marthastephens

Martha in the End Times

ARE THESE the end times, my friends?  Have we fellows on Planet Earth just been waiting, ever since November 8, for the final chaos to overtake us?

I guess we figure, even so, that in the meantime we might as well go on with our lives.   See myself here with my Mexican-American friend Christina at the soup kitchen last month in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

We’d chopped vegetables together all morning, and talked and carried on, and now our guests were about to appear — 250 of our fellow citizens, mostly people without work or with work that does not pay them enough to live on.  All of them just carrying on, too, I suppose, in this richest of all countries in the world.

 

The Fist

BUT THESE END TIMES, my friends — is this the twilight of the gods?  The last cataclysm, perhaps, as predicted by the ancient writings?  Will we see, in the end, the raising of the dead, and the coming, at last, of the true messiahs of peace — and justice — for the earth?

            In short, must we die now — to be born again?

       I do apologize for these religious metaphors, my buds, but how else to understand our planetary lives in this moment of — I can’t resist the phrase — gotterdammerung?

       Now if an astronaut were about to fly away to outer space from a  planet soon to be devoid of life, I’d say to her or him: “When you get out there, my friend, tell them about us!  Tell them everything.”

       If any of the other beings out there come to visit Planet Earth, they’ll wonder, I bet, at its emptiness.  “What happened here?” they’ll ask themselves.  Maybe they’ll see the placards from our rallies, our marches of protest, rotting in the earth, our bullhorns half buried in the sands. “Looks like they tried to save themselves,” they’ll say.  “There must have been those who didn’t want it to happen.”

    The Tea Party Is Alive and Well, and Is Every Last Republican with Them? 

       THEY DON’T CARE  what they do to people, how many die for lack of medical care, for instance, or sick leave or a living wage or a place to live — because they figure it this way:  we have more people than we need in this country.  We don’t need any more workers — so they’re just extras.  So why make any provision for such people?  If they die in the streets — so what?  Lets remember that the Third Reich began with attacks on gypsies, the “work-shy,” and others of no account.  (But Bernie and I say this: Where there’s work — share it!  Share everything!)

                             My Dreams at Plaza Suites Motel 

       IN ANY CASE, there was I last month, a person of means, one could say, at Plaza Suites in Las Cruces.  Still alive, at least, in one of its funny old kitchenettes.  I’ve visited at Plaza for fifteen years now, longer stays and shorter stays, and the sights and sounds that surround me there are like old friends I’m allowed to remember from another life.  In fact, I’ll tell you this: in my dreams in the other world, I know I’ll still hear the cleaning carts clattering over the tiles of the open-air corridor past my door.  Yes, I’ll still hear the carts of the young Latina cleaning women at Plaza Suites.  

And I’ll hear once more a small voice crying out to me from the narrow strip of kitchen at the back of the front room.

“Wipe me!” this little voice will cry, over and over again, and in my dreams I will try to comply.  Yes, I’ll wipe and re-wipe the dark ledge of counter around my sink, though this counter can never be wiped clean.  After some forty years of nicks and blots and blotches and burns, these counters in all the Plaza kitchenettes are totally — how shall I say — injured?  But not fatally?

       These counters are in twilight now, just like the country and me myself — I’ll be 80 next month, after all; and good old Plaza Suites, as I have known it, at least, may be entering its twilight years as well, for my owner, Joe Wilson, is ill and not sure to recover, he says.  Joe, get well.   Live on, my man!

                                            The Catholics Know How to Help
       Some of the immigrants detained in an El Paso detention center have been helped by the Catholic Diocese of SWNewMexico.  They created last fall a program where people from the center could leave if they had families to receive them.  The small church I attend, First Christian, became part of this program.  For several months vans pulled up at church homes bringing refugees from Central America.  They were to be kept overnight and then sent on to their relatives around the country.  My friends the Bruners put up three families from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras.  These “families” consisted, though, of one parent and one child; it seems that when children were involved, the authorities accepted the release of one parent, but only one, to accompany them.  

Julia Bruner

       Julia Bruner says she liked doing this job, and that even with her small Spanish, it wasn’t difficult.  Still, the Bruners had a couple from Guatemala, a father and young son, that seemed a little baffled by things.  They were not used to beds, she surmised (only mats on the floor?), or even to eating utensils.

       Julia also learned of a refugee woman who had traveled for weeks in the same clothes, and when she was taken to a Catholic thrift store to get some clean ones, the garments she was wearing had to be cut from her body — they had stuck to her skin.   Are we the Evil Empire, my friends?

Aletta Wilson music director at First Christian

The day I was picked up at the El Paso airport by my church friend Aletta Wilson, I learned that the day before, February 3,  she had dropped off at the same airport one of her own refugee families, but had then learned that everything had changed and there would be no more such families to assist!  One hundred and twenty-two families had been helped, but now — no more!

The Unitarians in Cruces are showing, btw, a wonderful film about immigrants called Harvest of Empire!  (See it on YouTube.)  It describes what the U. S. has done in the countries of Central American to keep popular governments from succeeding there — so yes, my friends, people try to flee from the brutal regimes we have armed and still support.

Rogues Gallery

Robin and her mom Elsie are always at church together.

Carol and Joy are church elders. They got married recently!

Wanta include a few more church friends.  I guess you didn’t know that some of us radicals love our churches, which have sometimes been the last line of resistance to the system of wrong we occupy!

 

Las Cruces — What Are You Anyway?

        ON ANOTHER SUBECT — not everything is wonderful here in Cruces, my friends.  Urban blight to rival Cincinnati’s.   Poverty.   Dirty-looking ramshackled housing units everywhere you turn.  Homelessness.  

But many more people are fighting back these days.   I went out one day to join a mass protest against Rep. Steve Pearce.  He hides now from his constituents just as Senator Portman does in Ohio.  I also took in a meeting of the SWNewProgressives — some call them “the new Berniecrats.”  They’re working to defend public lands, for instance, from the developers, and to stop the diverting of the area’s last free-flowing river, the Gila.   The Progressive Voters Alliance is also in full swing and has to hunt up extra chairs for its overflow crowds.  Activist groups turn up at official meetings no one used to know about — at the county commissioners, for instance.    

