by Howard Zinn
July 4, 2009
Excerpt from The Progressive July 3, 2009
There are things that happen in the world that are bad, and you want to do something about them. You have a just cause. But our culture is so war prone that we immediately jump from, “This is a good cause” to “This deserves a war.”
You need to be very, very comfortable in making that jump.
The American Revolution—independence from England—was a just cause. Why should the colonists here be occupied by and oppressed by England? But therefore, did we have to go to the Revolutionary War?
How many people died in the Revolutionary War?
Nobody ever knows exactly how many people die in wars, but it’s likely that 25,000 to 50,000 people died in this one. So let’s take the lower figure—25,000 people died out of a population of three million. That would be equivalent today to two and a half million people dying to get England off our backs.
You might consider that worth it, or you might not.
Julia Ward Howe:
Beyond the Battle Hymn of the Republic Mother’s Day and Peace
Julia Ward Howe’s accomplishments did not end with the writing of her famous poem, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” As Julia became more famous, she was asked to speak publicly more often. Her husband became less adamant that she remain a private person, and while he never actively supported her further efforts, his resistance eased.
She saw some of the worst effects of the war — not only the death and disease which killed and maimed the soldiers. She worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, and realized that the effects of the war go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. She also saw the economic devastation of the Civil War, the economic crises that followed the war, the restructuring of the economies of both North and South.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe took on a new issue and a new cause. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms) and seeing war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War, she called in 1870 for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.
She failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for Peace. Her idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who had attempted starting in 1858 to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers’ Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.
Following the Boston Tea Party, Dec. 16, 1773, in which American Colonists dumped 342 containers of tea into the Boston harbor, the British Parliament enacted a series of Acts in response to the rebellion in Massachusetts.
In May of 1774, General Thomas Gage, commander of all British military forces in the colonies, arrived in Boston, followed by the arrival of four regiments of British troops.
The First Continental Congress met in the fall of 1774 in Philadelphia with 56 American delegates, representing every colony, except Georgia. On September 17, the Congress declared its opposition to the repressive Acts of Parliament, saying they are “not to be obeyed,” and also promoted the formation of local militia units.
Thus economic and military tensions between the colonists and the British escalated. In February of 1775, a provincial congress was held in Massachusetts during which John Hancock and Joseph Warren began defensive preparations for a state of war. The English Parliament then declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion.
On March 23, in Virginia, the largest colony in America, a meeting of the colony’s delegates was held in St. John’s church in Richmond. Resolutions were presented by Patrick Henry putting the colony of Virginia “into a posture of defense…embodying, arming, and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient for that purpose.” Before the vote was taken on his resolutions, Henry delivered the speech below, imploring the delegates to vote in favor.
He spoke without any notes in a voice that became louder and louder, climaxing with the now famous ending. Following his speech, the vote was taken in which his resolutions passed by a narrow margin, and thus Virginia joined in the American Revolution.
On March 28th, while on location in New York City, we had the opportunity to speak with Luke Rudkowski, founder of We Are Change, about his thoughts on 9/11 First Responder health issues. Luke and the other members of We Are Change NY regularly gather at Ground Zero to speak about a number of 9/11 related issues. One of those issues is the health care crisis which now faces tens of thousands of 9/11 First Responders.
There is no question that Luke Rudkowski is a passionate advocate for 9/11 First Responders and his organization has raised tens of thousands of dollars to benefit them. While considered “extreme” by some in his efforts to raise issues about 9/11 related issues, their is no doubt that Rudkowski has had a broad reaching effect through his activism. We Are Change has grown from a single small grassroots organization in New York to one with membership chapters across the United States and many foreign countries. Through their ongoing efforts to educate and inform the public at large, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have learned about the health issues now facing 9/11 First Responders.
What the inventive genius of mankind has bestowed upon us in the last hundred years could have made human life care free and happy if the development of the organizing power of man had been able to keep step with his technical advances. As it is, the hardly bought achievements of the machine age in the hands of our generation are as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a 3-year-old child. The possession of wonderful means of production has not brought freedom — only care and hunger.
Worst of all is the technical development which produces the means for the destruction of human life, and the dearly created products of labor. We older people lived through that shudderingly in the World War. But even more terrible than this destruction seems to me the unworthy servitude into which the individual is swept by war. Is it not terrible to be forced by the community to deeds which every individual feels to be most despicable crimes? Only a few have had the moral greatness to resist; they are in my eyes the true heroes of the World War.
There is one ray of hope. It seems to me that today the responsible leaders of the several peoples have, in the main, the honest will to abolish war. The opposition to this unquestionably necessary advance lies in the unhappy traditions of the people which are passed on like an inherited disease from generation to generation because of our faulty educational machines. Of course the main supports of this tradition are military training and the larger industries. Without disarmament there can be no lasting peace. On the contrary, the continuation of military armaments in their present extent will with certainty lead to new catastrophes.
“Dead babies can take care of themselves. Dead babies can’t take things off the shelves.” — Alice Cooper, “Dead Babies”
For two weeks now I have been spending a lot of time watching dead babies on television.
Dead children, too. And dead women. And dead old men. And dead young men.
And bleeding, maimed, mutilated, screaming people of all ages and both sexes.
Disfigured women lying in pools of blood. Children with part of their faces missing.
Crowds of horrified people gathered around, trying to help.
Naturally this has made me angry, and sad. Sometimes I have to turn off the television to pray and meditate to regain my emotional equilibrium.
Horrific as the images have been, none of them really got to me until this morning, when I turned on the TV and saw a very cute, very dead girl-baby lying arms akimbo on the street like a discarded doll, a puddle of blood at her feet about the size of a manhole cover.
Her too-perfect features were frozen in what could have been bliss, or terror. I finally broke down and cried.
Big shuddering sobs.
Here are the warnings against foreign influence given by George Washington in his farewell letter to the United States Congress in 1796.
Observe good faith and justice toward all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, practice the arts of seduction, mislead public opinion, influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak nation towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
“If you are open to recognizing that the United States behaves much as other great powers have behaved, but you get your information through the standard American Channels, I dare you to expose yourself to the facts that have been suppressed by our newspapers and magazines. If you are one who wants to be a disciple of Jesus, you will have some hard thinking to do about what American Christians are called to be and to do at this historic moment.”
-John B. Cobb Jr, coauthor of The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God
Never utter these words, “I do not know this, so therefore it is false.” One must study to know, know to understand, and understand to fairly judge. I sincerely hope that you don’t know what is going on in this country…because that would explain the Christian community’s eerie silence. I can easily forgive you for not rising up to speak out against such grave threats if you haven’t yet recognized them as such. I myself recently woke up from the American fantasy. I always thought that the land that I loved was good…like Santa Clause.