Zinn on the rule of law, power and obedience.

Howard Zinn (1922 - 2010)

This is one of my favorite quotes from the historian, veteran and anti-war activist Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States.  I believe it’s taken from a testimony he gave at a hearing following his arrest at a sit-in during the Black Freedom Struggle.  Reading this for the first time years ago was absolutely eye opening to me.

I think it’s an illuminating quote for today.  Regimes and governments across the globe are panicking or even crumbling, as activists mount an escalating struggle against a system that is swiftly losing its legitimacy.  Our movements in this country will become far stronger once we start to share Zinn’s analysis shown here, which shows us that Obama and Mubarack (or even Michelle Bachmann for that matter) have more in common with each other than we could ever have with Obama.

“When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than we have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It’s the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That’s why we are always surprised when they get together — they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say.

It’s like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it’s going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them […]

We are asked, ‘What if everyone disobeyed the law?’ But a better question is, ‘What if everyone obeyed the law?’ And the answer to that question is much easier to come by, because we have a lot of empirical evidence about what happens if everyone obeys the law, or if even most people obey the law.”

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