       Did I say that Clinton won NM on November 8, and that the Democrats took over both houses of the legislature?  How ’bout that?

Artists Abound Here 

       I GOTTA SAY that in this town people seem to love their arts.  The Arts Council brings to the old Rio Grande movie theater downtown a solid list of good events every week.  Local talent mostly, in music, dance, talk, plays!

Katy Stuckel

As to the visual arts, here’s a woman I’m acquainted with, Katy Stuckel, an old friend of my daughter Paige. Katy had a show for a large installation of hers at the university this year.  Here see one of her self-portraits.  (You can google her name and see her fascinating website!)

Alice Davenport at her Moonbow sewing shop

A woman of my own age named Alice Davenport is an old friend of mine in the sewing arts!   She’s a wonderful seamstress and has made all my skirts for years.  (See her Moonbow Shop on line.)  Last month she took me with her to her book club, where a local woman named Shelley Armitage spoke about growing up on a farm in the Texas panhandle — and her book Walking the Llano.  It’s a fascinating story!

YOU SEE, I’m trying to be positive once in a while.  Late at night at Plaza Suites, I get on my little laptop and remember that Cosi fan tutti is still there — so  far! — and Orfeo ed Eurydice, and the songs of Mercedes Sosa.

      INDEED, I’m wishing all of us plenty of  friends, music, art, and peaceful times . . . to steady us for the revolutionary fightback we’re waging!

 


       NB: If you’ve read this far, my friends, please consider Following this blog.  You’d get a notice about new posts only every month or two — and I don’t always write this long!  Also happy to have your Comments little or big . . . .

 

 

 

Don’t Kill for Me

MS at keyboard

FRIENDS, much of life is frightening to me today.  I’m afraid of our newly-elected president.  I’m afraid for all those caught in the horror of war and am ashamed of the brutal actions of my own country in the Middle East.  In my own state of Ohio, I’m afraid of the violence that is propagated here, and I feel a nightmarish dread of the new executions being scheduled.

        The image that haunts me more than any other is this: a person who has done no one any harm in many years, and has often been a prison counselor, or a medic, in the weeks before, is given a last meal in his cell, walked down a corridor, strapped to a table, and poisoned to death.

WE HUMANS can be killers, yes, but we are also creatures of reason, able to examine our own actions.  We can decide to do what makes us feel more intelligent and more human, rather than repeating the naked aggressions of the past.

        THE U. S. is the only western country where the death penalty still exists.  Finland had its last peacetime execution in 1825, for instance, Belgium in 1863, Sweden in 1910, Germany in 1949, the U. K. in 1964.

        Twenty-three states in the U. S. have also ceased putting people to death: Michigan, on our borders, had its last execution in 1846, West Virginia in 1965.  In recent years, four  governors of death-penalty states have taken it on themselves to put a stop to this practice.

       Should we ask Governor Kasich to consider such a legacy for himself?

        It was in the year of 1963 that a long pause in U. S. executions was brought about by a liberal Supreme Court.  Since the Ohio resumption in 1999, fifty-three individuals have been put to death, including twelve under John Kasich.  

        I once made a film on Ohio executions for public access t. v.  called Don’t Kill for Me.   I don’t have a copy of that film any more, but I remember its pictures of our shadow-filled, night-time vigils for those about to die, and the sad and beautiful song it ended with — from the final aria of the Verdi Requiem.

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No more executions!

OHIO BECAME A STATE in 1803, and executions were by hanging.  In 1897 the instrument of death became the electric chair.  Our beat-up old chair was last used in 1963, but it had gotten us through 317 electrocutions, and then earned us a few dollars (perhaps) at a yard sale!

        What we like now are lethal injections.  We feel they are the most humane, you understand, even though guys on our death gurneys have often suffered tormented passings.  One fellow was in so much pain a few years ago that he tried to assist the executioners to find the vein they needed to finish him off!  They finally gave up on this man, a fellow named Romell Broom, and Governor Kasich said, in effect, “If he’s going to be that difficult, let him live — for now,” and Broom still occupies a cell on death row.  Like so many of those awaiting execution, Romell Broom is African-American.  (Please see a famous poem below about the lynchings of black men in the south.)  White offenders have a much better chance of evading the death penalty!

IN THE SIXTIES, an Ohio governor, Michael DiSalle, wrote a book called The Power of Life or Death about his opposition to the death penalty.  He felt that the only way to protect people was to eradicate the causes of violent crime in “poverty and destitution, racial abuse, and mental illness.”  –“I believe human life is a divine gift,” DiSalle wrote, “and deliberately to destroy it is as much a crime for the state as for the individual.”

IN 1999 A BESPECTACLED young man named Wilford Berry, not a killer but an accomplice to a murder, volunteered to be the first to die when the Ohio death penalty was re-instated, and many in Cincinnati joined a new crusade against executions.  I wanted to visit Berry in prison, but he declined.  I then sent him a photo of the youngsters in our family, and I’ll never forget the note I got back from him. “Cute kids!” he wrote — this man about to die.  At Berry’s death, I was present at a night-time vigil for him outside the prison in Lucasville, and went to work, eventually, on Don’t Kill for Me.  In those years Sister Alice Gerdeman at IJPC took a van of volunteers to every single execution that took place, often leaving long before dawn for a morning death-watch.

                        The Walk to Stop Ohio Executions

IN THE FALL of 2015 a Walk to Stop Ohio Executions marched for a week on the shoulders of highway U. S. 23.  It was a walk of eighty-six miles — from Lucasville, Ohio, to the seat of government in Columbus!  Some of us lasted only a few days, but a group of stalwarts made it the whole way, and hundreds joined the group in Columbus.  Over a dozen walkers from Cincinnati took part, sleeping at night on the floors of churches and schools, and speaking out at community events along the way, asking people not to return to the cruel and unnecessary ways of the past.

If you wish, btw, to ask Governor Kasich to disavow the Ohio death penalty, please do so at 614-466-3555.

                     Peace to All Who Read These Lines!

                                                                                                             

For those who may have time:

                            A Postscript  About Mr. Trump

Detention

What happened here?

