts are based on the experiences,knowledge and instructions passed down from true warriors. Those schools had a strong moral component–immoral students were not accepted or thrown out. Nowadays, most of them have become corrupted, largely so that the teachers can make money. (If money had its proper place in society, and it wasn’t all debt to the supranational financier cabal, that wouldn’t have appeared much.)

  10. You made me turn the lamp above my keyboard on Mike. You nailed it twice. Of what use is ‘this’ for that? Why do we progenerate our own disposal? Yes, yes.

    I like you Mike, much more lately. You have remarked on other things that are real. REAL.

    I’m sure you see the fractal math, the golden mean, which is “PHI”, and the fibonacci sequence when you talk the way you do sometimes.

    Apparently to me, you’ve seen the absurdidity curve? About all this crap, hooopla, designed horeshit?

    News, meme’s, montra’s…….pure pain actually?

    Fractally, it’s nearly proven that there is a supermassive blackhole at the center of every galaxy making the gravity arms work on every galaxy, and inside of them is another universe, with uspeakable-and at the same amounts of matter, obeying laws that are -10x^27-17 to ours, which is enthalpy, and entropy the same time. Thermo works out there, as does many other equations.

    Right now, given 15 monkeys on a never ending scale of infinity, you and I are having this conversation in a never ending loop, with the same set of genetics, same parents, same assholes that annoy you…….Gordon? As long as infinity is possible, wihch is so long, I’m certain to be right.

    So, what’s the point? I will never let those d-bags get away with it as long as I inhabit this fractal corkscrew! Which means nothing at all actually, but!.

    You are programmed to do it, I am programmed to do it. Just die with an alteration if you can buck the universal system. We have been here before? We will be there again? Just tell me who won and I will tell you who didn’t? Nothing changes, when you raise idiots. Especially when you can’t teach them anything 10 years before the generational age, i.e. before they even graduate high school. They win when it comes to time.

    My point is, they aren’t smater than us, they were just smarter than us before we could do anything about it. They are fractal, they have every University on the planet at their disposal Mike? We’re hosed.
    I just want to see a few hang in my life time.

  11. He understood something about war and politics that has inspired me and reinforced what I believe, feel and think about my combat in Vietnam. There is no pride, no honor and no good in all the destruction we brought upon Vietnam. The “thank you for your service” statements I get seem to want to reinforce some kind of pride in being a slave to the politicians and DOD. I was an ignorant young slave being held against my will for the immoral and illegal and unethical supporters of killing Vietnamese and getting ourselves killed or messed up in other ways. I accept a certain amount of responsibility for this. In doing so it has allowed me to move beyond the bullshit of rationalizing that war and my involvement in it. Until war zone vets do something similar, they will continue to suffer the falsehood of trying to feel good about service to their country when they were really slaves. Just because they got payed and got medals or signed up for it doesnt change the fact of the soldier being part of the problem. No one wants to admit this. Its like we have to walk on egg shells in the Support Our Troops mantra. The troops need some hard ass but compassionate reality checks while they are still half ways sane and most VA, and vet organization helpers won’t go there. In bringing the troops home we need to embrace them but help them confront their enslavement and their brainwashing and not call them heros or warriors. They may be called warriors if they follow in the steps of Mr. Zinn.

  12. The Soul of Freedom

    “[…] I became preoccupied with the notion that I would become somebody’s slave. And worse, so would my mother! And if so, would I be allowed to be a slave where she would have to be a slave!

    “Then that flickering light at the end of that terribly dark tunnel. ‘We will flee west to where the Americans are. They don’t do that.’ I did not know how they who spoke these comforting words could be certain that the ‘Americans didn’t do that’, but the hope was overpowering. And so we fled. Somehow my father had found us and was now guiding us to what I hoped was deliverance.

    “Four weeks later, most of it on foot, carrying our remaining belongings on our backs, we arrived at the Elbe River, near the town of Tangermünde, where the Americans were, albeit on the other side.

