The amazing American historian-activist, Howard Zinn passed away earlier this year. His seminal masterpiece, “A People’s History of the United States” is a classic that should be required reading for every U.S. citizen. Zinn frequently praised dissent as a patriotic act of civil disobedience and an effective method for achieving social justice. He once said, “Some think that dissent is unpatriotic. I would argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we’re exercising that right to dissent, it’s a patriotic act.”
He praised liberal dissenters such as peace movement activist, Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in the war in Iraq. His writings and speeches are full of stories of unsung heroes of American progress. Yet, one wonders what he might say about the emerging Tea Party Movement. Would this kind of dissent also be considered patriotic? Even though it is much smaller than other protest movements of recent years–such as anti-war, environmental, anti-free trade, immigration–it has gained much more media attention. But why? Why are major media outlets polling Tea Party members? Why is it being seen as a major political force that both parties must reckon with, when most of it’s supporters are Republicans or at least conservative Independents?