        MY FRIENDS, this little blog has readers from time to time in India, Japan, Canada, Australia, and so on, and I want to say that you fellows around the world must be sorry for us today to be facing a leader like Mr. Trump — who’s stealing Christmas and just about everything else, like the Grinch he is.  Trump, as I see it, was a  gift to us from our two traditional parties.  Democrats no longer much care, any more than our Republicans ever have, about working people, and many voters went over, in desperation, to Trump.  We fear they will be miserably sorry, for we’re already a poor country and may now become even poorer.  In Cincinnati, a recent U.S. Census has shown that 44.3% of our children are  living below the poverty line.
        The minimum wage here is $8.10 an hour.  Affordable housing has almost disappeared.  Most schools are segregated and racially oppressed.  With so much trouble in their lives, mothers and fathers may not succeed in keeping families together.  Black fathers are taken away in droves, and often for years and just for drugs, in the new form of slavery we call “mass incarceration.”  In this chaotic economy, men may fight and be killed, or become killers themselves, and be prospects for lethal injections. 
        AS FOR the Trumpster, Black Lives Matter is girding for resistance, it seems, along with our brave Native Americans, our Iraq Vets Against War, and countless other groups.  
Immigrants are afraid, and churches in Cincinnati are preparing to become sanctuaries for those in danger. 
The vast U.S. military — will it now be an even greater imagesdanger to the world than it has been, or is that even possible?
“Killed in Action” by Kathe Kollwitz.

 

The saddest part of all may be the assault Mr. Trump  is threatening on our planetary home, and I’m sure all the world is grieving over this.
Mama Earth is crying — and she doesn’t have many tears left.  ##
Here’s the famous poem I mention above, one you may know, and  speaking of lynchings — what exactly are we doing today — if not more lynchings — in our mass incarcerations?

                                 Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

— by Abel Meeropol

Once more, my  friends — Peace to All Who Read These Lines!

The First Frost Comes to the Garden

Readers, you know me as a malcontented person who posts mostly on war and peace;  but I hope you will see that this, too, is a tale of war — on helpless vegetables!  — M. S.

 

        “Martha! We’re dying!” cried the peppers today.
       “Are we Martha?” said the tomatoes in one chorus, hoarsely. “Tell us please!”
       “My darlings . . . yes-s,” I began. I could hardly speak, but I had given life to these friends and knew I must stay the course with them.
       “Yes, my pretty ones, I cannot but say that tonight the cold will come, and in the morning you will not wake.”
      Sad murmurs along the rows. I steeled myself to go on. I felt they wanted to know everything.
      “Tonight, my darlings, your limbs will begin to droop rather badly, you’ll wither and go limp, and as the days pass — you’ll become stiff and brown. You’ll be nothing but the withers. No blood, no sap will run in your stems. No voice will you have. No mind to think about your fate. And that is death. That is what we call death, my darlings, my little loves. When I come to your beds again, you will not know that I am here. If I speak, you will not hear . . . .
      Silence there was for a long time. They were trying to understand the world.
      When they spoke again, their tones were as thin as locust wings.                 “You, Martha — you will not die tonight?”
      “No-o, I do not think I will die tonight, my darlings . . . my pretties that I love. When the cold comes this evening, I will go in my house and shut the door, and the cold will be outside and I will be inside. But you — your feet are in the earth, they cannot move you to warmth and safety.”
      Somehow I went on — I don’t know how. “Look at me, my pretty ones! See me — my eighty years upon me? Fix on my face your poor dear eyes. Can you see this face, half-withered even now, as I stand before you? I will tell you today a great truth. On this October day in the year 2016 of the earth, and in the name of the nature that enfolds us all — I will tell you that all creatures go down, as you will tonight, and we big ones go down. We do not know why. Why . . .? we ask ourselves sometimes. But who is there to ask this question of? There is no one — no one.

      “So we are waiting all the time for the withers to come and take us and seize all we have. Our voices. Our limbs. Our minds. The sap in our roots and stems. Our memories . . . everything!” 

      Weak expressions of sorrow trickled out along the rows.
      “Martha, dear Martha,” they said. “It is a sad thing to know and yet it is best, we think, don’t you — to know things? And it is as if we must — we must know them . . . even very very sad things.”
      “Yes-s my darlings. Somehow we feel we must, we must know things — though we don’t know why . . . .”
      The peppers spoke again. “Do you see Basil, Martha? How thin, how sere she is? She was never strong. Last night we believed she still lived — then this morning she was quite gone. Dear Basil is gone!”
      “Yes,” said another. “Dear Basil, with her beautiful scent, is no more.”
      On this late fall day, the butterbeans had long since lapsed into the weedy growth of their mounds. In the ferocious summer heat, the cucumbers had hardly lived at all, for the beetles had come; and the summer spinach had been still-born.
      “But look at Radish!” said the friends. “He is as strong today as the day he was born!”
      Only one radish remained from the early spring patch, and Radish was a splendid specimen indeed — a hero of survival, grown as bushy and tall as a pepper almost. When I had observed his peculiar strength, I had not pulled him for his root, his leaves, but left him to shade the Romas, and they had wound themselves about his arms and legs and the peppers nearby, and ripened snugly underneath.
      Radish seldom spoke. He was a Daikon after all!
      “We understand he is a sort of princeling, Martha, and does not speak to such as us. And that his great root is as thick and long as the roots of human men that grow between their legs!”
      “When tonight we depart this earth, where will Radish be?”
      “Radish, my dears, will stay on a while in all his bushy glory. The early cold will not take him, you see, but in time the snows will come, the ice and greater cold will come, and Radish will be pulled!”
      The friends spoke once more, and I strained to hear, for their tones were fading into the frosty air.
      “Take of us, Martha! Take our last fruits home with you today! And by them . . . remember us . . . and our little lives . . . rounded by a sleep. Dear Mar-tha, remember . . . remember us . . . for we can say no mo-o-r-e . . . .” ##

From Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad, a memoir by Martha Stephens (in print and ebook).ms-at-plaza

A Poem for Remembering Hiroshima — August 6 1945

marthastephens

a-bomb-dome 

The Hiroshima Peace Dome Memorial

A building that survived the U. S. atomic bomb and was left exactly as it appeared after the blast.   It is surrounded now by a Peace Park that is visited by many people  from around the world. 

