Let’s dispel the belief that a group of people seeking justice is the same as an angry vengeful mob.
If a people are demanding their freedom, that DOES NOT threaten yours.
In fact, it’s an invitation, an appeal to the heart and soul, because injustice of one is injustice for all.
You don’t have to be oppressed to fight oppression. All you need is a sense of humanity.
So stop with the #AllLivesMatter nonsense, because no, not all lives are being gunned downed or murdered by bombs on a daily basis – and because no, we are not hashtagging #Prayfor non-European countries. (Yeah, I’m looking at you Facebook.)
With that, I bring you this bit of info for the book lovers, book-club goers, and the people who don’t have time to read a book but are reading this article instead; here’s a book review/recommendation. It’s full of juicy justice and freedom fighting.
The book: You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train – A Personal History of Our Times. The Author: The late Howard Zinn.
Zinn writes eloquently as he gives a real-life depiction of a human being fighting for other human beings; not because they look like him, but because they have a soul – as if the very act of breathing compels one to stand for justice.
Although the book is meant to be an autobiography, Zinn brilliantly wraps it up in some of the most important events in recent history, making it feel more like you’re reading The Hunger Games rather than the autobiography of a great, and more importantly, accurate historian.
Okay, maybe not the same as reading The Hunger Games, but it’s got the same rush of civil disobedience with an added dose of reality. The book gives a more in-depth look at Zinn’s life, but here are some highlights.
Howard Zinn was an American historian, activists, author, professor, and playwright; basically one of those people who was just good at everything. In the late 50’s and early 60’s Howard Zinn taught at Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college, where he became active in the Civil Rights Movement – so much so, he was fired for causing too much of a ruckus or “insubordination”. Basically he and his students were too #woke for demanding rights for Black and Brown people wherever they went.
Zinn was not only a teacher, but an advocate for education, and with students like Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman, at that. In 1964, he went on to teach political science at Boston University, where he continued his efforts in the Civil Rights Movement as well as the Anti-War Movement.
To Zinn these causes were not mutually exclusive. He mentions the Civil Right Movement as a root in forming the Anti-War Movement. He wrote, “Black civil rights activists in the South were among the first to resist the draft.” (You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train, p. 108).
To Zinn these causes were not mutually exclusive. He mentions the Civil Right Movement as a root in forming the Anti-War Movement. He wrote, “Black civil rights activists in the South were among the first to resist the draft.”
Black Civil Rights activists refused to fight in Vietnam because, as Muhammad Ali put it, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of White slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end.”
This sort of appealing to the soul is different than Zinn’s, as it comes from experience.
Knowing what it’s like being oppressed makes you fight against all oppression.
Remember the tidbit about appealing to the soul even when those injustices don’t directly affect you? Well here it is. Zinn recognized that there were people in America who did not have the same rights as him, hence his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
Knowing what it’s like to be privileged should make you fight for those who are not.
Since we all love an itemized list, here are four points that make this book awesome.
Side note: It’s also a documentary narrated by Jason Bourne, I mean Matt Damon, so you know it’s cool.
“You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train.”
You can’t be indifferent about injustice. This goes along with the whole “silence is a war crime” sentiment. Staying silent on matters of injustice and social change is not neutrality; it is acceptance. It’s confirmation that you are in agreement of whatever injustices that are going down. Whether it be human beings poisoned in Flint; humans being murdered in Palestine; humans being killed in Burma; humans being shot down in America; or humans being murdered in Central African Republic, Mexico, France, Syria, Dafar, Iraq, Brussels and too many other places – there is far too much discourse to be neutral.
So if you think you are being neutral, you aren’t. You’re collaborating. The question is, who are you collaborating with?
“I don’t believe it’s possible to be neutral. The world is already moving in certain directions. And to be neutral, to be passive, in a situation like that, is to collaborate with what is going on. And I, as a teacher, don’t want to be a collaborator,” Zinn said.
Have some humanity.
You don’t have to be oppressed to fight oppression. You don’t have to be poor to fight poverty, you don’t have to be Black/Brown to fight for Black/Brown lives, you don’t have to be Muslim to fight for Muslims, and you don’t have to be a woman to fight for women.
If All Lives Matter, then fight for all lives — including the Black and Brown ones — not just your own. Demand justice for all lives, not just your own. Have compassion and understanding of all lives, not just your own.
Let’s pledge to step outside ourselves, and try to understand someone else’s experience, not undermine it. Know that because injustice isn’t happening to you does not mean it isn’t happening; and because injustice isn’t happening to you does not mean you can’t do anything to stop it. You can, for no other reason than the fact that you’re a human being.
“But human beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice that they dare to declare their independence. In that historical possibility lies hope,” Zinn wrote.
Learn some history.
If we dare have a memory that goes back further than a couple of weeks, we may learn something. If our brains comprehend more than just what is trending, we may learn something. The world is far too integrated, and global governments and their actions are far too intertwined to pretend that brutality, corruption, and terrorism happen in a vacuum. Too often and too long have the world super powers controlled the resources, governments, and daily lives of other countries and its citizens; and such control is not without its consequences. A bit of history will only inform our present, not hurt it.
By the way, I mean real history, not Donald Trump history, where you just make it up as you go.
“History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history–while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance–might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth,” Zinn acknowledged.
The power of everyday people.
What good is a book if there is no action or deed involved? If it doesn’t inspire you to put some good into the world? Zinn’s book does just that. He urges all people to be active in social change. It is not a cause designed for a chosen group. Don’t ever feel attacked by someone else’s struggle for justice, join them.
“You remember when Ali fought Foreman? He seemed asleep. But when he woke up, he was ferocious. And so will the people – wake up! …
The good things that have been done, the reforms that have been made, the wars that have been stopped, the women’s rights that have been won, the racism that has been partly extirpated in society, all of that was not done by government edict, was not done by the three branches of government. It was not done by that structure which we learn about in junior high school, which they say is democracy. It was all done by citizens’ movements. And keep in mind that all great movements in the past have risen from small movements, from tiny clusters of people who came together here and there. When a movement is strong enough it doesn’t matter who is in the White House; what really matters is what people do, and what people say, and what people *demand*,” writes Zinn.
The best thing about You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train is that these points are made not only through Zinn’s words, but his actions, and his study of real history, not told from a singular whitewashed perspective.
By reading (or watching) about his life, we learn about the root of resistance, the inhumanity that begins it, and the humanity within it.
So, if you get a chance to browse through the book, one of the most important take-aways that will stay with you may be this message: You can’t be indifferent to injustice – you’ve only chosen to allow the injustice(s) to continue.
Contributed by muslimgirl.comstaff writer, Maryam Abdul-Kareem.