Howard Zinn and Objections to Objectivity

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Due to his life experiences such as assault by police force, three years of labor-intensive work, and service in the U.S. Air Force, Howard Zinn occupies many objections to objectivity, otherwise known as objections to neutrality. These previous accounts in Zinn’s life eventually caused him to completely lose the desire to be/remain objective. Before Zinn’s career as an author and historian, he worked intensively in a shipyard, effectively experiencing labor work and cruelty first hand. Thus, his ultimate discovery of The Ludlow Massacre provoked sheer curiosity, as he recognized that he had never been educated on the historical moment. How could the slaughter of humans merely exercising their constitutional rights not be included in history textbooks across America? Within Zinn’s expression on the severity of the event and its blatant ignoring from history, he clarifies the difficulty to approach the events of The Ludlow Massacre without a level of bias to the equation.

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But, Zinn’s viewpoint on bias does not only apply to the devastating events of The Ludlow Massacre, they apply to all of history. In Objections to Objectivity, it is argued that no historian can ever be purely objective due to the considerable amount of evidence to choose from. Any telling of an event or era will inevitably leave out a wide variety of information. Every single event that happens within history has more than one side to the story that must be considered and The Ludlow Massacre is just another example of that. As an organizer for the United Mine Workers, Mary Jones considered the nation an industrialized form landmine, where everything is revolved around potential profit. In contrast, the vice-president of Colorado Fuel and Iron, John D. Rockefeller did not identify with unionization, only interested in wealth. In the end, president Woodrow Wilson sided with the industrial corporations, obviously differing from Mary Jones’ vision, only further proving how both roles and opinions are crucial in understanding the bigger picture. Overall Zinn stands with the assertion that if one claims to be neutral on a topic and its predecessors, they are either hiding their bias or simply trying to be objective. I agree with Zinn’s viewpoint. It is necessary that the retelling of history is honest about the country’s past and that all viewpoints are represented. The United States and the entirety of the world must be seen in its full complexity, not just taken on with a simple ‘we’re the best’ and ‘this is how it happened’ attitude.

One’s life experiences can shape their interpretation of the past completely subconsciously. Intimate factors such as morality, political affiliation, and social values heavily impact how past events are deciphered. In my personal experience, my religion has incidentally affected the way I have perceived the events of The Holocaust. Judaism was extremely present in my home life as a child, thus in recent years as WWII has been more heavily taught in school, I feel a historical connection and interpretation of the material that the majority of my classmates do not possess. Having relatives killed in the events of The Holocaust and having prior knowledge from my childhood in Sunday School gave me different outlooks and opinions, from my Rabbi, my relatives, and a history book. Overall, history is shaped by interpretations and perspectives of the individuals who have recorded it, leaving objectivity impossible and undesirable.

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