FW: ZNet Commentary / Oct 10 / A Larger Consciousness / Howard Zinn

Craven, Jim jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Mon Oct 11 15:47:24 MDT 1999





James Craven
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-----Original Message-----
From: Jon Schaefer [mailto:jkschae_98 at yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, October 10, 1999 8:25 AM
To: 'Dipity; Jim Craven; Eugene Johnson; Victor Lacourse; Jesse
Schaefer; Edd Whitaker; ykboo
Subject: Fwd: ZNet Commentary / Oct 10 / A Larger Consciousness / Howard
Zinn


One wonders where the Native American Holocaust Museum
is. A good book is Ward Churchill's, "A Little Matter
of Genocide." Clearly, the denial is still going on as
is the killing. Witness the murders in South Dakota,
babies stillborn at Shoalwater Bay in Washington, and
the racist attacks at Makah, Eastern Canada, and
elsewhere.
Jon

--- Michael Albert <sysop at zmag.org> wrote:
> From: "Michael Albert" <sysop at zmag.org>
> To: <znetcommentary at tao.ca>
> Subject: ZNet Commentary / Oct 10 / A Larger
> Consciousness / Howard Zinn
> Date: Sat, 9 Oct 1999 20:36:06 +0100
>
> Here is today's ZNet Commentary Delivery from Howard
> Zinn.
>
> To pass this comment along to friends, relatives,
> etc. please note that the
> Commentaries are a premium sent to Sustainer Donors
> of Z/ZNet and that to
> learn more about the project folks can consult ZNet
> (http://www.zmag.org)
> and specifically the Sustainer Pages
> (http://www.zmag.org/Commentaries/donorform.htm)
> which include lists of
> writers, writer biographies, and other features of
> the Z Sustainer Program.
> Please do not send the pages repeatedly to the same
> people -- people need to
> become Sustainers themselves.
>
> Here then is today's ZNet Commentary...
>
>
>
> ----------------------------
>
> A LARGER CONSCIOUSNESS
> By Howard Zinn
>
> Some years ago, when I was teaching at Boston
> University, I was asked by a
> Jewish group to give a talk on the Holocaust. I
> spoke that evening, but not
> about the Holocaust of World War II, not about the
> genocide of six million
> Jews. It was the mid-Eighties, and the United States
> government was
> supporting death squad governments in Central
> America, so I spoke of the
> deaths of hundreds of thousands of peasants in
> Guatemala and El Salvador,
> victims of American policy.  My point was that the
> memory of the Jewish
> Holocaust should not be encircled by barbed wire,
> morally ghettoized, kept
> isolated from other genocides in history. It seemed
> to me that to remember
> what happened to Jews served no important purpose
> unless it aroused
> indignation, anger, action against all atrocities,
> anywhere in the world.
>
> A few days later, in the campus newspaper, there was
> a letter from a faculty
> member who had heard me speak - a Jewish refugee who
> had left Europe for
> Argentina, and then the United States. He objected
> strenuously to my
> extending the moral issue from Jews in Europe in the
> 1940s to people in
> other parts of the world, in our time. The Holocaust
> was a sacred memory. It
> was a unique event, not to be compared to other
> events. He was outraged
> that, invited to speak on the Jewish Holocaust, I
> had chosen to speak about
> other matters.
>
> I was reminded of this experience when I recently
> read a book by Peter
> Novick, THE HOLOCAUST IN AMERICAN LIFE. Novick's
> starting point is the
> question: why, fifty years after the event, does the
> Holocaust play a more
> prominent role in this country -- the Holocaust
> Museum in Washington,
> hundreds of Holocaust programs in schools -- than it
> did in the first
> decades after the second World War?  Surely at the
> core of the memory is a
> horror that should not be forgotten. But around that
> core, whose integrity
> needs no enhancement, there has grown up an industry
> of memorialists who
> have labored to keep that memory alive for purposes
> of their own.
>
> Some Jews have used the Holocaust as a way of
> preserving a unique identity,
> which they see threatened by intermarriage and
> assimilation. Zionists have
> used the Holocaust, since the 1967 war, to justify
> further Israeli expansion
> into Palestianian land, and to build support for a
> beleaguered Israel (more
> beleaguered, as David Ben-Gurion had predicted, once
> it occupied the West
> Bank and Gaza). And non-Jewish politicians have used
> the Holocaust to build
> political support among the numerically small but
> influential Jewish
> voters - note the solemn pronouncements of
> Presidents wearing yarmulkas to
> underline their anguished sympathy.
>
> I would never have become a historian if I thought
> that it would become my
> professional duty to go into the past and never
> emerge, to study long-gone
> events and remember them only for their uniqueness,
> not connecting them to
> events going on in my time. If the Holocaust was to
> have any meaning, I
> thought, we must transfer our anger to the
> brutalities of our time. We must
> atone for our allowing the Jewish Holocaust to
> happen by refusing to allow