        Friends, I have posted this summer some of the great poems in our literature on the scourge of war.  Among my own poems, the verse you see below is my favorite.  I wrote it in commemoration of those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9th, 1945, and all who may yet perish in atomic war.  It imagines what our last day might be like if WE were to find ourselves under atomic attack. 

Last Day

On the last day

A rabbit came to taste the dandelions

Along the low hedge,

Sent, some might say, to bless us

Though he did not know…

View original post 453 more words

The Day the World Ended and Other News Both Happy and Sad

Friends, I know you like a little bit of a laugh now and then, even from me, who’s rather a sourpuss, I bet, in your mind.  So I’ve written for you the small construction below  of a slightly humorous kind.

                          The Day the World Ended 

The day the world ended
Joe saw the flash out the window.
He raised his hand to speak
But was not called on
For he was sitting with 
The social justice committee of his church
And the minutes were being read.

Of course Joe and the whole committee
Were turned into stone that day.
The minutes, too, were petrified —
Unapproved.

                                                   Little Guatemala

              ANYWAY — WHAT’S HAPPENING to us, my friends, in the world that is?  It‘s not the world we wish we had, where the earth could thrive and all her people, but since it’s the only planetary life we know, I  guess we must live in it  — somehow.
              Have you heard of a place called Little Guatemala, across the great river from Cincinnati?  I guess you haven’t, since that cognomen is known only to me.  I spent four hours recently in this town, and I will never forget the experience!  A young Guatemalan girl was being honored on her fifteenth birthday — her quinseanera, that is, with all the fabulous rituals this event implies in her home country.
              I wish you could have seen the magnificent hand-made dresses that bedecked the birthday girl and her friends, even the tiny cousins.  All their long ruffly dresses were exactly alike! 

Becky and SS

Here’s Becky on the lawn of the church with her teacher of English, my daughter Aracelli.  

       Aracelli had been invited by Becky’s family to attend her  quinseanera and to bring myself, so after a long religious service in the church, we all retired to a huge party room in the basement.  We listened to a small Latino band, not just noisy but quite musical, and we were served, eventually, a delicious supper of Guatemalan food. 
       Many kinds of tribute were being paid to the birthday girl by people walking down the main aisle to greet her!  Then more music, more walks down the aisle, more tributes — of a sometimes charismatic kind.  Tributes even to us, our little pod of gringos, just for joining in.  It was wonderful to see in one room so many fellow earthlings with that beautiful olive skin we North Europeans like to admire!  Take a look at these three good-looking kids. Three pretty Guatemalan girls  

They came over and sat beside us over our supper, looking right into our faces in fascination.  The older girl my daughter had taught in the second grade, and she speaks quite good English now.  Some Guatemalan kids show up in Kentucky speaking nothing but their indigenous dialect and a bit of Spanish, and my bilingual daughter takes them quickly in hand and becomes their best friend — for years sometimes.    
       I’m sure we don’t want people anywhere to be driven out of their country, where their lives may have made perfect sense from time immemorial.  Why should they be removed to the U. S., of all places, the creator of much of the violence they flee, and have to learn the rough Germanic tongue of Angle-isch!  I presume their quinceaneras and other tokens of the old life back home touch on rites and emotions they find it desperately hard to leave behind.  ##

 

BERNIE BABY’S riding high, my friends — wouldn’t you say?  Bernie Baby2We’re seeing not just a campaign but a movement being born right before our eyes.  Winning Indiana of all places, and West Virginia.  Oregon and tied in Kentucky — imagine that!  Now I can’t barnstorm around to help in those places, but I send money, and during the Ohio primary, I put up in my house the two Bernie field organizers for Cincinnati.  See CAROL here, a young staffer from the midwest.  She’s an art history major.  After Ohio, she went on to lead the winning  campaign in Indiana!

Carol in liv roomof Bernie

Carol in my living room during the Ohio primary

      On some nights volunteers, too, from other towns were sleeping in my basement.   What a fine road show Bernie and his team are mounting all over the country!

 


BUT YES, I’m just a watcher these days.  I’ll be eighty next year, and I watch and write and comport myself mostly on line.  In fact, be careful all of you, for I’m a watchbird now, watching you, for all you know.

       I was three days in U.C. hospital this month, and I feared this hospital, for I had once written a book about it — on those who died there in the sixties in secret radiation tests for the military.  It’s a new facility now, well organized, at least.  On a certain shaky afternoon, my daughter Paige took me to the ER and stayed with me there for some hours, then brought to my room the next day my reader from the Library of the Blind, and it didn’t seem that awful once I could sit in a wide window looking way down over winding streets and blooming trees and listen to my book.  (I think I’m getting well btw, and look, I was not led down into the basement rooms and irradiated over my whole body, as certain patients were from 1960-71, when some of us on campus managed to stop these tragic experiments.)  ##

                                                 Meeting Nadine Sierra

             A GOOD FRIEND from my church and her mom took me with them last month to a local concert in a Westwood church.  Wonderful to be with them!  Our artist was Nadine Sierra, a young soprano getting started at the Met.  We loved her soaring voice, but off-stage she seemed like just a plain-spoken kid, and after the concert she hung out at our reception for quite a time, talking with the concert-goers while a car waited on the drive to return her to the airport and New York.  I had a chance to ask her a question: “You mentioned on stage the support you’ve enjoyed from Marilyn Horne, and that hearing her sing ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ on YouTube was what led you to end your concert today with the same song.  So you singers plug into YouTube just like the rest of us?” 
             “Oh-o yes!” said Miss Sierra.  “All the time!”   You can see a bit of her on YouTube, in fact, and I think we’ll see more and more of her there.  ##

            MOTHER’S DAY with my two daughters and my granddaughter was a fine occasion, btw.  Wonderful chicken schawarma concocted by my daughter Aracelli in her Cold Spring condo.  Her table is a four-top in her kitchen in front of huge windows, looking out that day on a wall of trees in all their spring glory.  No husbands or boyfriends had been invited, and for a sick person, talking and laughing about men was very restorative!  ##

                                                    The Easter Frocks

         ON EASTER I sometimes think about my mother in Waycross, Georgia, where I grew up.  I picture to myself the pretty frocks she would make for us three daughters at Easter-time.  My mama had only one good eye, yet she cut out our frocks on the dinette table after we went to bed — the only table we had in that little cot.
        In my novel based on her life, we hear this mother’s voice as she readies her kids for church — she to stay home and cook the Sunday meal.  The father is waiting in the car, but the mother cannot let us go.  “Wait, my children, wait a moment, please!” and we see her turn and study us in all our Easter finery.  “Let me look at you!” she says, in a kind of rapture — and despair.  And we know her thoughts: 
        “Children, children!  How beautiful you are!  So please!  I ask you!  How can it be that even on a day like this, we are all sliding, sliding towards death, and no one can save another . . . all we can do is hold together as we go . . . .”  
         Yes, how CAN that be, my friends?  ##

 

            ## Friends:  I  fear this POST is far too long, but if you’ve found any part of it to be of interest to you, leave a quick Comment, perhaps.  Just so I’ll know you were here (like Kilroy), and I can better figure out whether to keep posting this little rag or not.  
           You need not provide your email to Comment — or even use your full name, or ANY name.  

