3.27.2010

Howard Zinn's Memorial Service, Boston.

Today at 2PM, the Boston University held a memorial service for the late Howard Zinn at Marsh Chapel. It featured 15 speakers, many of which were his personal friends and coworkers, including Noam Chomsky, former professors at Boston University, several current Political Science Professors at Boston University, and one Iraq War Veteran turned anti-war student activist.

With a lovely portrait of Zinn featured promptly in the center between the two pulpits, each speaker took their turn at the pulpit telling their stories of how they met him, how he affected them, telling jokes about his antics, and commenting on the serious influence he was able to have on millions of people - and how that influence was born in the halls of Boston University during his time spent there, teaching. It was then that he began writing "A People's History" as one speaker recalled, "Often with the collaboration of his students".

One of Boston University's former Political Science professors recalled how she had been politically conservative and at odds with Zinn when she first met him. "I changed" she laughed. She quickly became an activist at his side. She chuckled as she told us about her and Zinn's failed attempt to get the [Boston University] professors marching for union rights to sing in protest. Apparently, academics don't like singing folk songs.

Most of the speakers urged us to remember his humility, outspokenness, friendship, calm demeanor, and desire to change things for the better. Almost every speaker mentioned how he never lost hope, and always continued to fight for progress in the face of failure or cynicism. And most of his co-workers recalled his innate ability to listen with deep intensity as well as his unconventional ways that drove the administration batty enough to pay him to leave.

One professor paraphrased Zinn saying "They wouldn't pay me nearly enough to stay here, but are willing to pay exorbitant amounts to get me out of here!" about the administration and his many battles with them.

A few touched on his status as a veteran, and how he felt after the war. The last speaker, who is a veteran against war stated simply "Howard Zinn changed my life". The young man had been telling us how he felt after coming home from Fallujuah, how lost and confused he was after the war. He related to us the great sense of relief he felt when he read Zinn's works, when he realized that his experiences were neither new nor strange.

I left the service with a deeper appreciation for Howard Zinn, deeper than I had already felt. Zinn the person, Zinn the activist, Zinn the writer, professor, playwright and pain in ass of the status quo.

Zinn; a bearer of hope, of achievement, of instigation, political evolution, and social revolution. A man whose keen observations, experiences and intellect continues to influence and inspire us long after his books had been written, and will long after his death.

Like the song appropriately sang today "Joe Hill" - Zinn will never truly die. You cannot kill his ideas, his words, and his influence on people. His is a legacy that should be honored with continual work, support and hope from us, the people he sought to reach and for whom to make the world a better place.

2 comments:

Joel said...

Thank you- wish I could have been there.

Anok said...

Me too and also ;) One of these days Joel!