Tag Archives: Howard Zinn

‘Marx in Soho’ and the current political climate

Howard Zinn, in his 1999 play Marx in Soho, has Karl Marx say something like, “Why is it that every movement of six people is trying to expel someone?” In Zinn’s imagination, even Marx is exasperated at the ideological zealotry that can lead a group as small as six people (with essentially the same goals and values) to wage an intense purity campaign within its own ranks. It’s food for thought in these times, when someone who agrees with you 75% of the time can be 100% your enemy. There is no room for compromise, is there? Better a scorched Earth than a shared Earth, right? Just to be sure, you have to keep everyone within your ranks pure enough. Be vigilant.

During my visit to the Museum of Communism in Prague this past summer, I saw a display that revealed Party officials would sometimes torture and execute Party loyalists just to keep everyone in line through fear. The display showed mugshots of innocent people who were cherry-picked for torture and execution—even when the Party officials knew they had done nothing wrong. Purity through terror.

Update, Jan. 14: 

While social media hissing is not quite like torture and execution, the condemnation of Margaret Atwood by the self-appointed, self-anointed “Good Feminists” is an example of a vicious purity campaign. Read Atwood’s account in The Globe and Mail.

If the name of Margaret Atwood rings a bell, it’s because she is the author of the 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which recently became an acclaimed Hulu series. I teach her essay, “The Female Body,” in one of my writing courses each semester. Atwood strikes me as a feminist icon, but lately she has fallen out of favor with some purists.

The purists’ response to her civil-rights stance underscores my original point in this post. In a world with Donald Trump as president, left-leaning people actually want to target Margaret Atwood? But if you agree with her only 75% of the time, she must be 100% your enemy. That kind of thinking earns you Donald Trump.

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Questions for Anglicans and Episcopalians

Bishop Greg Brewer of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida has resigned from the Board of Trustees of Trinity School of Ministry.

The resignation is related to turmoil following his decision to baptize the adopted child of a same-sex couple.

In his resignation letter, Brewer writes:

“I am aware that in this heated climate of theological and moral controversy, there are fewer and fewer places within Anglicanism where we can agree to disagree.”

A question for Anglicans and Episcopalians:

If you cannot agree to disagree among yourselves, how are you going to bring new people into the church?

Maybe that question should be pondered at the current Episcopal General Convention.

The more conservative people ought to ask themselves, “How could a newcomer sing ‘Just As I Am’ in our church?”

The more liberal people ought to ask themselves, “What makes our church different from other types of social gatherings?”

The more conservative people could also ask themselves, “What makes our Anglican church distinctive from other forms of conservative, Bible-quoting Christianity?”

Postscript:

I recently heard a radio program about Howard Zinn, who wrote a play entitled, Marx in Soho. One of the characters asks something to the effect of, “Why is it that every movement of six people is trying to expel someone?”