 

  

 

A Crucified Cuba — Still Lives!

I RETURNED RECENTLY from two weeks in Cuba, my friends, and I want to say that it was a journey of both pleasure and pain.

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Neighborhood art of paint and tiles

There’s little crime in Cuba, and I was told by a pastor there, “We don’t shoot each other here.  And we don’t have a heroin problem.”  Imagine that!  And by the way, our group did not run into any beggars or homeless camps.

In Cuba one can form an idea of what economic democracy might look like in the U. S., should such a thing ever come to us.  We’d have free healthcare as a basic human right — no premiums, no deductibles.  We’d have good neighborhood schools for every child, with pretty uniforms thrown in.  We’d have tuition-free colleges, no student debt. 

We might be a more peaceful country.  

STILL, not everything in Cuba is wonderful, and for me there was aching pain over what my blockade of the island has accomplished.  I traveled with a Unitarian group from Cincinnati, and we rode around in an old yellow school bus from Pastors for Peace which said: End the U. S. Blockade Against Cuba.

It’s well known that the U. S. embargo represents the longest set of sanctions any state has ever imposed on another country.   The U. N. takes a vote each year on whether the U. S. blockade should continue, and for years now we have been supported by no other nation but the state of Israel.

As our group walked about the streets of Havana, we saw that parts of the town have been broken almost to bits by the lack of resources to fix them up.  Many apartment buildings are in dire need of repair, ugly and dangerous.  Walls sometimes fall in on people.  The old cars and buses still smoke up the air everywhere you go.  Many sidewalks are still full of holes and broken chunks of concrete; two travelers in our group had falls on them.  Pipes are often ancient, pre-revolutionary affairs.  Cubans are used to whatever varmints or substances come through them, but for visitors like us, staying in small hostels, it’s bottled water all the way.  Be careful even brushing your teeth, we were advised.

The out-migration from Cuba continues; to depopulate the island is part of the     U. S. war against the government.  In the year 2015 alone, 44,000 Cubans arrived in the U. S., 28,000 through Mexico.  Cubans who succeed in putting even one foot on U. S. soil receive very special benefits denied to other refugees.  We don’t deport them or drive them underground.  We don’t force Cuban mothers into hunger strikes for the sake of their children in the detention jails.

                                                 The Mystery

Yet here is the mystery of Cuba one must try to explain: life seems to go on in a spirited sort of way amongst those who remain in the country.  They can still enjoy their beautiful arts, for instance, their world reknowned dance and music; their medical services, admired around the world; their opportunities in a tremendous variety of good schools, institutes, and universities. 

I spent an afternoon visiting on the tree-lined patio of a small Havana bookstore called Cuba Libro.  It’s run by an American woman, and speakers of both Spanish and English like to visit there.  One of the young men I met said he was in love with Bernie Sanders.   “But he doesn’t have a chance in a million!” he said, and his friends quickly agreed with him.  “Your ruling class will wipe him completely out!” they said.  

People were going inside to a tiny strip of kitchen where spaghetti lunches were being made, and I spoke at length with a young woman of 32 named Leisil.

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Leisil Raquez in Cuba Libro in Havana

She lives in a small house with her mother and grandmother.  “I like it that way,” she said, “and my grandmother is like my baby. I told her today, ‘Grandmother, your slippers are dirty, and I’m going to wash them out for you!’”  Leisil is studying English in graduate school and will study German as well.  Yet before the revolution, women had no rights to education or work, and most were illiterate.

ON ANOTHER DAY IN HAVANA, I had a good time visiting two extraordinary museums: the National Gallery of the Arts, devoted to the history of Cuban painting of all periods, and the nearby Museo de la Revolution, a brilliant collection of materials about the struggle.

OUR GROUP ALSO traveled to Camaguey and the towns in between.  I liked taking little walks around our small casas particulares (about $25 a night), and seeing the kids skipping along home from school in their smart yellow and white uniforms, boxing and teasing each other as kids do.

In 1998 UNESCO carried out an extensive study of elementary school progress in language and math in the 13 Latin American countries.  They found that Cuba was outpacing all the others.  Cuban children scoring in the lower half of the tests were doing better than the upper halves of children elsewhere — and with scores comparable to the most developed nations.

                                      A Story about Camaguey

ONE DAY I got my hair cut in a little house where the front room became, by day, a beauty parlor.

My duena at the casa where I stayed, a wonderful woman who became a good friend, helped me line up this excursion.  In her front parlor one night, I had said, “Eufemia, do you know anyone nearby who could cut my hair?”  She did, she said.  The next morning, she was ready to see me off.  She said I must go by pedi-cab (or bicycle taxi), and I must pay the pedi-cab one dollar (or one convertible peso).  “No mas!“ said she.  For my haircut I must also pay one dollar. “No mas!” said my friend.

When I got down off the worn seat of the pedi-cab and walked into the front room of a small casa, the olive-skinned woman who would trim my hair was painting the nails of a black client in a smart green color!  The two women were very much at their ease with each other and very friendly to me.  They sat me down in a little rocker and placed in my lap a guinea pig for me to pet while I waited my turn.

The bespeckacled beautician, when she finished the job on my hair, and I was looking in my pocket for my pesos, said she could accept no pay.  She had no English, but we had talked a little in my broken Spanish. “A woman of seventy-nine coming all the way from her country to see us in Cuba?  We will not charge you anything!  We will honor you!”

