Sunday, 4 September 2011

Howard Zinn: Artists In A Time Of War (2001)

Recorded at Massachusetts College Of Art, Boston, Massachusetts, October 10, 2001.

The author of The People's History of the United States, historian Howard Zinn has picked a thought-provoking subject for this spoken word CD of a lecture he gave at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston on October 10, 2001. In the wake of September 11 and America's military response to it, he discusses the artist's role in wartime. He sticks to this subject throughout his lecture and is never less than eloquent. He reads marvelous selections of the antiwar writings of Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, and many others. He gives Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five as examples of sly antiwar statements that came out after World War II, "the good war," but which were able to criticize aspects of America's involvement in that war and war in general because they were works of fiction. He talks about all the artists who refused invitations to the White House during the Vietnam War, including singer Eartha Kitt and playwright Arthur Miller. Near the end of his lecture, Zinn makes it clear that he is against all war. He believes the rotten nature of war would corrupt even a worthy cause and that fighting violence with violence is the wrong response to an act of terrorism like September 11. He says that it is artists' patriotic duty to speak up at times when it's not popular to voice dissent against the government and its policies. Whether the listener agrees or not with his against-all-wars stance, nobody could say that Zinn doesn't put forth very persuasive arguments and exceptional, substantive examples to back up all of his ideas. 
~ Adam Bregman