Posts Tagged With: protest

SOOTHING SPIRIT OF SONG AND POETRY

Goethe said:  One should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words.

Music is all around us, rowers still chant and call their strokes, campers sing around the fire, auctioneers and street vendors, sing to sell their wares, mothers sing to their children, father’s too. Protestors sing on the picket lines.  Music comforts the sick and weary and inspires writers, and thinkers and all of us to grander effort, or to lighten our mood. Music wafts through stores and elevators, and one is never far from television and radio. And, music for the most part is poetry.

I’ve been rummaging around in folk anthologies about working people’s songs.

Most of us can remember Sixteen Tons,  Eight Hours, The Old Chisholm Trail.

I got caught up in the music and forgot they were real men working real jobs and suffering exploitation by the “company.”  I knew Sixteen Tons was about back-breaking work at a low pay-day after day where the coal miner was unable to get out of the trap of indebtedness. Employers knew how to set up that invisible net to keep them in that trap.

And, of course, I’m familiar with the happy sounds of Ty Yi Yippy, Yippy, Yea… of the Old Chisholm Trail .  Somehow I didn’t hear the other verses of the song that  make the exploitation clear. The boss can fire you on a whim and dock your pay if he sees fit and they always did.

A-ropeing and a-tying and a-branding all day,

I’m working mighty hard for mighty little pay,

I went to the boss to draw my roll,

He had me figured out ten dollars in the hole.

The boss says to me, “I’ll fire you,

Not only you but the whole damn crew.”

We organized a union and it’s going mighty strong,

The boss minds his business and we all get along.”

The song, Eight Hours was a rallying song from the late nineteenth century when people worked from sun-up to sun-set, the whole year, no vacations, time off, no cushion against illness. Unions made things better, but young people today, don’t recognize what they owe to unions and in some ways, our current middle class is working very hard for low wages, often both parents and not getting ahead. I see some similarities.

The song says:

We mean to make things over, we are tired of toil for naught,

With but bare enough to live upon and never and hour for thought.

We want to feel the sunshine and we want to sell the flowers,

We are sure that God has will’d it, and we mean to have eight hours.

We’re summoning our forces from the shipyard , shop and mill,

Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest and eight hours for what we will.

Carpenters won an 8-hour day in 1890, but it took decades before the majority of workers won a shorter work day.

For me it was a repeat education and a reminder of what we owe unions and a treatise on the power of the people when they are maligned.

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SUPERIOR, WISCONSIN

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Leaving Ashland, we stopped at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center. They were celebrating the grand opening of a new exhibit about Aldo Leopold and the docent teasingly said this fall basket of mums matched my clothes and I should have my picture taken with it. The building is quite impressive but I found the displays rather plastic. A voices about Native Americans film was poorly done. The see-through lighted-from-behind screen was shadowed by the exit sign lights and other invasive light made it difficult to see.  The exhibits are designed to play with and press buttons and the story and pictures, except for a 75 foot tall mural, just didn’t give me a satisfied feel, or peak my curiosity, except for this sign:

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Just the sign, then very little about people settling here and struggling to make it. Duluth is in Minnesota, maybe that is why. But, Highway 2 is on a direct line to Duluth. I guess I’m jaded. I’ve seen so many wonderful visitors centers that give you a strong feel for where you are.

The Leopold exhibit was sparse. Aldo Leopold was one of America’s foremost conservationists.  He is renowned for starting the national wilderness system, founding the field of wildlife management and ecology, and writing the conservation classic A Sand County Almanac. He devoted his life to the question, “How do we live on the land without spoiling it?”  A question we are still asking today.  But, no counterpart of what Wisconsin has done to fulfill that goal. I asked the docent where I could see some big sugar maples, some huge hemlocks and pines and birches. She said there are a few stands here and there, on an island, or a park. Except for a nice garden in front of the center, it is surrounded by grass. A beautiful viewing tower to look at twigs for trees and grass. It makes me wonder, is this state way behind in recognizing the very lessons that Leopold brought to American consciousness? I was truly disappointed.

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This map is suggesting that climate change is a reality and this is what could happen. While we travel around the country we hear people everywhere, say:  “This is unusual weather. It isn’t usually like this.” At Ashland, a storm blew up like a veritable tornado. Campers commented at how unusual it is to get so many violent storms. In Michigan, the humidity and weeks on end of higher than normal temps? people were shaking their heads, “don’t know, this weather. My barley heads are bigger this year, but my corn is destroyed,” etc. etc.

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The center had an artists rendering  of the extinct American Carrier Pigeons that were so important during WW1. I was amazed at how beautiful they were and wonder how our society let them die out. It bothers me still that these things happened. In fact, one poster of a former Wisconsin governor claimed, “We have enough great forests to last our population forever.”  If only they knew what greed could do.

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When we reached Superior, we spent the night at the Richard Bong Veterans Historical Center. Richard Ira Bong above was a WWII fighter pilot who surpassed Eddie Rickenbacker’s record for downing 27 enemy planes. Just a young kid of 18, his  first battle netted 6 kills. They stopped him at 22 kills thinking their new, young hero would make a better emissary for selling war bonds.  He got bored with that and asked to go back to battle. Then they stopped him at 40, for fear they’d lose their hero as the war just about over. This center is unusual in that it is mostly devoted to this one man’s exploits with a lot of war statistics and memorabilia to fill a huge three-story building. It is located here because Richard Bong was born and raised in Poplar, WI, just  a few miles away from this center. His control of the Japanese air attacks made a huge difference in the outcome of the war. Many battle plans rested on his ability to perform and he is fittingly a great American Hero. Well worth a visit. This visit came as a positive, in one way because I’d just finished reading In Harms Way, by Doug Stanton, about the horrible shafting the Navy dealt Major McVay, the commanding officer of the Indianapolis when it was sunk by a Japanese sub. It took until 2001, 56 years after the sinking, to exonerate McVay.