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Small beauty parlor in Camaquey

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Friendly Cubans asked us up on there porch in Camaguey.  With Cincinnatan Mick Parker (in yellow shirt).

 

           The Opening

WE ALL KNOW about the Obama “opening” with Cuba, and we all wonder what it will mean; but somehow, for a government which has survived as much as this one has, Cuban socialism may also survive its changing relations with the U. S.  It was under John F. Kennedy that we first tried to “starve” the Cubans into submission, by halting their trade not just with ourselves, but with other countries as well — total isolation was the idea and in Congress it’s the same today.

Still — there’s the opening.  Will the tourist trade take over Cuba now — U. S. investment in general?  Will there be vast outcroppings of American-style senior villages across the land?  Will the almost pristine environment of mountains and seas be poisoned by us carpet-baggers from the north?  ##

 

                      Friends, If You’ve Read This Far, I Thank You

And I’ll conclude with a few fine-print notes you may or may not have time for.

OUR GROUP STOPPED once at a sugar mill and were given little cups of cane juice.  Demon sugar has been yet another cross to be borne in Cuba, after the loss of its Soviet trading partner in the 90‘s, for instance, and many attempts are being made to diversify its agriculture.  The abandoned sugar cane fields, the broken sugar mills, are a relic going back, I believe, to the conquistadores and the many Batista-style governments that came along.
THE SUNNY ISLE of Cuba has had tourists throughout its history, and it has them today with a vengeance.  Sleek air-conditioned busses ply up and down the main thoroughfares.   To exchange dollars for pesos, some of us walked at times to a swank, relatively new hotel, the Melia Oshiba, near the famous Malecon road by the waterfront.  Our Cuban-American leader, Jorge Vila, said he felt that the Melia Oshiba is at the center of maneuverings by U. S. businessmen with their Cuban counterparts.  They’re all waiting for the moment when Cuba will burst wide open to global finance.
An enormous ocean-front compound for internationals called Veradora has existed in Cuba for many years.  Our group stayed two days on its border in a home run by the Presbyterian Church, and bussed into this maw of the tourist trade.  Was it thrilling to buy four dollar lattes at the coffee bars there?  Some of us didn’t really see the point of that, and would have preferred, I think, to visit an organic farm, or a neighborhood health clinic (as I had done some years ago).
I spoke briefly in Veradora with a friendly family from Finland and another one from France, and I wanted to ask them this:  Do you know anything about the nearby city of Havana and the Cuban Revolution in this land . . .?  I wondered what their take on it was, but I didn’t feel I could ask them that.
WE ALSO SPENT a long morning at a government medical campus called La Pradera, created to treat sick people from around the world.  We saw afflicted children getting complex hearing tests, seniors treated “in new ways” for arthritis.  Any visitor can make use of the medical offerings on this estate and its pools and personal services.  A strange contradiction in a way, considering the hardships of normal Havana life, but again, Cuba must live — somehow.

 

I have not described here the magnificent Spanish churches throughout the island — or the rule, for good or ill (perhaps mostly for good) of the Castro brothers, an enormously complex subject in itself;  but I’d like to mention in closing a fascinating book by Salim Lamrani, The Economic War Against Cuba (Monthly Review Press, 2011).  On the special benefits for Cubans in the U. S., see on line a blog by Jerone Stephens: Illegal Immigrants.     
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A Quaker poster in a Havana office

Even Now, My Friends — Is War the Answer?

 

Death                                Was war the answer in the days of Kathe Kollwitz? 

Kollwitz had lost a son in WWI.  She opposed the tragedy of war, and here she depicts those who grieve over the state killing in 1919 of a great German worker for peace — Karl Liebknecht.

 

We mourn for Paris.  We try to understand the grief of the stricken families.  We imagine young people reveling happily at a rock concert, innocent of warring deeds, then shot down without mercy.   We imagine the cries, the blood.  We imagine people in restaurants, laughing, visiting on a festive night, then struck by sudden bursts of gunshot.

What is the answer, we ask ourselves.  What are people to do?  Perhaps we will have to think and figger on it, like Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.   Yet governments don’t need to figger, it seems.  It didn’t take much more than a day for the French government to find its answer to the wrath wreaked upon them.  Bombs! they said.  The answer is bombs!  If you have fighter planes, you can bomb somewhere.  Yes, you can bomb.  You can kill!  And that’s the answer.

Best Overkill?It was not the answer in Iraq.  (Nor in Afghanistan, nor in Syria.)  Indeed the U. S. invasions of Iraq have been the cause, as common people seemed to know all along they would be, of the blowback hitting the west since 9.11.  Governments don’t seem to know about blowback, though.  The U. S. president has spoken, almost in wonder, it would seem, of Paris terrorists so strange as to have no values . . . such as we westerners take pride in.

Those Values of Ours

The Iraq Body Count has risen, as I write, to at least 146,835.   This is the count of the civilian casualties in Iraq that have been documented by morgues, hospitals, and police.  We can see our values at work here, as we watch the numbers mounting.  The IBC site is operated by citizens of the U. K., and we read there about a British study of the Iraq War issued by the government a few years ago.  Many details of the war were reported on, says IBC, but one detail that was not reported on was the number of civilians who died there.

 

Why not a little bit of peace, my friends?  (We’ve tried everything else!)

If the U. S. and its allies were to become a force for peace and cooperation in the world, perhaps human creatures could survive on this little endangered planet of ours!  Let us drop, not bombs in Raqqa, but food and water there, and desert tents for the refugees.  Let’s build, not bases all over the globe, but clinics and bridges and schools  — and be liked for a change!  Perhaps Muslim people will forget, finally, all that we have done on their lands, forget even the French occupation of Algeria and the “dirty war” once fought there to keep that country in thrall.

May I say, readers mine, that like many Americans, I once lived in Paris for a time, and I’m a lover of French art and music — yes! — and of the mellifluous French tongue.  Many years ago, I studied the literature of France at the University of Georgia and wrote a thesis on the works of Balzac in his Human Comedy.  I revere the stories and poems of a great writer of conscience named Victor Hugo.  Wish he were here.  We could ask him, “What do we do now, monsieur?”

