On Howard Zinn & The Transformational Power Of An Aroused Citizenry


By Abby Zimet
Common Dreams (10/6/18)

Back to the fray, now that the Cretin-In Chief has declared Kavanaugh “flawless” and, in a spurious swearing-in, “proven innocent” of “a hoax” perpetrated by “evil people.” Among those vociferously disagreeing is the former dean of Yale Law School, which spit out Kavanaugh. In a blistering piece in Politico, Robert Post slams a “black-robed embodiment of raw partisan power inconsistent with any ideal of an impartial judiciary.” During his hearing, he charges, Kavanaugh “stoked the fires of partisan rage and male entitlement” with “a witches’ brew of vicious unfounded charges.” He dismisses Kavanaugh’s whining op-ed – “Judicial temperament is not like a mask that can be put on or taken off at will” – and argues “no one who felt the force of that anger could possibly believe” Kavanaugh will be a fair judge. “He will remain a symbol of partisan anger, a haunting reminder that behind the smiling face of judicial benevolence lies the force of an urgent will to power,” he writes. “It will be an American tragedy.”

While we work for Kavanaugh’s impeachment, we might take succor from the ever-prescient Howard Zinn, who years ago warned of putting too much hope in any Supreme Court by calling out the distinction between law and justice. “There is enormous hypocrisy surrounding the pious veneration of the Constitution and ‘the rule of law,'” he wrote. “The Constitution, like the Bible, is infinitely flexible and is used to serve the political needs of the moment.” Thus did we support wars – World War One, Vietnam, Iraq – by ignoring requisite Congressional approval. Laws are likewise just or unjust: See segregation, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights. Given the inherent bias of our judicial system, he argued, “It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds (whose) rights only come alive when…. citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law…The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Fundamental change will depend on the actions of an aroused citizenry.”

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“It may seem a paradox, but it is none the less the simple truth, to say that on the contrary, the decisive historical events take place among us, the anonymous masses. The most powerful dictators, ministers and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.” 

― Sebastion Haffner (1907-1999), Geschichte eines Deutschen