> similar atrocities to take place now - yes, to use
> the Day of Atonement not
> to pray for the dead but to act for the living, to
> rescue those about to
> die.
>
> When Jews turn inward to concentrate on their own
> history, and look away
> from the ordeal of others, they are, with terrible
> irony, doing exactly what
> the rest of the world did in allowing the genocide
> to happen. There were
> shameful moments, travesties of Jewish humanism, as
> when Jewish
> organizations lobbied against a Congressional
> recognition of the Armenian
> Holocaust of 1915 on the ground that it diluted the
> memory of the Jewish
> Holocaust. Or when the designers of the Holocaust
> Museum dropped the idea of
> mentioning the Armenian genocide after lobbying by
> the Israeli government.
> (Turkey was the only Moslem government with which
> Israel had diplomatic
> relations.)  Another such moment came when Elie
> Wiesel, chair of President
> Carter's Commission on the Holocaust, refused to
> include in a description of
> the Holocaust Hitler's killing of millions of
> non-Jews. That would be, he
> said, to "falsify" the reality "in the name of
> misguided universalism."
> Novick quotes Wiesel as saying "They are stealing
> the Holocaust from us." As
> a result the Holocaust Museum gave only passing
> attention to the five
> million or more non-Jews who died in the Nazi camps.
> To build a wall around
> the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust is to abandon
> the idea that humankind
> is all one, that we are all, of whatever color,
> nationality, religion,
> deserving of equal rights to life, liberty, and the
> pursuit of happiness.
> What happened to the Jews under Hitler is unique in
> its details but it
> shares universal characteristics with many other
> events in human history:
> the Atlantic slave trade, the genocide against
> native Americans, the
> injuries and deaths to millions of working people,
> victims of the capitalist
> ethos that put profit before human life.
>
> In recent years, while paying more and more homage
> to the Holocaust as a
> central symbol of man's cruelty to man, we have, by
> silence and inaction,
> collaborated in an endless chain of cruelties.
> Hiroshima and My Lai are the
> most dramatic symbols - and did we hear from Wiesel
> and other keepers of the
> Holocaust flame outrage against those atrocities?
> Countee Cullen once wrote,
> in his poem "Scottsboro, Too, Is Worth Its Song"
> (after the sentencing to
> death of the Scottsboro Boys): "Surely, I said/ Now
> will the poets sing/ But
> they have raised no cry/I wonder why."
>
> There have been the massacres of Rwanda, and the
> starvation in Somalia, with
> our government watching and doing nothing. There
> were the death squads in
> Latin America, and the decimation of the population
> of East Timor, with our
> government actively collaborating. Our church-going
> Christian presidents, so
> pious in their references to the genocide against
> the Jews, kept supplying
> the instruments of death to the perpetrators of
> other genocides.
>
> True there are some horrors which seem beyond our
> powers. But there is an
> ongoing atrocity which is within our power to bring
> to an end. Novick points
> to it, and physician-anthropologist Paul Farmer
> describes it in detail in
> his remarkable new book INFECTIONS AND INEQUALITIES.
> That is: the deaths of
> ten million children all over the world who die
> every year of malnutrition
> and preventable diseases. The World Health
> Organization estimates three
> million people died last year of tuberculosis, which
> is preventable and
> curable, as Farmer has proved in his medical work in
> Haiti. With a small
> portion of our military budget we could wipe out
> tuberculosis.
>
> The point of all this is not to diminish the
> experience of the Jewish
> Holocaust, but to enlarge it. For Jews it means to
> reclaim the tradition of
> Jewish universal humanism against an Israel-centered
> nationalism. Or, as
> Novick puts it, to go back to "that larger social
> consciousness that was the
> hallmark of the American Jewry of my youth". That
> larger consciousness was
> displayed in recent years by those Israelis who
> protested the beating of
> Palestinians in the Intifada, who demonstrated
> against the invasion of
> Lebanon.
>
> For others -- whether Armenians or Native Americans
> or Africans or Bosnians
> or whatever -- it means to use their own bloody
> histories, not to set
> themselves against others, but to create a larger
> solidarity against the
> holders of wealth and power, the perpetrators and
> collaborators of the
> ongoing horrors of our time.
>
> The Holocaust might serve a powerful purpose if it
> led us to think of the
> world today as wartime Germany - where millions die
> while the rest of the
> population obediently goes about its business. It is
> a frightening thought
> that the Nazis, in defeat, were victorious: today
> Germany, tomorrow the
> world. That is, until we withdraw our obedience.
>
>
>


=====

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