 

But look!  In a certain country there’s good news on war and peace!Anti-war in Japan

Don’t you like this picture on the right of Japanese youth marching a few months ago against the new military statutes in their country?  There’s Youth Brigades, Middle Brigades, and Senior Brigades in Japan now, all saying NO MORE WAR  — ever!

 

                             A Song of Peace

I should close, shouldn’t I?  But please go to YouTube, write in the first line of the verse below, and listen to one of the many renderings of this famous anti-war song.   It’s only three or four minutes long.  It was written by singer Ed McCurdy in 1950 and heard around the world.  Beautiful!

Last night I had the strangest dream 
I'd ever dreamed before 
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war!

					

Thou Breath of Autumn’s Being

Don’t you love this phrase for the winds, my friends?  Remember the ferocious wind of 2009 in Cincinnati?  Trees down, electric blown out for days.  Will we be visited by such winds again?  
Below is the first verse of a famous poem by Shelley:

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Ode to the West Wind by Percy Shelley

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the dead leaves
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow and black and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes

O thou, Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

Percy Shelley, lyric poet of England 1792-1822.

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!

Hello, friends again.  Wordpress has its struggles.  The beautiful poem above was to have been a prelude to this post of mine about other concerns.  About Baby Bernie, for instance.  Isn’t this a funny photo of our man? It’s traveling the web, I understand, and yes, I’m at work for Bernie — in my fashion.  Bernie Baby
As for the DEBATE, the full horror of this failing country we saw on debate night.  Big media (CNN) staged the debate, asked the questions, and then told us who won!  Wasn’t Bernie, you understand.  He was too angry, it was said.  Hey, I’ll take anger any day over smooth — which is what Hillary Clinton was said to be.  Some say we cannot possibly elect a socialist Jew, but others say, “Well, we celebrate one every year on December 25!”

Now look here, you guys: a little bit of good news.  Ohio will not poison anybody to death this year — or the next.  I was with our Walk to Stop Executions a few weeks ago, and we got quite a lot of publicity.  We walked on the shoulder of Route 23, and some of our guys did walk a whole week — from Lucasville in southern Ohio, where executions take place, to the state capitol in Columbus, at 13 miles a day!  I walked only a few days, but I loved being with this group.  I probably slowed them down a little.  Here’s a picture of myself and Derrick Jamison, our exonoree who had come within  two hours of being executed a few years ago.   I look like his kid, don’t I?  Derrick is six feet five and I’m two feet one!

Now we may be turning against the death penalty, and I think so very sadly and angrily about Kelly Gissendaner, who was murdered by the State of Georgia a few weeks ago — a woman who had done no one any harm in 17 years, had counseled many younger women in prison, had studied theology and earned a degree.  Then — poisoned to death singing Amazing Grace.  Her last discernible sound was her plea to  the almighty “to save a wretch like me.”

We can’t seem to grow up in this country and stop doing cruel and dumb things.  Or — if you disagree, let me know below, will you?

Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad

 

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FRIENDS, I’m writing today about my new book, Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad.  It’s a work of conscience, and solidarity with oppressed people, but also simply my life story, and some of it will make you smile.  

I notice people have stacks of books to read, and I don’t know if anyone will read this one or think it’s of any importance.  If you google the title, you’ll see it on various book sites, and if you happen to like ebooks, you can download it for a few dollars.  (Maybe it’s worth that much, but who knows, and by the way, I’d much rather not have partnered with our monopolizing pal Amazon.  At least I’ve been able to report there that any profits from this work will go to the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and its paper Streetvibes, which I write for from time to time, and which has beautiful anti-war stories in almost every issue.)

Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad begins in present time and arcs back to my alleged birth in Waycross, Georgia.  (“An Unexaggerated Claim to Have Been Born.”)  I was born during the Great Depression to a working class family in Waycross.   My mother went to work as a secretary so I could go to college.  I studied at a woman’s college in Georgia, taught high school there, married one of my fellow teachers, and went off to graduate school with him.

GRANDMAS opens in 2006.  I’ve survived, somehow, to old age, and am walking up a long gravelly road to a community garden in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I’m a new gardener there, and our plots are way up on a wooded hill near a nature preserve.  Very secluded.  I like that and don’t mind the walk, for I need in my life a hiding place.   I want to hide from all the news of the broken world.  In a garden there’s no email, no radio or t. v., no pictures of the grandmas of Baghdad and all they are suffering.  In my garden, I hope to forget for a little while my shame, my grief, over what I and my country have done to the people of Iraq. 

People sometimes ask me if I have known personally any grandmas of Baghdad.  No, I haven’t, and I wish I had been brave enough to travel there with groups like Voices in the Wilderness or The Christian Peacemakers.  These grandmas, though, have been part of my consciousness ever since our first invasion of their country in 1991.  I tried hard, like many people, to stop that invasion.  I marched, I rallied, I spoke.  Talk not Bombs! said my signs.   On my campus we organized mass protests, with beautiful music and poetry on the terrors of war, but the evil empire we live in paid no attention to such events, and for myself — I felt, finally, there was nothing else I could do but compare, in my writings, my life daily life in Cincinnati to the lives of the grandmas in the war-torn country of Iraq.

As I walked each day to my garden, I posed, sometimes, various questions to myself, and on a certain rise, with a brilliant view of a fat willow by the way, I might pause in a sudden state of arrested thought.  I would see on my mind’s screen the grandmas of Baghdad.  I saw them huddled near a spigot in a courtyard, but a spigot from which no water came.  The water-pots lay nearby, full of dust.  The tiled courtyard itself was dry and dusty-looking and needed a good washing down, but it was plain to see that in the city of Baghdad washings down were no longer part of life there.

muslim mother and child

Muslim mother and child in war-time.

Yet I knew that the needs of these grandmas were the same as mine.  I knew they needed, and need today, a tap which would flood out a silvery stream onto their hands and into their pots and tubs.  They need my morning walks through groves where no bombs fall, no sirens wail, where the clank and roar of old generators does not disturb the peace.  They need the fresh fruit I have for breakfast; a vegetable garden in a safe and secret place; my old canvas bag to sling on their shoulders as they go; the fine thick salad I make from the contents of this bag when I get back home.  They need the comfort of the fat willow along my path, not befogged in the smoke of combat, but blowing lightly in the breezes of a clear spring day. 