And, a negative because I am so anti-war. Not that WWII wasn’t necessary, it was. But most wars are over American expansionism, our corporate interests in foreign countries, intervention in foreign countries leadership, ideology, religion, lack of tolerance for other nations culture, oil, business.  Look at these statistics of World War II:

Of a global population at the time of 2.3 billion people, 85 million served as soldiers. Sixty million died, 38 million of them civilians.

2/3 rds of the Jewish Population was annihilated.  The Soviet Union lost 27.5 % of their population. 17% of Poles died. 19.4% of Germans died. 3.67 % of Japanese lost their lives.  All countries lost some.

I read here General MacArthur’s  statement after the war:

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We do have a better world. But we don’t have freedom, tolerance or justice. We give our freedoms away, piece by piece. We are at war on our city streets. Tolerance and justice are still unmet goals as a nation.

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Protesters then were women and had I been old enough, I’d have been there with them.  I do appreciate that I had the right to protest, a freedom much diminished, narrowing and threatened as I write.

Amen!

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OCCUPY WALL STREET, WHO ARE WE?

Amazing that about 70 people gathered at the Sonora Courthouse Park on Saturday to “Occupy Wall Street”, but nobody knows who organized the event. The local paper expressed puzzlement.  People from a group dubbing itself The 99% were there. Others came from Tuolumne County Citizens for Peace. There were Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Peace and Freedom members, and I don’t know who else.  In short, a cross-section of our community, with the same concerns.

The corrupting  political influence of big money;  the growing,  inequitably taxed,wealth of 1% of the people  at the cost of the declining income of 99% of the people;  Wall Street greed and fraud that plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression;  a broken political system hobbled by Republican extremists willing to block any helpful measures;  and a President who has failed to stand up to extremists on Wall Street and in the Congress.

Our tax money, bailed out the titans of the financial world whose scammers went unpunished while they brazenly raised their CEO’s  compensation by millions in the face of mass unemployment, the under employed, and foreclosures breaking the back of working families across this nation.

I didn’t see anger so much as frustration, determination;  parents with small  children who know their children are going to inherit this mess.

And, most refreshing of all, young people who are beginning to understand how undermined their future has become. Corporate profits are up 22 percent while squeezing wages and salaries and ratcheting up production. Working people have fewer safeguards; they fear for their jobs if they come out and protest;    Retirement income is threatened  while our failed congress  pushes to take away benefits, worker based health insurance, social security and every safeguard the unions have provided working people in the last century. The Governor of Wisconsin and his assembly  proposed a bill  to forbid Union Organizing.

It’s interesting that the OWS movement has not made up a list of demands, as in this is our agenda, and this is what we demand and it drives the media nuts. They don’t know how to attack them. They can’t call them outrageous. There are too many to ignore, as in  500,000 in Zuccotti Park in New York City, an encampment.  So the pugnacious, conservative radio hosts call them stinky, unbathed – which they are. Some of them live within walking distance of their own homes, but they choose the sleeping bag in the park.  They were forbidden a bullhorn so protestors  use  sign language and the echoing power of their own voices to communicate.  What a wonderfully human and Democratic gathering to give heart to a suffering nation.

Judging from this large group in the Courthouse Park in Sonora, a small town in a rural Motherlode county, the movement has legs. And it isn’t difficult to divine what our needs are.  Just read the signs.


 

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TOXIC STRAWBERRIES?

Pardon me if I don’t get it. I’ve been eating and enjoying strawberries that I purchase at my local grocers for a long time. Beautiful, delicious, enjoyable, good for you. What more could you ask of a fruit?  There is one thing, please don’t let California growers pour a bunch of toxic chemicals on strawberry fields.  I know the chemical companies like to sell their stuff, and some of it has been beneficial poisons, but not methyl iodide. As a consumer, the first thing you can do to prevent this, is begin to ask your grocer if the strawberries you are buying are treated with methyl iodide. He/she may not know what it is, but will immediately be on the alert that customers know about it and are watching. Tell your neighbors.

The Environmental Protection Agency is going to take another look at methyl iodide, a chemical approved during the waning years of the Bush administration over the protestations of more than 50 scientists, among them six Nobel Laureates in Chemistry.
Methyl iodide is a known human carcinogen, as well as a neurotoxin and disruptor of thyroid function. It can be especially damaging during fetal development, and it has no business being used as a fumigant in our farm fields — especially when there are safe alternatives. Even the strictest regulations on application cannot prevent exposure of workers, surrounding populations, and drinking water to this hazardous chemical.

If you love strawberries, and you love your kids and grand kids, contact the EPA and protest this lousy choice. To make it easier, I’ve copied the above information and an address where you can sign on and protest this decision before it becomes approved for strawberries. http://action.earthjustice.org/site/R?i=DsjFAbhpWstJFc31I6bFNQ..

If this link doesn’t work, copy and paste it in your browser.
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