Unusual and Extraordinary History

By Raúl Cazal on August 8, 2020

Photo: Mission Local

History for some of us seems to be an affair of the past.  Barack Obama, in the Sixth Summit of the Américas, said about Cuba’s relationship with the US was that these are “controversies that go back to a time before I was born.”  At the previous Summit, when Hugo Chavez gave him the Eduardo Galeano’s book The Open Veins of Latin America, he said something similar, that they shouldn’t blame him for anything that happened in the past because he hadn’t yet been born.

Nobody had accused him of anything at that point other than being the head of the current empire.  In 2015 he played the victim role and decreed an executive order in which he declared Venezuela to be an “unusual and extraordinary threat.”  This decree has been used and abused in order to rob more than 120,000 billion dollars worth of Venezuelan assets overseas, as well as establishing a commercial blockade and financial siege.

Historian Howard Zinn once said about Obama, “As far as disappointments, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that’s hardly any different from a Republican–as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike,”

Zinn, with his book A People’s History of the United States, has provoked righteous controversy in the belly of the beast.  In 2010, the governor of Indiana tried to ban its use in public schools.  The following year, it was removed from schools in Tucson, Arizona.  And in 2017 a bill was introduced in the Arkansas legislature “to prohibit a public school district or open-enrollment public charter school from including in its curriculum or course materials for a program of study books or any other material authored by or concerning Howard Zinn.”

Surely Obama didn’t even know about this historian featuring the history of Black people, of Indigenous people, or of the workers in his country.  And no such book fell into his hands by chance, even though at one point it was one of the best-selling books on Amazon.

Zinn’s students were more fortunate, like Alice Walker, author of the epistolary novel The Color Purple, who considered him, “…magical as a teacher. Witty, irreverent, and wise, he loved what he was teaching and clearly wanted his students to love it also and we did.”

Source: Visconversa, translation, Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau