“I’ve been thinking we should have a group called ‘Imperialists Anonymous,’ and they would get up and confess to their addiction to war and militarism,” Zinn told an approving audience at the First Church in Cambridge, across the Mass Ave. from Harvard Yard.
And repentant Bush administration officials aren’t the only ones who should be coming together, Zinn said.
“What we desperately need is for people to play a part,” Zinn said, “because if people don’t, we leave it to people who can’t be trusted.”
A prolific author, Zinn is most famous for writing “A People’s History of the United States,” which has sold over 1 million copies since it was first published in 1980.
Last night’s event, titled “The Inner Life of Democracy,” was part of the Cambridge Forum series, a weekly public affairs program taped at the church and broadcast on public radio stations across the country.
Poet Mark Nepo introduced Zinn and interviewed him on-stage before opening up to the audience for questions.
Zinn was interrupted on multiple occasions by applause while he criticized the U.S. government’s conduct of the war in Iraq.
“I believe most people don’t want to live in a country that prides itself on its military power...a country that countenances torture,” Zinn said.
Zinn also stressed the importance of learning history to building an informed citizenry. “If people learn history, then they react to the people in power with great skepticism. People in power depend on our historical amnesia,” he said.
An estimated 200 people turned out for last night’s event, compared to a weekly average of 60 to 80, Cambridge Forum Board President Ann Daily said. “He’s just such an icon,” she said of Zinn.
One of the listeners was William C. Quinn ’10, a professed fan of Zinn’s work, who nonetheless did not wholly agree with the historian.
“I love Howard Zinn, but sometimes I think there’s a bit of a disconnect,” said Quinn. “You need to have people who are pragmatic in accomplishing the good as well as people who set out the vision in accomplishing what the good is.”