28 January 2010

Tribute to Zinn and Salinger

Unannounced to me until I attended a history class tonight, Howard Zinn died yesterday suddenly from a heart attack. He was 87, born in 1922.

Usually I am indifferent to death, people and pets alike. I was not always this way, but close. I grew into accepting that it’s just part of the way things go. Every now and then I am faced with the compelling sense of sorrow. Today, it has crept in (a bit ^_^).

Howard’s death is most certainly a historical loss. He, unlike many of his historian counterparts, was not intimidated by people or policy and sought the truth and to inform the public of it. A true polarizing entity, he was not revered by all as with many movers and shakers. Howard voiced support for Shministim, Israel's young conscientious objectors who waited in jail for refusing to serve the occupation. He spoke frankly about the intolerable subjugation of millions of Palestinians, and how it hurt(s) both peoples*” of Palestine and Israel. Howard was (is?) Jewish. He researched and shared the lesser-known stories on a variety of injustices in the world. He was vested with a vision for true justice and spoke out for equality of peoples everywhere. He has inspired many, and inspires me, to further endeavor down the road towards egalitarianism.

Zinn wrote in his autobiography, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (1994), "From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it."
* Penny Rosenwasser, Jewish Voice for Peace.

As I was looking for photos of Howard I noticed the cover of The Catcher in the Rye in the mix. This made me curious about J.D. Salinger and his death or if he was still alive. Upon looking it up I discovered he died Today! Wow! Talk about a double wammy. He was 91 and died of “natural causes.”

This is a great J.D. quote, and apt. "I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetary. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody."

I haven’t had quite as intimate relationship with J.D.’s texts that I would have liked after the one I have read. I delved into The Catcher in the Rye (1951) late in life, last year in fact. I have a special affinity for J.D.’s invention and use of double contractions. So fun! I don’t know if that’s typical, but it was a first for me. What stood out to me about his work is the lack of pretense, the rawness, and simplicity. I was in that story, on Holden’s shoulder. I knew him. I wanted to know him better so much that the end of the book made me mad, because it was over. Look out Franny and Zooey.

The last time I felt sorrow about a death it was my grandfather who died 05-07-95, which happened to be the same day as when my little sister was born. Both occurrences happened in the same hospital. I was there, in the birthing room with my mom. Now, I cannot be anything but happy on that day, even in remembrance of its genesis, because I now have a beautiful little sister who has impacted my life in more ways than I ever knew possible. Like the phoenixes and death, sorrow moves on.

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