the net of people deeply affected by political violence
Howard Zinn’s Mirror
Monday 1 February 2010
- David Potorti
- Co-founder of
Nine years ago, when a group of 9/11 family members including me began speaking out against our nation’s militaristic response to the September 11th attacks, it was a very different time. It was a fearful time, not just because we lost family at the WTC, the Pentagon and on Flight 93, but also because America had become a fearful place. One of the people who made that time considerably less scary was Howard Zinn.
I had little idea who Zinn was until November, 2001, when a friend suggested I attend a speech he was giving at Elon University in North Carolina. After securing the assignment with a local newspaper, I schooled myself in Zinn’s writings, did the requisite phone interview and attended his speech, which was entitled, "Bringing Democracy Alive." I was a receptive audience for his message, and had my first experience of historian as rock star. The auditorium was packed, the mood was electric and lively, and Zinn adroitly responded to questions of all kinds, including one he must have heard a thousand times: "Why do you still live in the United States, if you criticize the things the United States has done?"
"I’m not criticizing the United States," Zinn replied. "I’m criticizing the government of the United States. Patriotism means that you support the principles of the government. To criticize the government is the most American thing you can do."
Those were important words to me, and came at a crucial time. Only two weeks later, I joined other 9/11 family members in "a walk for healing and peace" from the Pentagon to the site of the World Trade Center where my brother had died on 9/11. The anti-war walk was organized by Kathy Kelly, then of Voices in the Wilderness, and with the family members I met there we would go on to create an organization called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
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