Martín Espada’s Poem for Howard Zinn

January 17, 2013

Martín Espada reads the poem he wrote to honor his good friend, historian and activist Howard Zinn, whom Espada calls “the most decent, most generous human being I have ever known.” Zinn died in January, 2010. The poem is entitled “Castles for the Laborers and Ballgames on the Radio.”

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Martín Espada.

Photo of Howard Zinn by Robin Holland

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  • B J Smith

    Oh that was wonderful! Chock full of….it all!

  • Vivek Jain

    Zinn probably would have been disappointed in Moyers’ failure to denounce U.S. imperialism and aggression against the people and governments of Libya, Iran, Syria, Mali, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

    Zinn frequently reminded his readers and audience about class conflict, class interests, class divisions, and disabused them of the “pretension of national unity, in which the government represents all the people”.

    Unlike Zinn, Bill Moyers is no critic of capitalism or imperialism or militarism. Moyers covers up the crimes of the ruling class and shepherds thousands of viewers into the folds of the pro-capitalist, pro-authoritarian, pro-war Democratic party. Moyers presents a narrow range of proposals that maintain the class structure and domination by the moneyed interests. He helps build consensus for predetermined elite-favoring policies. Howard Zinn, in contrast, taught us of the revolutionary potential of social movements, of people power, of the threat of non-cooperation and disobedience, against the war mongers and war profiteers and capitalists. Zinn rejected the phony framing of issues as conservative or liberal, or Democrat or Republican–he knew that there was a class war.

    Zinn wrote, “The pretense in disputed elections is that the great conflict is between the two major parties. The reality is that there is a much bigger conflict that the two parties jointly wage against large numbers of Americans who are represented by neither party and against powerless millions around the world.”

    Moyers encourages passivity, spectatorship, compliance, silence, obedience, and idolatry. Moyer’s career has largely been in the service of the plutocracy, whereas Zinn’s life work was dedicated to shattering national myths; to discovering and chronicling the campaigns by ordinary people acting in concert to expand notions of equality, democracy, freedom, rights, dignity, worth; to re-defining national security not in terms of military power but social health and well being; to seeing the connections between issues (labor, environmental stewardship, feminism, global peace and justice, etc). The audacity of Moyers to even mention Zinn is astounding; Zinn wrote about the abuse of state power whereas Moyers has kept quiet. Zinn revealed to many of us the history of the government’s assault on freedoms, rights, and liberties in times of war, the brutal crackdown against radicals, anarchists, communists, socialists, organized labor, war resisters. Moyers keeps these stories hidden from public view, even as the current administration escalates its war on whistleblowers, dissidents, and activists, and expands its imperialist, illegal, wars of terrorism on millions of people abroad. Why is that? Why aren’t Moyers’ fans holding him to a higher standard? Is Zinn’s work simply to be read and put away, or is the knowledge that he imparted to be applied by citizens taking responsibility–rather than deferring to policymakers–and combating injustice and inequality and war?

  • Vivek Jain

    Zinn denounced the aggressive, illegal imperialist war on Indochina–the very war that Moyers lied to the public about.
    See the collection, Zinn on War (revised edition):

  • Marsha Howard

    This poem is so humble and generous and full of love. It’s perfect.

  • Victoria Silva

    Eloquent tribute to a man who dedicated his life and work to Social Justice. Thank you Martin Espada!

  • Anonymous

    Another committed communist who refuses to recognize that centralized economic planning and top down control of society by elites has never worked. There’s not a society in history where the kind of utopia Espada envisions has ever resulted in an improved material welfare for all of the people. You end up with gulags for political dissidents, poverty for the masses and a great living for the political class and their friends that run the show. Kinda like the way Obama and his crony capitalists (ie: Fascistas) are devolving the country.

  • sweetgumbolady

    Thank you Prof. Espada and Mr. Moyers for a thoughtful and inspiring show. I bury the unthinkable in my life and move on in possibility.

  • Rain,adustbowlstory

    As a writer, and someone who also shows my college students every year Bill Moyers’ classic interview with Maya Angelou, I have to say that just the tone of Moyers’ voice when he speaks with writers, just the respect and the intelligent reverence of his questions–it does my soul good.

    Thank you, Mr. Moyers.

  • Theresa Riley

    Dear Rain, Thanks so much for your kind words. Bill appreciated your post. (He reads them all!)

    We’re glad that you enjoy the poetry segments. We certainly enjoy producing them. Thanks for watching.

    Theresa @ Moyers

  • Tami Lapp

    I miss Mr. Zinn. He along with Amy Goodman, and you Mr. Moyers, are the best of the best in my humble opinion. I was so very glad you returned to us each week. Thank you Mr. Espada for this warm remebrance of a true American hero, and to you Mr. Moyers for all you have done for the citizens of this country.