Sunday, July 14, 2019

Howard Zinn’s ‘Three Holy Wars’ (2009)


“Whenever I become discouraged (which is on alternate Tuesdays, between three and four) I lift my spirits by remembering: The artists are on our side! I mean those poets and painters, singers and musicians, novelists and playwrights who speak to the world in a way that is impervious to assault because they wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary political discourse.

“The billionaire mandarins of our culture can show us the horrors of war on a movie screen and pretend they are making an important statement (‘War is hell,’ says the general as he orders his troops forward into no man's land). But the artists go beyond that, to resistance, defiance.”

Howard Zinn, The Progressive, July 2001

Howard Zinn’s “Three Holy Wars” (2009) discusses three wars that America considers sacrosanct: U.S. Revolutionary War [1775–1783]; the U.S. Civil War [1861–1865]; the Second World War [1939–1945], which America joined on December 7, 1941.
Via: Youtube & The Progressive

By holy, Howard Zinn [1922–2010; a native of Brooklyn, NY] is not here referring to any religious aspect, but, rather, how wars are given sacrosanct status. In much the same way that religious dogma and ideology creates an accepted view of history, wars also create  the idea of a people and a nationalist narrative to support it. In other words, wars are used for nation-building, and all such wars toward this effort are “just,” because the cause itself is “just.”

Such narratives, however, run contrary to greater human ones, the inviolability and dignity of human life. The basic premise of war is contrary to the basic premise of human life—survival. Wars are destructive and kill people; and wars benefit the few, who are primarily often the wealthy business interests. Who gets what? Who does war chiefly benefit? Has anything changed since then? Zinn says: “We try to pretend in this country that we are all a big happy family.” This is hardly the case, except for those who deny the reality by pretending otherwise, by conjuring up a fake narrative to justify acts of aggression and violence, often in the pursuit of profit.

It is pretense of the worst sort, because it ends up with people being killed for no good or just reason.  Did even the Second World War achieve its ultimate aim, with 50 million dead? Have we gotten rid of fascism? of racism? of further wars? Zinn says something that I agree with: “War cannot be accepted, no matter what. […]. In between war and passivity, there are a thousand possibilities.” The problem is that political leaders often lack the imagination to think in other ways.

This idea sounds strange, because it is not today common; it is rare, it is true. But not so rare among thoughtful people like Howard Zinn and other left wing intellectuals and progressives. Doing something the same way it has been done will only lead to the same results. War will always lead to deaths; expecting something different is insanity. Well, it’s time that we elect leaders who do think differently, who are not committed to wars.