    “The nightmare of being submerged in a sea of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of refugees, all questing for safety amidst bursting bombs, howling grenades, whining bullets, and mangled body parts, with what was left of the once mighty German army between us and the Russian slave masters providing an illusion of some reprieve, is a horror story all in itself. What little holding fire the German army was able to provide, however, was sufficient to allow some of us to reach safety. I do not know how He worked it, but by the Almighty’s grace, we, my father, my mother, my three sisters, I and eight others, fourteen all together, in a small fishing boat my father had found, were the very last ever to cross the river and to safety.

    “Then I saw them! Americans! In a trench on top of the levee, some twenty feet above. At first all I saw was their helmets. Not the steel helmets of today, so eerily reminiscent of Nazi helmets, but those unique, jaunty ones exuding fearlessness and independence, both born of freedom. Apprehensive if my hope was justified, I was prepared to see their scowling faces. Then the shelling stopped and I watched them spill out of that trench, down the slope toward us, smiling. Not the condescending kind, not the artificial kind, not the ostentatious kind, nor the kind designed to impress God, but the gracious kind, friendly and helpful beyond comprehension.

    “One each lifted my two youngest sisters and carried them to the top of the levee and then across. Two others, one each, took the oldest of my sisters and me by the hand and helped us to the top of that levee, then across and there offered us chocolate. A gift to me, who, just a scant few days before, had cursed the fact that I was not big enough to fight them all, because I would have killed them all. When I recall that picture of utter graciousness, a picture now fifty-four years old, I still stand in total awe of those Americans, then truly still a new species of humans, and find it incomprehensible.”

    excerpt from:

    So the hope for a better America lies in resurrecting our lost conscience, or in the words of Howard Zinn ~ “I wonder how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own…

  13. Thank you, Fact. Trying to explore/ point to something that I think was more taken for granted in, say, 1950s U.S.A. (when I was a lad in school), and maybe more so earlier. There was more of a current flowing strong through our society then of this opposite quality that I see exemplified in Howard Zinn.. I think it was it was a quality of Americans that people from other areas of the globe, including Europe admired. Come to think of it, it seems that fascism and narcissism go hand in hand. This “me-me-me,” “my feeelings” virus-like thing came in like a tidal wave, wave by stronger wave, starting in the late 60s. Something has been (largely) lost. I saddens and scares me that most of our younger generations don’t know it at all.

  14. Good post duay, a major point of mine for a long time is the narcissism trap. Many have bought the programming for narcissism -and it’s illusions, all the while losing what is most important, our freedom/rights. The sooner more deprogram the better chances we all have.

  15. The Opposite of Narcissism

    Please watch this nine-minute video (if your computer & internet are up for that).
    Howard Zinn Tribute Video by The People Speak –

    The Opposite of Narcissism (three minutes)

    Howard Zinn taught through his books, speeches and projects. But most of all, he taught through the way he lived each day: The Opposite of Narcissism.

  16. I try to wrap my head around this dilemma often-that war does not solve anything is as obvious as when the sun shines, yet without some force or power, government will not respect the will of the people.
    We have seen as recently as with the occupy movement, an arrogant and dismissive elite class continuing on their path of personal enrichment through the ruin of this, and other countries, despite heavy and long protests. We have seen the full mobilization of local and regional police forces, organized on the federal level, to demonize and thwart the demand for accountability and justice.
    How do we get justice?
    Can justice really be gotten through peace?
    Can a peaceful movement oust the worst class of parasites in the history of this country?
    So far, the answer is “no”!
    So, we find violence institutionalized by the state and its agents, to be unleashed on those who wish to avoid war. Now we find that the armed forces are to be deployed-unconstitutionally of course-against the very people their ranks are drawn from.
    Who knows how many are dying in Syria as they attempt change through war, and who knows how many have died here, as we have attempted to change through peace. Perhaps the methods used need to change. Perhaps the the very manner in which people structure society has to change, before any meaningful progress can be made to discover the true potential of humanity.
    I wish I could remember the word for the unsolvable dilemma.

  17. Allen, I will see your amen and raise you one hallelujah! I saw Howard Zinn speak at Plymouth State University (NH) years before 9/11. I also have many of his speeches on video and all of them have the story of the bombing of that town in France at the end of WWII (“the big one” – Archie Bunker). I also have his Peoples History. He was marvelous.

    Happy trails to you,

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