Wajahat Ali in CounterPunch [from April, 2008]:
At 85 years old, the indefatigable Howard Zinn still maintains the prolific activist and academic jab fueled by his political and social activism nurtured during The Civil Rights Movement. The esteemed historian and controversial rabble rouser’s seminal work, The People’s History of the United States, taught in high schools and colleges across the nation, has been adapted as a documentary, The People Speak, featuring readings by Sean Penn, Matt Damon, Viggo Mortenson and Marisa Tomei. Still touring and giving lectures, Zinn shows no signs of stopping, however his hectic schedule has slowed to devote more time for his family obligations. After nearly a month of back and forth emails and missed opportunities, Professor Zinn agreed to an interview reflecting on his historic and memorable time at Spelman College in the ‘60’s, his thoughts on the Democratic Party, his philosophy of dissent as democracy, and his hope for America’s future.
ALI: Your experiences and acts of civil disobedience at Spelman College are, by now, thoroughly well known. However, in the 21st century, one could look at the student body at many liberal college campuses and see that fiery protest and consciousness replaced by apathy and materialism. Where has that fighting spirit gone? You spoke against “discouragement” at the 2005 Spelman College commencement speech – what of it now?
ZINN: What you describe as the difference between the Sixties and today on campuses is true, but I would not go too far with that. There are campus groups all over the country working against the war, but they are small so far. Remember, the scale of involvement in Vietnam was greater – 500,000 troops vs. 130,000 troops in Iraq. After five years in Vietnam, there were 30,000 U.S. dead vs. today we have 4,000 dead. The draft was threatening young people then, but not now. Greater establishment control of the media today, which is not reporting the horrors inflicted on the people of Iraq as the media began in the U.S. to report on U.S. atrocities like the My Lai Massacre. In the case of the movement against the Vietnam War, there was the immediate radicalizing experience of the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality, whose energy and indignation carried over into the student movement against the Vietnam War. No comparable carry over exists today.