Indeed, I wish I could pass on to them the gift of nature I saw this very morning on the green: flocks of young robins twittering their little stick feet to and fro across the grass.   ##

 

THIS BOOK has a sub-title — did you notice that, my friends?  Its name is Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad and a garden of hope and repose. 

I can tell you that entertaining things happen to new gardeners — and sad things; and I hope to insert soon a second post from Grandmas called “The First Frost Comes to the Garden.”  As I write this, we’re all very cheerful here in the month of June, but look, before many months, our gardens will be scenes of tragic desolation.  We will grieve that the cultivated plants we humans have composed out of nature’s bounty of wildness are indeed mostly annuals — that dread and deadly term again — and don’t know what they are until a crisp day in fall when they don’t feel quite themselves and rather wish they had a nice dose of calomel or castor oil.

Their fruits still developing will seem, at best, rather thin and small, and it will become obvious in time that they will always be thin and small.  It’s like the failure-to-thrive syndrome of human babes trying to grow in a time and place unfriendly to human growth.

And we humans in fact — what of us?  

We come only once, after all.  Or at least we are annuals of a kind in this: when we die, we die; it is not for pretend.  Our bones do not sprout again one opportunistic day in spring, when it is just warm enough, just moist enough, to stick a finger out, then a head, and cry, Hel-lo, you guys!   “First Frost” includes a dreamy tale about a grandma who dies and then returns one day, like a perennial, and not necessarily to the delight of her children.  It’s called “Mom’s Back!”  ##

My friends, if you’ve read this far, I thank you for caring about the grandmas of Baghdad — and of Afghanistan as well, and all the other human places of the world that are not really homes any more.  ##

Preface to Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad

READER, laugh and exclaim with me about my days in Waycross, Georgia, where I grew up, and about Cincinnati, Ohio, where my present grandma life is happening.  Laugh and exclaim with me about all the curious happenstances of daily life and the vegetables in my garden who try to speak with me.  

Laugh with me, my friends, but do not forget to grieve with me over the grandmas of Baghdad and the great bombs we have dropped on them, and let us not presume that because a thing is happening, it is natural and must happen, and that nothing can ever be changed.  ##

What do you think, my friends?  If you’re already reading Grandmas, please leave a Comment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workers of the World — Unite!

We Don’t Have Much More to Lose

Or so we said on May Day in Cincinnati

 

 

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The American Worker on the Corporate Cross 

 

Friends, I don’t want to be sacrilegious, and actually, I love the Christian story, but I feel that Jesus, if he walked with us today, might say to us, “Hey, they’re stringing you fellows up just like they did me!  All you women, all you men, you child laborers, you modern-day slaves — you must wage a great struggle for justice in the world!”

We grieve today — on May Day 2015 — for the common people of the world, as Mary grieves for the dead in this beautiful statuary.mary grieving

It was the day after May Day that I rode through St. Mary’s Cemetery in Cincinnati and took these pictures.  If you happen to be in St. Bernard, you can look for these tombstones on the drive of St. Paul’s.  You’ll love it there among the peaceful trees in this eloquent old Catholic graveyard.

And look!  On St. Paul’s an angel has appeared — to save a soul from eternal death!   angel savingPerhaps today WE must be that saving spirit — and avenge all the cruelties being practiced on the people of the world.

May Day in Cincinnati 

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In Washington Park on May 1 we had quite a rally and then quite a march through downtown Cincinnati!  In the park we heard some good and even fiery speakers.  They came from the homeless coalition, from the gentrifying neighborhood around the park, from Our Walmart, from Black Lives Matter.  We had solidarity songs and theater — and then smart chants and high spirits as we marched through downtown!  

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Paige and Jessica from UFCW with their posters for Walmart moms and what they need to make — $25,000 a year! (Is that asking too much?)

The United Food and Commercial Workers sent two lines of staff to us.

And here’s SEIU for our janitors:

Janitors

Hey, we’ve also got our food workers in action around the country for Low Pay Is not Okay.  We’ve got Walmart-ians coming alive, and students on the rise!  The United Students Against Sweatshops are tormenting universities and their buying habits and their employment practices, and they’ve won major victories!  (Let’s hope U. C. in Cincinnati won’t be the last to wake up!)  On the march, btw, we had a local group of Unitarians!

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Washington Park. May 1 2015

       Starvation in Ohio

Hey this is not exactly the revolution, but in my state of Ohio this year, we had a raise in our minimum wage.  Isn’t that fine?  A raise of  fifteen cents an hour.  Workers must now get $8.10 an hour!

According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage in the U.S. to a modest $10.10 would improve the lives of 21 million workers.  Over 85% of these workers are 20 years old or older, 57% are female, and 39% are black or Hispanic.   Pew Research found last month that 73% of Americans support a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour.  

You may not know, my friends, that this writer is a member, retired, of a union — the AAUP at the University of Cincinnati.  I helped to found that union back in the 70’s, and look — today the right-wing legislature of Ohio wants to destroy it.  They wrote about university unions in a recent bill of theirs.  They opined that university faculty are not workers but “managers,” and can’t belong to a union!  If I might poeticize this issue:

They got so much flack

they took it back!

And that was the saving of our un-une-ion!  This time.  They’ll be out for us again next time.  NO workers need to be organized, says Ohio; and it seems Governor Kasich is fine with that.  (He wants to be president, you know.)  So we can say once again that there’s more of us than there is of them, and we must never forget it!

      Let’s remember the Weavers

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In Silesia, the weavers of linen were thrown out of work by German free trade and manufacturing, and no other living was provided them.  “Go ahead and start starving,” said the robber barons of the day — ‘too bad, but we can’t help you!”  Here you see the weavers’ march of protest in 1844 as drawn by the great artist Kathe Kollwitz.  It wasn’t for nothing either — four years later eruptions and revolutions spread through Europe!

Will we all be enslaved, in time, by the global capitalists?  When Frederick Douglass, btw, was being taught letters by his Mistress, the Master objected.  “If this man learns to read,” he said, “he’ll be unfit to be a slave!”  (See a recent book about adult education by Ohioan  David Greene — Unfit to Be A Slave.  One can read the first two chapters on line for free.)

Friends, what do you think?  Can workers unite — ever?