Current Issues with a Twist

Historian Howard Zinn was not afraid to examine social issues from a different point of view. Similarly, The Great South Bay Forum on Current Affairs meets at Bar Harbour Library to discuss present-day subjects with fresh perspectives. On Wednesday, the Forum used Zinn’s inspiring story of campaigning against segregation and war as a platform for their latest discussion.

“He’s an authentic, genuine American hero,” committee member and author Jack Bilello said of Zinn “He put his money where his mouth is.”

The Forum, which is sponsored by organizations such as Long Island Progressive Coalition and Veterans for Peace, wanted to pay tribute to Zinn, who passed away in January.

“It’s almost like a memorial,” Biello said.

Zinn was also a playwright and a social activist. He authored numerous books including, “A People’s History of the United States.”

The evening began with a showing of Zinn’s documentary, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” which was followed by a discussion.

An early portion of the documentary focused on Zinn’s teaching position at Spellman College, where he tackled the injustice of racism in the South. Zinn noted in the documentary that campuses thrive with an “intellectual energy that cannot be wasted.”

Committee member Beatriz Theofanis feels students and people of all ages should make their opinions known.

“Eighty and eighteen. Let’s get together and change things,”  she said.  Theofanis believes that the Forum is one place to “express feelings and voice concerns” without the discussion of political parties. It is one way to take an active role in what is going on in the world around us.

The later portions of the documentary focused on Zinn’s objection to the Vietnam War while teaching at Boston University. In 2010, it seems as if history has repeated itself.

“[War] is ongoing. What are we fighting for?” committee member Bill McNulty questioned. Zinn wondered how to achieve justice without war. Those present at the event wondered the same thing as they discussed the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The discussion provoked ideas regarding our motives for war and the Middle East’s response to the United States.

No matter the subject, the Forum intends to promote awareness.

“[We want] to get more people to come to discussions,” Biello said, regardless of their personal stance on an issue. “We can disagree without being disagreeable. We promote a marketplace of ideas.”

The Forum will use the classic film, “To Kill a Mockingbird”  as a springboard for their next discussion. It will be shown on August 25th at 7:30 at Bar Harbour.