A People’s History of the United States author Howard Zinn appeared at Busboys & Poets Monday night to promote and and search for investors for his film The People Speak. Zinn’s appearance proved so popular that the progressive hot spot on 14th Street filled up 1 hour and 15 minutes before Zinn took the stage at 6:30 p.m.
Here are the highlights (after the jump):
On Bush Administration: “People were saying ‘wow, thank God the gang is gone,’ and now the only thing that remains is to put them in jail.”
On Obama: Zinn said he needed first to mention the “overwhelming sense of relief” he felt and the “amazing difference in the atmosphere” in D.C. before he could talk about the President “soberly.” But he said people must recognize that while Obama is “a lot of wonderful things” there is a difference between citizens and Obama. “We are citizens. Obama is the president. He is also a politician.”
On Busboys & Poets: “There’s no place like it in the world. I tell people that if you want to go to D.C., lookup Busboys & Poets.”
On the financial system: (from The Hill): “Obama becomes president at a very special time, and the special time is when the American capitalist system is falling apart,” Zinn said. “Good, I’m glad it’s falling apart. Unless the system falls apart, we’re not going to do anything about it … we have to have fundamental changes to the economic system.”
On Reaganomics: “…you pour money in the top and hope it trickles down to the people. If it does trickle down that’s what it will be: a trickle.”
More on the Market: “Be weary when you hear about the glories of the market. Leaving it to the market leave two million people homeless. Can’t do what has been done in the past… Nobody should be left with their furniture out on the street. The market doesn’t give a damn.”
On the War in Iraq: Called Obama statement on ending the mentality that led us to the war in Iraq wise, and added it’s up to the people to hold him to it. Zinn sarcastically noted “How successful we’ve been at spreading democracy.”
On Reagan International: “Do they really call it that? I wanted to turn around mid-air.”
On Military Power: “Defense is one of the most misused words in the English language.” Zinn disagreed that U.S. has to be the most powerful nation, and said he’d rather be lower in the rankings because countries like Sweden don’t have to worry about having their Twin Towers attacked.
On U.S. world image: “Nation should try to become liked, I wouldn’t even say loved because its too soon, but at least not disliked or feared.” U.S. needs to “use resources to help people, not hurt people.” Endorsed taking money used to maintain military bases and “use it for free health care… child care, use the money to help other people.”
On the power of the people: “Democracy doesn’t come from the top, it comes from the bottom.”
On American media: “The American people are very ignorant people, I’m sorry to say, and they don’t know much because the media doesn’t give them much.” The media “will report something for one day and then its gone. Peoples memories are short. Any bit of news here is overwhelmed by another piece of news.”
On the internet: “It took me awhile to lean that the Internet existed, but I’ve learned you can send the same message to 100 people, so if you see something important send it around don’t keep it to yourself.”
To people waiting outside in 37 degree weather: (after Zinn finished speaking and before a Q & A session: “Now that you know my ideas, you don’t have to hang around anymore. They’re not feeding you! Maybe someday, you’ll be allowed in this restaurant.”
Busboys & Poets staffers soon brought hot coffee out to those outside and handed out 10 percent off coupons for the bookstore. Zinn later walked outside to shake hands and sign autographs. One young woman told him that her mother was a student of his. “Sometimes people say to me ‘my grandfather was a student of yours.’ I don’t like that very much.”
Photo under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Jill Greenseth.